Those who have seen Aaron Ries’ award-winning short film Dziadzio will be aware of Sydney Herauf’s magnetic on-screen presence. But this standout performance merely scratches the surface of Sydney’s creative capabilities.
With a number of exciting projects on the way, Sydney spoke to Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge to reflect upon her work on Dziadzio and give us a taste of her artistic vision.
Q: You gave such a mesmerising lead performance in ‘Dziadzio’. How did you approach your character and this rather surreal story?
A: I knew Dziadzio was going to be an exciting project from the moment I read the script.
Stefania was not unfamiliar to me in the slightest. I was drawn to her strength and stillness, and very much appreciated that though she was idiosyncratic and detailed, Aaron had left room for colouring her in.
When Aaron first reached out to me to audition, I was in the thick of my theatre school training, playing mostly classical or farcical characters – so the opportunity to dive deep into a juicy female lead exactly my age was enticing. The script itself was unique because of its surrealistic elements. The story offered a microcosmal glimpse into the life of this family, and the mystery of their relationship fascinated me.
As a writer, Aaron kept us guessing – and I friggin love a challenge. I sat down and created a backstory, working to figure out what made Stefania happy, sad, pissed off, bored and dangerous. Acting to me is often about intellectualization; scientifically examining every aspect of a being until their bones are your bones, and then throwing that research away and seeing where the scene takes you. I found our common moments in hot summers, suburban desolation, and an overwhelming longing to be anywhere else than where you are.
I loved the script. I was a little obsessed. When I met Aaron at my audition and got the chance to pick his brain it was clear that we were on the same page. He offered me the role, and I was delighted to accept.
Q: Director Aaron Ries has commented on the energy and vision you brought to the project. Can you talk about your collaboration with Aaron and why you were such a good fit?
A: Aaron is punk as all hell, and I love that about him. As a director, he was hugely collaborative from the moment I came on board. He brought me in to read with the potential Dziadzio’s and really listened to my thoughts on their performances.
Throughout the entire project I felt heard, valued, and appreciated as an artist. Because the shoot itself was so quick, Aaron took the time to set up rehearsals and make sure both Otto Friedman (who played Dziadzio) and I felt safe and comfortable in what we were doing – particularly our high stakes moments. He was kind, incredibly intelligent, and willing to do whatever it took to get the shot.
Aaron and I spoke at great lengths about my interest in directing, and he took my input on how I thought a scene could work very seriously. He let me play and take risks, but never let me fail. I got to work through my acting – on-camera bucket list, so to speak. Aaron was there every step of the way with thoughtful direction, and still enough time for us to crack bad jokes.
When the film screened at Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma, a number of us spent the weekend in Montreal. It was there I got to know Aaron on a more personal level over many beers, and many bagels. He is truly an excellent artist, and his voice and vision deserve every bit of recognition the film has received.
Q: What did you take away from your time working with Aaron, Otto and the rest of the ‘Dziadzio’ team?
A: This film really opened my eyes to the possibilities, and magic of indie filmmaking. My time on set taught me that there can be a solution to every obstacle, and not to take no for an answer.
Every single member of the team brought something special to the project and worked tirelessly to create life inside that house. Otto opened his arms and heart to me, and the hours we spent together are something I will cherish. He is full of grace on and off screen.
Our DP Jesse McCracken inspired me to be confident in my performance, with his own confidence in his artistry. Which I am entirely in awe of. Like, what the heck Jesse. I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by artists with a taste for adrenaline on this project. Their passion and persistence has given me the impetus to continue creating my body of work, both as an actor and a key creative.
Q: Can you give us insight into your moniker (notice me) KID VICIOUS and your vision for it?
A: (notice me) KID VICIOUS is my personal moniker, optimistic art haus, and eclectic brain-child. I wanted to create a name under which I could orchestrate both my passion for film, and theatre.
I love to create (in a disgusting multiplicity of capacities), and (notice me) KID VICIOUS gives me the freedom to do so. I’ve been fortunate enough to associate myself with a fluid group of collaborators who believe in my art, and are willing to donate their time and vulnerability to birthing it into existence. This project is designed to give young people (particularly queer, and female identifying individuals) the chance to expand their creative horizons, no matter what their collegiate area of study may have been.
