CINEMA

A MEETING WITH SASHA LANE

By Alice Butterlin

Discovered on a beach during Spring Break, Sasha Lane was just eighteen years old when Andrea Arnold offered her a lead role in American Honey. Garnering a Cannes Jury Prize and glowing reviews from around the world, her first project granted her the keys to the castle of American indie film. With her arrestingly natural personality and hint of irreverence, Sasha Lane exudes an undeniable charm. Perhaps it’s because she lives out her roles before acting them? Perhaps because her first role seemed tailor-made specifically for her? Now, two years after American Honey, she is headlining two new films: The Miseducation of Cameron Post directed by Desiree Akhavan and Hearts Beat Loud directed by Brett Haley. We met up with cinema’s rising star to talk about her collaboration with footwear specialist Ugg, which selected her as the muse of its Fall/Winter 2018 campaign. As the brand attempts to pivot into sportswear, it is releasing a line of platform sneakers, fur and pom pom sandals, as well as more urban pieces.

You star in the Ugg Fall/Winter 2019 campaign. How did you get approached by the brand?

They reached out to my team. I remember I was excited from the start and wanted to see everything. I wanted to check out the set-up and all the clothes. I went to the office and they showed me the mood board and all the work that led up to the collection. The energy of everyone involved was amazing, they were really passionate about that project. They really thought about who they wanted to be a part of the campaign. It just happened organically. I stayed friends with everyone from that shoot.

How did you see the brand before working with Ugg?

I knew this brand because I grew up in Texas and it was so big back then. I remember the classic boot. Then they got the rib and I loved that they were doing other things with it. They were also changing up colors. Then, out of the blue, they bring out this new collection which is totally different and interesting. It really fits my personal style. It’s such a good vibe but it still sticks with the original image. Ugg are not trying to be something they’re not. I still recognize Ugg but now I can see it from a different perspective and take it in a new light. It’ll reach more people I think.

Was it important for you to let your personality shine in the campaign?

I always want to bring myself to anything I’m involved in. At the end of the day, I’m not a model. I’m not here to stand and move where you tell me to. I was so appreciative that they let me pick the shoes I wanted to wear and took into account my feelings towards the clothes. I actually loved every piece in the collection so there was no problem! We were running around the beach all day so it was cool! I got to be a part of everything.

What’s your favorite shoe from the collection?

Definitely the sneakers, they are such a good shoe! They are so comfy. I’ve never bounced around this much. (laughs) I used to do a lot of sports but not anymore, unfortunately. I did basketball and track; I miss it a lot. Once I start to get active, I’m obsessed.

You started your career with a leading role in American Honey by Andrea Arnold. Looking back, was it a good introduction to cinema?

It was a very unusual one, although I didn’t have any comparison point. I thought that was how all films were made. Every person on that set was telling me that it wasn’t normal and I wouldn’t ever do another film like this. I love that I started that way because now I know what I want from a set. I know how I like to work and what makes something move. Now, when a director throws something my way, I think to myself: “I filmed with a bear that could have ripped my fucking head off because no one was around to tame it so…I think I’m ok with just about anything.” (laughs) It’s cool to see how most films are actually made.

After that experience, did you look for documentary-style movies that stayed very close to reality?

I’ve always been drawn to that anyways. It doesn’t necessarily have to be documentary-style, but it has to have a certain rawness. When you work, everyone including the crew has to be happy to be there and be excited about the project, not just wait for a paycheck.

Through your film choices, you seem to look for a strong connection with the director. Is it important for you to connect on a personal level before starting a new project?

Yes, absolutely. I would never say yes to a project unless I met with the director first. It’s his vision and I am performing it, in a way. I want to be on the same page, really connected. I want to know how they feel about the project because if they’re passionate, it makes me more passionate. If the director was an asshole I wouldn’t want to work with him, obviously. I want to feel good when I’m acting.

