Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Top 20 Under 40: Liane Balaban

Balaban is an actress and the co-founder of Crankytown, which teaches young women about their period and offers anyone the opportunity to make a short film about menstruation.

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: February 21st, 2014 in Culture » Film » Interviews

Shalom Life is proud to present our 4th annual Top 20 Under 40 list. Over the next 20 days, we will showcase 20 individuals of diverse talents and backgrounds that have made a significant contribution to their field both locally and globally. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists, entertainers to doctors, this list places a spotlight on a small sampling of the spectacular, innovative, and passionate Jews that call Toronto home.

Top 20 Under 40 – Liane Balaban

Age: 33

“I wasn’t really born here, you know. When I was a tiny infant, my real mother, a famous opera singer, dropped me from a silver jet as she passed over what she saw as a beautiful tropical coastline. God’s country.”

You may remember that powerful opening statement as the first line in Allan Moyle’s 1999 film, ‘New Waterford Girl’. It also marked the first time film audiences were introduced to Canadian actress, Liane Balaban, who boldly took on the role of Moonie Pottie, a 15-year-old outsider who dreamed of escaping a coal-mining town in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

With absolutely no previous acting experience or professional training (beyond some high school drama classes), Balaban landed the lead role after seven auditions- the first one arranged by her aunt and uncle.

Since her debut 15 years ago, she has appeared in numerous feature films, TV shows, and miniseries including ‘Definitely, Maybe’, ‘One Week’, ‘Supernatural’, and ‘The Grand Seduction’.

With such an impressive resume, you would assume Balaban might cite her greatest accomplishment as having achieved success in such a challenging industry to break into. Instead, she is most proud of “creating the Gemini nominated site, with Vanessa Matsui and Jenna Wright, which teaches young women about their period and offers anyone the opportunity to make a short film about menstruation,” she shared in an email interview.

In addition to creating a fun space for girls to discuss their periods, Crankytown also hosts Crankyfest, an online film festival for short films about periods. According to the rules, the films must not exceed 3 minutes and can be from any genre ranging from narrative films or music videos to documentaries or experimental art pieces. The best films are chosen by a jury of entertainment industry professionals- with this year’s panel including Denis Villeneuve, Kevin Pollak, Anna Silk, Jay Baruchel and Amanda Brugel- and viewers are encouraged to vote for their audience favorite. Submission deadlines for 2014 Crankyfest are March 3rd.

Finding inspiration from talented musicians, actresses, and artists including Patti Smith, Shary Boyle, Sonja Ahlers, Samantha Morton, and Emma Thompson, Balaban hopes “I’m still acting and still working with such talented and exceptional people. I also hope to have shared my perspective somehow either through writing fiction or producing an original screenplay or both,” she responds, when asked about her plans for the future.

In her spare time, she enjoys “drawing, reading, writing and spending time with my family and friends.” Speaking of family, Balaban believes that her Jewish aunt and uncle helped to instill “family closeness”.

“The healthiest models of family life I had growing up were my Jewish aunt and uncle and their kids, all my fondest memories of “family time” were getting together at their house for high holidays, though I never understood a word since it was all in Hebrew. However, the possibility for that kind of family closeness was inspiring and one of the things I love most about Judaism.”

Balaban is currently collaborating with TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Special Delivery for a big fundraising project for Delisle Youth Service called In Bloom.

On Twitter, follow Liane Balaban and Crankytown.


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