Talented beyond her years, 12-year-old Jade Aspros stars in the short film Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, making its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as part of the Short Cuts Canada: Programme #2. This lovable coming-of-age comedy from writer/director Stephen Dunn follows Jade’s character Esther on a really, really bad birthday. Deliciously quirky, with a moving performance by co-star Gordon Pinsent and perfect soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens, this short is a must-see, leading the pack of Canada’s impressive festival submissions this year. Criticize This! caught up with Jade to talk about her first leading role.
How exciting is it to have your work premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival?
Jade Aspros: It is so exciting to be at TIFF this year. This was my first time in a lead role in a film, and I never thought I would be going to TIFF. I can’t wait!
Tell us about your character Esther, and the day she’s having…
JA: In the film, it’s Esther’s thirteenth birthday and she’s having the worst day ever. The kids at school are mean and she feels ugly because her nose is too big, and most of all, she gets her period for the first time. It’s a really awful birthday. Esther’s grandfather (played by Gordon Pinsent) tries to help her, but it’s so awkward learning about puberty from a grandfather, and he treats her like she’s still a little kid. He even tries silly kid games to make her feel better but it just frustrates her. At the end, he gives her good advice and she knows that he really cares about her, and he’s trying his best to make her have a good birthday.
What’s it like being on a movie set?
JA: Being on a movie set is amazing. I love everything about it, especially playing interesting characters and telling good stories. I had such a good time with the cast and crew. Stephen is an amazing director. He always made me feel comfortable on set. It was fun playing with Igor, the pug, when we were waiting between takes. I taught him to give me a high five. Also, I became really good friends with Leah, who plays Gabby, and we still talk all the time.
What’s Gordon like to work with?
JA: Working with Gordon was really exciting. He’s so kind and generous. On the first day of shooting, he brought me flowers and I was so surprised. I will never forget that.
What’s your favourite scene in the movie, and why?
JA: I loved filming all the scenes and some were really challenging. I think I would choose the last scene because that’s where the message of the film comes across, and I think it’s really important.
When and how did you start getting into acting?
JA: I have always loved watching movies. When I was four, I used to imitate Simba from The Lion King and I would pretend my sofa was Pride Rock. Then, when I was six, I asked my mom when it would be my turn to be in a movie, and she said that acting was hard work, and that if I could show her that I could cry, just on the spot, then she would think about it. So, after a few seconds, I started to cry and she said she would call an agent. After a few months, I booked my first job.
Why should people go see Life Doesn’t Frighten Me?
JA: I think people should go see Life Doesn’t Frighten Me because it has a really important message about growing up, and I think a lot of kids feel like Esther, and seeing this movie would make them know they are not alone.
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me is playing as part of the Short Cuts Canada: Programme #2 at TIFF 2012 on Saturday September 8 at 6:15 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and Sunday, September 9 at 9 a.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Follow all of our TIFF 2012 coverage at criticizethis.ca/tiff.
Top image: A scene from Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. Courtesy TIFF.