Art LC

About Leonard Collett

A writer, director, photographer, editor and World traveller, I was very excited when Leonard expressed his interest in sharing his voice on the site. He was born in South Africa, raised in Calgary and now lives in Vancouver. He condensed his bio down to a list of short quips (for my convenience), my favourites of which were:

“Owns more books than money [and] owns more DVD’s than books”

“Apparently, the only person who loved Cloud Atlas”

“Never talks shit about a pretty sunset.”

In 1997, Leonard, and two associates, co-founded EMPIRE Talent, Inc. His passion for cinema developed from there. In 1999 Leonard earned a diploma from the Foundation Film Program at the Calgary Society of Independent Film Makers and in 2000 Leonard’s “ROOMS 101” (an 8-minute, 16mm black and white short) won Best First Film at Calgary’s $100 Film Festival. He was also Principle Photographer and B-Camera Operator for the independent short “CHECKPOINT 6” Camera Operator for the Sundance Film Festival hit “FUBAR,” a Camera Assistant on “THE VIRGINIAN,” and Producers Assistant on Symerra Production’s “SOPHIA” and “DISTEMPER.”

“NOVA” marked Leonard’s second directorial effort.  It premiered at the 2002 Yorkton International Short Film Festival. Since then he has directed five additional short films. Leonard has also had five of his short stories premiered at the first annual Calgary Cold Road festival.

Most recently Leonard is in development on “ONTOGENY”, a feature-length project chronicling the life shattering addiction of an ordinary housewife to prescription drugs. “ERRONEOUS BOTCH,” a feature length script chronicling the coming of age story of a man who puts on the worst play of all time in the 6th grade, and “RIDERS ON THE STORM,” a feature length project about an unsigned rock and roll band that has one last chance to make it.

The Interview 

1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?

Meaning. I’m driven by my desire to live a meaningful life. I want the things I create to move me. I feel so much passion for so many things and when that passion comes through in my work I feel a sense of fulfilment. It’s this sensation that drives me.

2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).

My greatest failure would be my last short film.  After years of trying for gov grants, and being rewarded here and there, I received $$$ for this project. Sadly, this project went sour before it began. I believed in the wrong people because I stopped believing in myself. I stopped listening to my creative gut and started listening to the “professionals” I hired and before I knew it I no longer recognized the film I was making. What was my vision became darkness… And then a final product I’m embarrassed my name graces.

Ultimately, if you’re not creating art for yourself, or are surrounded by people who share your vision, then what are you doing?  This is the lesson I learned: the creative life is a minefield littered with fragile egos and manic insecurities. Just because I walk lightly doesn’t mean I can’t carry a big stick.

That stick is made of my dreams, ambitions, and desires, and if you get in the way of my dreams I’m going to hit you with my big stick. You have to fight for what’s yours. You have to believe in yourself because until you do, none else will.

3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?

I love the idea of happiness. I think, like most people, I’m happy some of the time, and trolling emotional gutters other times. Professionally, happiness would mean a life free to create anything I desired, and to get paid for it (handsomely). Personally, happiness is the little things; the smell of a distant BBQ, the sound my foot makes when it scrapes my yoga mat, or how sunlight dances on water. For me happiness is being in the moment. So much so that the details don’t escape me.

4. What do you think is your greatest strength? What is your greatest personal challenge (something you struggle with)?

My greatest strength is my ability to find out what makes people tick, and thereby relate to them. Outside of blind hatred, miscommunication is the source of most conflicts. I challenge myself to really listen to others.

My greatest personal challenge is to live up to my potential. I think this is the case for most people. I’d rather spend the weeknd laying on the couch eating Old Dutch chips and chugging Coke than go to a film festival. I have to fight my inner-sloth a lot of the time. He’s crafty, wise and powerful. Usually he wins before I even know we’re playing.

5. What do you love about what you do? 

What I love the most about what I do is problem solving, just like when a character begins a journey wrought with peril. To succeed we both have to overcome a series of challenges. There are so many problems in the world. I feel truly alive when I’m able to provide a creative solution.

6. What is the one habit that you’ve implemented that has had the greatest impact on your success so far?

I use Post-it’s a lot. Specifically for writing screenplays I use 2″ by 1.5″ Post-its. If someone tells you a joke, or you hear a biting comeback, or whatever it might be – if I can’t fit it on the Post-it, it won’t make for a good comedic zinger.

Sticky notes

 7. How do you deal with doubt?

You have to be mindful to always push your hardest, especially when it’s darkest.

8. Is there a quality that you think artistically successful people have in common? What is it?

Don’t quit, don’t ever stop. No matter what. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, because you will get knocked down; the only thing that matters is that you stand back up. If you stand up enough times you’ll find a way to win.

9. Do you have any advice for artists? Perhaps advice that you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out?

To quote Phil Dunphy, “The most amazing things that can happen to a human being will happen to you, if you just lower your expectations.” Just kidding, swing for the fences. Don’t be embarrassed to fight for what you believe in, even if you don’t believe in fighting.

10. What is your happiest memory (could be related or unrelated to your field)?

I’m a Cold War baby. So my most enduring childhood memory is the 87 Canada Cup. Tied 5/5 late in the third, with the series knotted at 1 – Gretzky to Lemieux for the winner with moments play, my god I just got chill thinking about it.

11. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?

My favourite authors are John Wyndham, Kurt Vonnegut, and Graham Hancock. (He has also read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood 6 times, so maybe this specific book should make his list as well). 

Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees

Follow Leonard:

Instagram: @LeonardCollett

Vimeo: Leonard Collett


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Leonard Collett: For me happiness is being in the moment. So much so that the details don’t escape me.
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These conversations are about the creative soul. They are the true experiences of creatives with their own creative impulse, and they are the private (made public) reflections on what creativity feels like on a very personal level. All interviews are conducted by Christine Bissonnette
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