Cover image: Lili Bordán. Photo credit: Nike Martens.
There is more to see than meets the eye with our next guest, Lili Bordán (Westworld, The Nun). This up-and-coming actress, writer, producer, director began her theater, film, and television career in Europe after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Bordán’s recurring role on the critically acclaimed, award-winning BBC crime drama series, “Silent Witness,” as well as the lead in popular UK film, The Smoke, introduced her to British audiences. However, her most recent work includes both acting in – and producing – American-Hungarian feature CURTIZ, a scripted biopic about legendary, golden-era film director, Michael Curtiz (Grand prize, Montréal World Film Festival). Having now worked on over 60 film and television sets on both continents, in recent years, directing is where she feels most effective and inspired. We caught up with her as she headed to this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival.
TYHB: We are familiar with your extensive work as an actress on both stage, in independent films internationally, and now blockbuster studio features – but we did not realize you have also been involved with directing. How did you begin directing?
LB: I’ve mostly worked in front of the camera ever since childhood, but about a decade ago I won a 24 Hour Short Film Competition based on a script I wrote the night before the deadline. I passed up the opportunity to direct to my boyfriend at the time. Looking back, the choice came from a place of insecurity as well as the desire to appease him. To be fair, my curiosity for directing was pretty nascent until the opportunity to direct scenes from a pilot script and footage for a teaser for a new series fell in my lap last December.
TYHB: Can you tell us more about the new series you just mentioned?
LB: (Yes.) “L.A. Reinita,” the project … that I was asked to direct, is a TV series in development with my producing partners, Jennifer Baute and Amanda Hamaday. Post-production for teaser material and select sample scenes from the show is underway to obtain funding for a pilot episode.
TYHB: Are there any other creative projects that you are creating or working in now that you can discuss?
LB: I’m developing several projects. Some of them are smaller, more personal visions, while others are team efforts… One project I’ve signed on to direct is a short film project that will hopefully shoot in Montréal later this year. It’s currently being written by Zsuzsanna Bak, who wrote the CURTIZ script, which I had a part in as well as helped produce. We became close on the set of CURTIZ in Hungary and decided to continue our working relationship.
As an actress, there are several projects that I’m signed on to at varying stages of development. And I had several projects come out recently in theaters or on the festival circuit.
TYHB: You’re headed to a festival screening for CURTIZ as we speak. How did you become involved with this production?
LB: I’m often asked to audition for either Hungarian projects, or American and British co-productions shooting in Hungary. I have EU citizenship and am considered to be a local hire there. It’s given me the opportunity to work with some of the top people in the industry, such as Sir Ridley Scott, as well as promising young Hungarian filmmakers.
CURTIZ was director Tamás Iván Topolánszky’s first feature and I was blown away by the story and how topical and current it was. What was initially just an audition turned into me spreading the word about this awesome biopic of legendary film director Michael Curtiz at the moment of his life when he was shooting his seminal film, Casablanca.
I quickly became a liaison, linking Tamás and his wife and producing partner, Claudia Sümeghy, with screenwriters and producers that I thought would bring clout and their own flair to the project.
Orian Williams (Control) became attached as executive producer, my friend Jennifer Tocquigny hand-picked Ward Parry to work on dialogue alongside Zsuzsanna (Bak) and Tamás, while Jeff Hammer helped with casting, contracts and so much more.
I’m proud to have had a hand at lifting the film to international status and it was purely for the passion of the project. The film won the grand prize at the very first festival it competed in – the Montréal World Film Festival – and has been scoring awards and filling screening rooms at various festivals around the world since.
TYHB: That sounds exhilarating! Which character did you play in the film?
LB: CURTIZ gave me the chance to play my first biographical character, Irene Lee, who was instrumental in finding and securing the rights to Everybody Comes to Rick’s – the play that Casablanca was based on.
Miss Lee was the film’s story editor and went on to have a prolific career in the studio system. She was definitely a pioneer and someone who, in today’s world, would have been a top producer or studio executive.
TYHB: Speaking of women in executive leadership in the film industry, what is your take on the hot button topics of #5050bynow, #metoo and #timesup?
LB: I think it’s very likely that the next few decades will see women rise to represent 50 percent of the film industry. Keep in mind that film is only about 100 years old. It used to be a very labor-intensive, and, one could say, aggressive industry. Technology now allows one’s vision to be translated much more quickly, simply and clearly to the screen. Several men I worked with on my own set, said they really enjoy working with female directors and filmmakers in general. I think most men welcome the opening of the industry to their female counterparts.
It’s a palpably momentous time for women in the film industry. It’s also a good opportunity for men to reflect on their relationships with the women in their workplace. These “hashtag” movements, though painful and seemingly unfair at times, are shifting the paradigm from a conflict-driven model to a meaning-based form of storytelling, which I believe is a very feminine influence. It requires a higher degree of sensitivity perhaps.
If we look at it purely from an energetic perspective, aggression in the workplace— not just on the set but all places of work— is becoming unacceptable. This is creating a better work environment for all to benefit from, and our stories will hopefully benefit in the telling as a result.
TYHB: Where can we see some of your projects right now?
LB: CURTIZ is having its’ West Coast Premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival. But here is a first look at the teaser I directed for “L.A. Reinita” series:
For more photos and to keep up with our progress, follow the show’s Instagram page: @lareinitaseries.
As for my acting work, I have a few movies recently out on VOD, such as The Nun, Book Club, and two indie features titled Live or Die in La Honda and Beneath the Leaves.
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