Sometimes big breaks can happen when we least expect them to or even are aware they are happening. That was certainly the case for director Aleysa Young who, thanks to the kindness of a friend, found herself unknowingly interviewing for the directing job during Baroness Von Sketch’s first season. Young ended up directing all six episodes of the CBC sketch comedy’s first season, even winning a Director’s Guild of Canada award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy for her work. Since that break on Baroness, Young has went on to direct episodes of Workin’ Moms and Kim’s Convenience, for which she was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in Best Direction, Comedy.
Young recently spoke with The TV Junkies as part of our Women Behind Canadian TV series to discuss her path of becoming an award-winning director. She shared with us her experience as a person of color working behind the scenes, and how she started off in casting before moving to directing commercials and then Baroness. Young also talked about she wants to see more diverse stories being told and more diversity on screen as well as off.
The TV Junkies: Tell us a little about your background. Did you know you always wanted to be a director?
Aleysa Young: I got started fairly late in life. I started off as a casting director and before that went to film school for about 2 years before dropping out. I realized I was going to learn more being in the industry than studying it. I wanted to get my hands dirty. I didn’t know yet that I wanted to direct, but knew I wanted to be behind the scenes. When I was a kid I went to a live taping of a sitcom and that was the first time I realized TV doesn’t happen live.
After dropping out of film school, I moved to Toronto and my first job was as a PA, except that instead of dragging cables, it was a pasta commercial and I basically boiled noodles all day. I really tried to do more on-set stuff, but I had no skills or experience. I ended up getting a job as a casting assistant, where I stayed a few years, but slowly started to work on my own projects with my friends.