Canadian filmmaker Erika Olde is shown in a handout photo. It's not easy to break into Hollywood as a relative outsider, but emerging producer Olde says it can be done, and she's proof.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Black Bicycle Entertainment- Caitlin Cronenberg MANDATORY CREDIT
TORONTO — It's not easy to break into Hollywood as a relative outsider, but emerging producer Erika Olde says it can be done. And the 25-year-old's career is proof.
The rising Canadian filmmaker says she had no formal training, movie experience or industry connections when she decided to move to Hollywood and stage a career in film.
Three years later, Olde hits the Toronto International Film Festival with the period drama "Woman Walks Ahead," directed by Susanna White and starring Jessica Chastain as a strong-willed woman who becomes a confidante to Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull.
Olde says being an outsider in show business has given her an advantage, suggesting it's tempting for those entrenched in the field to lean on past experiences.
"If you take the approach where you come into an industry and you think that you can apply similar techniques and knowledge to what you've experienced in the past with what you have now, I think that's a bit of an incorrect approach," says Olde.
"When you come into an industry and you actively are listening and learning from people who are mentoring you — and I have had a lot of mentors — that's when your work really pays off."
Olde traces her passion back to watching films with her dad, an entrepreneur whose business dealings kept the family traversing the globe. Every summer they would return to the family tree farm in Stony Point, Ont., says Olde, who was born in Detroit and now lives in Los Angeles.
"Films were a constant for me because I travelled all over the place. I literally was somewhere (new) sometimes every couple of months."
Olde studied marketing in London, but found herself more interested in helping film school friends shoot music videos and short documentaries. She then decided to make movies herself.
Her quick trajectory sounds like a Hollywood dream: Olde landed an L.A. agent and started perusing scripts. Her first project was "November Criminals," starring Chloe Grace Moretz.
Then came Whitney Cummings's directorial debut, "The Female Brain," starring Sofia Vergara; and Hallie Meyers-Shyer's "Home Again," starring Reese Witherspoon, which opened last week.
Olde admits she's had an easier ride than most, but she's made it her mission to champion other women trying to break into the business.
"I do sometimes feel like I'm not taken as seriously as some other people might be — like when you're on set if you have a male producer who is producing with you, sometimes there are tendencies for people to look to them for instruction before me," says Olde, who set up her own production company, Black Bicycle Entertainment.
"I continue on despite them and I lead with my actions and I find that that goes a long way."
Olde pays it forward by running a mentorship program for aspiring female filmmakers at Ghetto Film School, a non-profit with campuses in New York and L.A.
"It's our duty to support the next generation of female filmmakers," she says, adding she'd like to bring a version of the program to Canada.
"Focusing on change at a grassroots level really is the way forward. Because thought process and viewpoints are generational and so if we can influence the next generation of filmmakers and really hone in these messages, I think there will be more effort put in en masse, so to speak."
She's also an ambassador for TIFF's Share Her Journey campaign, a five-year fundraising effort to increase participation, skills and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.
Olde is pleased that one third of TIFF's features are directed by women, among them Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird," starring Saoirse Ronan as a rebellious teen; Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's "Battle of the Sexes," with Oscar-winner Emma Stone as tennis legend Billie Jean King; and Angelina Jolie's fourth feature, "First They Killed My Father."
She feels the tide changing, and credits much of that momentum to the summer success of Patty Jenkins's female superhero breakthrough, "Wonder Woman."
"That, really, I think has changed the game a lot. 'Wonder Woman' did immensely well at the box office, it was the highest grossing film ever by a female filmmaker. That said I think pretty much everything that needs to be said."
But if there's one thing driving Olde, it's the desire to tell stories and entertain.
"I really loved the Nancy Meyers of the world and the Garry Marshalls of the world and the John Hughes of the world and those are the movies that have a sense of nostalgia for me," she says.
"People sometimes want to watch movies that just make them feel good. And if I can make people walk away with a better sense of happiness and love or enlightenment or perspective or anything, then that's me doing my job well."
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press