Growing up in Seattle, German-American writer-director Lina Larson (’20 Screenwriting & Production) was drawn to comedy from an early age ever since her dad introduced her to Saturday Night Live. The creative gene runs in the family – her father used to incorporate sketch comedy and stand-up [comedy] into everything – including his corporate marketing job. But it wasn’t until she started watching stand-up comedy herself that she decided to pursue the craft as a career.
Larson is currently co-writing the feature version of her senior thesis film “Rogue,” which follows a rebellious teenage drummer who must prove to her traditional Iranian father that she can reconcile her culture with her passion for the 1980s punk scene, with her close friend and co-writer Ariana Skeeland (credited with the original story). The short has garnered selections at several film festivals, including its premiere at SIFF.
Did you decide on writing/directing when you first started at LMU?
Writing comedy is a mental exercise for me – it takes effort to find the ironic situations and word it just right. It’s my escape from taking life too seriously. The summer before I applied to college, I took a class at The Second City in Chicago – the comedy Mecca and training ground for so many comedy greats. The experience solidified my desire to apply to film schools. When I applied to LMU, I had no idea what screenwriting was. All I knew was that Tina Fey majored in screenwriting and like all teenage girls wanting to do comedy, I looked to her for inspiration.
How did you narrow down to which disciplines to focus on?
Once I started learning more about screenwriting, I quickly realized that writing was not my only sweet spot. I enjoyed some aspects of it, but I also knew my skills were more visually oriented and that directing would be a better fit for me. So, I applied to the film production program at the end of my sophomore year. Once I got into the program, I spent every single weekend on set – usually as the makeup artist. I made a boatload of friends and learned a lot. Managing that with the screenwriting major was a challenge but well worth the time.
What kinds of stories appeal to you as a viewer? And as a writer, which genre(s) are you most drawn to?
I would have to divide my favorite genres into comedy and drama. I love comedy of all kinds. For drama, I enjoy historical, biopics, sports, music and political dramas. I’m drawn to underdog stories with a happy ending – very American, I know. I hope to make films that blend the two genres in a unique way that provokes thought, make people laugh and leave people feeling inspired in the process.
What are some of your favorite films/TV scripted shows? And who are some of your favorite directors (English-language or otherwise)?
“The Sound of Music,” “I, Tonya,” “La La Land,” “Ratatouille” and many more. For TV, I love “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Simpsons.” My favorite directors include Adam McKay, Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Greta Gerwig, and Paul Feig.
Congratulations on “Rogue” getting selected for the Seattle International Film Festival! Can you talk about the submission process? How did it come about? Have you submitted it to other festivals?
Thank you! SIFF holds a special place in my heart as my family and I are all Seattleites. SIFF was my very first film festival which I attended back in high school on a field trip. Dustin Kaspar, the SIFF programmer, had put together a program for us to watch at the time. Fast forward to 2021, Dustin was interviewing me as part of his programming picks. It’s definitely a crazy full-circle moment for me!
SIFF happened to be the first festival we heard back from – making it the festival where “Rogue” premiered at. It’s a great fit since SIFF is particularly interested in children’s and coming-of-age stories. Even though the festival was virtual last year [due to COVID], it was still a great experience because there were many online networking events. At that festival, “Rogue” was paired with a feature documentary “Youth V. Gov” – directed by Christi Cooper.
What has life been like after graduation?
I am currently a tennis instructor at a country club, a freelance makeup artist, director’s assistant, and the occasional PA. My ultimate goal is to direct movies for the big screen. I do all of these part-time/ freelance jobs so I have the flexibility to film.
During COVID, I started filming my first documentary feature following the life of Maysha Mohamedi, an abstract painter in the contemporary art world. Though I see myself as a narrative filmmaker, documentary work teaches me a new way of telling stories. The hands-on nature challenges me to be self-reliant with the camera, sound, producing, etc.
Su Fang Tham is a story analyst and freelance writer specializing in filmed entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, she is also a contributing writer for Film Independent and CineMontage, Journal of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.