‘Not every woman is meant to be quiet and small’
Liza van der Smissen
Liza van der Smissen is a Northern European actress fluent in English, German and Dutch who came to London to study Musical Theatre at the prestigious Bird College. After graduating she has worked on feature and short films filming internationally. She also featured in productions for The Royal Opera House, The Telegraph and performed in London’s best theatres .
Liza also co-produces and writes her own short films, currently she is working on the short ‘Neext!’ which is about Keira, a fun, sophisticated and tough women who goes through life apologetically while still facing the challenges any millennial deals with. Liza is fascinated by the roles that society thrust upon us and how we mould ourselves around these expectations. She is committed to challenge the expectations of what women ‘should be’ and to think out of the box to create art with wholesome characters.
What is your definition of being a rich woman?
My definition of being a rich woman is being able to work on my craft every single day and being able to inspire people. It is my desire to inspire women to be ok with being loud, big and bold if you want to, not every woman is meant to be quiet and small. And hopefully let men also have their space to be vulnerable so they don’t always have to feel they need to be the brave, tough guy who will solve everything. If I can work towards that through my medium of acting and producing, I would consider myself a very rich woman.
What is the story behind your vision?
In the film ‘Neext!’ we show the story of Keira. Keira loves wearing her high heels and dancing at parties, at the same time she is serious in her kickboxing training and is not afraid to not conform to the stereotypical rules of being ‘pretty’. She keeps exploring her glamorous and tough side at the same time. However, this does not make her immune to the challenges in life, we see her struggle and learn from her mistakes and hopefully grow with her.
What were the top challenges when you started your journey as a producer and performing artist?
It was letting go of wanting to be perfect. The beauty in the characters we see on stage and films comes from their imperfections. When they dare to be vulnerable and share their flaws with us we relate to them on a human level. We have all experienced loss, pain, joy, shame and love in one form or another, allowing these pure and sometimes painful emotions to come up and be, is the hardest but also most beautiful experience. If you strive to be perfect you miss the moment, as perfection is based on an idea, a form, of how something ‘should be’, focus on perfection and you miss what is happening right now.
What are the top wins you achieved since you embrace your passion?
Connecting with people who inspire me and making art with them is definitely at the top of my list. Getting a team together of inspiring woman, all invested to make the film Neext! Is a dream journey, and I hope that we are able to make this film happen so that this film will be the highlight of the year!
Who are the artists in your team?
We are committed to having an all female crew for this short film. With females being still very unrepresented in the film world we wanted to play our part in it and make sure we have fantastic women behind the camera. We have a brilliant director on board, Leoni Tenius, from Berlin. She studied at the Met Film School London where she graduated with First Honours in Practical Filmmaking. Leoni has won the Zoom Award for the Best International Film for her first short film Kriegskind as well as the Imagining the Imaginarium Competition chaired by Andy Serkis and since then has directed and edited several live action and motion capture short films with Serkis’ The Imaginarium Studios.
Jackie Teboul is the Cinematographer; Jackie Teboul is a London-based cinematographer, and a native of the South of France. While completing an MA in management she worked in Argentina and China. She then moved to London to complete an MA at the London Film School, specialising in cinematography. Since then she has shot numerous short films and documentaries that have been screened in festivals around the world, and have earned her two nominations for cinematography
Nicole Lieberman is the producer; Nicole Lieberman is an Israeli/Italian producer and writer. Nicole has a Masters in human rights law and is fluent in six languages. She is always looking at different ways of combining her two passions human rights and film. Nicole is currently also working on a Ugandan/British feature film.
Do you remember the first movie that made you cry?
The wizard of oz. We had it on a video tape and it was in English, I didn’t understand a word but I was mesmerised by the change from black/white to colour. The wicked witch hunted me in my sleep and I cried so much when she appeared on screen, but Dorothy and Glinda always made me want to watch the film over and over again!
What energizes you in the process of acting?
The moment before it all starts I get this kick of energy and excitement. The first few steps on set or when you step into the theatre for the first rehearsals, there is nothing quite like it!
What did you learn to avoid while acting?
Avoid focussing on the critics, on how the audience will or will not judge you. It is just you and your scene partner(s). If you focus on what others might think you’re missing out of what is happening in the scene.
What triggered you to challenge the status quo?
There are many brilliant films and series made, still, often women are being portrait in a very stereotypical way. The baddass tomboy, the sexy blonde, the weird nerd. After seeing Big Little Lies, which has such wholesome wonderful female characters I started thinking why is this such a revelation for me? Why am I not used to seeing woman portrait in this way? I realised it was up to me to create more films which has inspiring female leads. I got together with Nicole and we started writing Neext!
Do you prefer to deliver what is expected from your movie or you prefer to be authentic?
Authentic, I will never be able to fulfil everyone’s expectations, so I don’t focus on that.
Do emotions interfere with your acting?
No, they make me human and the human part is what makes a script come alive
How many of your friends are actors, movie producers?
In London I am lucky enough to surround myself with artists in all different fields. They are singers, choreographers, writers, directors and of course actors! Hearing their stories about the art they create is very inspiring to me.
What would you do, if you had a magic wand?
I would get my film Neext! funded and make sure that the storytellers of the world (writers, directors, actors etc.) would be as diverse as the world itself. We want to make a film that empowers women to be everything they want to be, not defined by looks, profession or by the (sexual) decisions they make. We continue to realise that when we don’t put ourselves in a box we are able to be and do so much more than we originally thought we could. We have a brilliant all female crew that will help create a wholesome lead character who breaks stereotypes and changes the perception of ourselves and others.
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