You worked with Desiree Akhavan and Andrea Arnold who are both strong independent women in the film industry. What have you learned from them on a personal level?

They just worked hard. They stuck to what they wanted and didn’t let anyone tell them they had to be safer or change their plans. They had a vision and went with it. I really admire that.

You premiered two movies at Sundance this year. How did it feel to be part of this festival?

That was tight! It was fun because I felt really good about both the projects, there was a lot of love involved. I really loved everyone I worked with so it felt like we were reunited. We were in a little town all together and got to see some films. I saw Hereditary which was incredible! It’s a psychological thriller, you should watch it when it comes out.

Can you tell me about your role in Hearts Beat Loud?

It’s such a good-feeling movie. It gives warmth, empathy and love. The fact that I was in a relationship with another woman and that we were biracial didn’t interfere with the storyline. No one was putting up a sign saying, “these are two girls dating!” It was what it was. That’s what was so special about that film, that they captured what’s actually going on in people’s households. You have a black dad, your kid is mixed, she’s gay…it shouldn’t be something people discuss.

Do you think we’re starting to see more sexual and racial diversity in cinema?

Yes, but I also think that it’s a trend. Hollywood gets caught on trends and you’re left questioning its real intentions. If a movie isn’t meant to have gay characters, then don’t include them in just for the stats. Don’t just jump on it because it’s cute right now. It is still cool that we’re getting a larger representation. At the end of the day that’s what matters.

Is it important for you to take part in films that deliver a powerful positive message?

In general, I like movies that bring a certain message that I feel connected to, something that should be mentioned and talked about. I want it to mean something. Everything that I do, I do for a specific reason.

Are there any movies in particular that have impacted you?

I love French films; I think they suck you in more than others. I also liked the style of American Honey where you’re in the car with me and when I turn, you turn. It’s cool to bring us into that world and make us forget about everything else. You’re really experiencing the movie.

You previously said that you saw parts of yourself in the character of Star. Does each character you portray have a similarity to you?

Yes. I really don’t think I know how to act. I’ve never been to school for it. I’ve never been trained in it. I only know how to change my energies; I can make you feel a certain way. I have to do a role that I feel a connection to, even if I create that connection. The director might not have planned the way I perceive the character. If there’s no connection, I can’t accept a role. (laughs) Every time I turn a part of myself up or down, but it always has to do with my personality.  

Did some roles help you grow?

I did this short film in Montreal called Born in the Maelstrom and it was about a black mom and her biracial daughter who was born through rape. It showed how society viewed me and how the mother viewed me. I healed so much through that movie because I’ve always struggled with being biracial and with how my mom felt about me, talking about black lives matter and thinking maybe I’m not caring about her life. Filming that was so emotional, it’s as if I went to therapy. To get that through my work is amazing. What more could you ask for? When you dive deeper, you take on a lot of those emotions. It’s cool when something like that can make you realize something about yourself. It makes you feel empowered and strong.

Is there a dream role you would want to portray?

I would love to play a ballerina because I am so intrigued by that world. It’s dark. I watched documentaries and fictions about that subject, it’s fascinating. I’d probably need to go to therapy after that though. (laughs)

You star in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, directed by Desiree Akhavan and released in August, which deals with gay teens forced into conversion camps. How did the story resonate with you?

I’m really happy about this one because so many people don’t know it exists and how relevant it is right now. We finally have this film! It would be so cool to open up people’s minds and eyes to what’s really going on. It’s fucking ridiculous. I’m so thankful for this movie. Before working on it, I read some books about gay conversion therapy and people’s experiences with it. Chloe Moretz and Desiree Akhavan met with therapy camp survivors. We also had a lot of conversations. We filmed during Trump’s inauguration and that devastated everyone. In the middle of filming our scene, we just had to rally together and Desiree gave a whole speech about the reason why we were making this movie. She told us not to feel sad but to feel empowered, push and go back to work right now. That amped everyone up.  

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