I went to school for acting, but my time in Toronto has helped me to realize that my real dream is to be an auteur of sorts. I’m a bit of control freak when it comes to art; I love to perform, write, direct, produce, design sound and compose music. With (notice me) KID VICIOUS, the plan is to put out shorts, feature films, music videos, theatre pieces and music that challenges those who consume it.
My fatal flaw/absolute best quality is truly the fact that when I want something, I won’t stop until I get it. So don’t you dare touch that dial. Follow @noticemekidvicious on Instagram to keep up with all the drama, and all the glamour.
Q: You are currently working on the short film ‘Breaking Up For the Modern Girl’. What do you want to explore in this story? And what do you feel it says about you?
A: Breaking Up For the Modern Girl has been a project more than three years in the making. I wrote this script as I lay shrouded in self pity, feeling like the only twenty-year old who had ever experienced heartbreak.
The film (of which we just wrapped our six day shoot!!!!) was born out of a desire to twist my pain into something equal parts comical, touching, and disgusting. Breaking Up For the Modern Girl is an anthropological satire of heartbreak in the modern age. In a quick and dirty twelve minutes, our heroine experiences the highest highs and lowest lows of young love.
To put it quite simply- Mattie (conveniently played by my roommate/muse/blonde bombshell Mattie Driscoll), is f**ked. Her heart has been quite literally ripped from her chest, and thrown out the window of the 137 bus. But through the assistance of a mysterious auditory guide, Mattie attempts to find her way back to neutral following what she believes to be the abandonment to rival all abandonments.
This piece explores the possibility of the physical personification of one’s own darkest thoughts, and the consequences of those thoughts. In post breakup land, there are no rules. I remember experiencing my first “real” heartbreak, and feeling absolutely insane at all times. The voice is my head was screaming constant nonsense at me that I couldn’t ignore, and I really tried to channel those feelings into this script.
Breaking Up For the Modern Girl says quite a lot about me; some good, some bad, and some incredibly ugly. The piece is smart, grotesque, and dripping with my salty little interpretation of love and its pitfalls. Very quintessentially Sydney. In visual terms, the film is heavily stylized and allowed me to pour my love for reflective surfaces, jewel tones and symmetry into one bedazzled martini glass. I can’t wait for you all to take a sip.
Q: What interests you about directing? Are there any filmmakers you particularly enjoy and have inspired you?
A: I’ve spent my entire life being called “bossy”, a word exclusively prescribed to women who unapologetically dare to take up space and hold their own in collaborative environments. So now, I want to be bossy for a living.
Directing gives me the chance to strive for creative perfection, to find beauty in ugliness, and ugliness in the seemingly mundane. To me, bliss is working with my actors beat by beat, and moment to moment until I’ve helped them unlock something they didn’t even realize was inside of them.
Prior to Breaking Up For the Modern Girl, most of my directorial experience was on theatrical projects. This film gave me the chance to learn an entirely new set of skills, and find points of cross over between the two mediums. I love the idea of curating my own little world, to shove audiences down the rabbit hole and hopefully spin their brains around while doing so.
At the moment, I’m entirely obsessed with Jasmin Mozaffari. Her debut feature, Firecrackers, was just widely released across Canada and actually changed my life. To see such a strong piece put together by an almost exclusively female team, telling the stories of young women inspires me to dream big, and to stay true to my vision. She is also a total punk ass. Go see Firecrackers. See it twice. I’ll go with you.
Q: You are also putting on two productions at the Assembly Theatre – ‘Pour Back Into Me’ and ‘Everything Around Me Is Falling Apart, And Here I Lay Bleeding’. What should audiences expect?
A: (notice me) KID VICIOUS has been graciously accepted by the Assembly Theatre (located in the ever surprising Parkdale), to spend the week workshopping my brand new authored double bill, this June.
Both shows on the docket are solo performer pieces, the first brought to life by Mattie Driscoll (see Breaking Up For the Modern Girl), and the second by Jonathan Gordon. Under my direction, these twenty-five minute pieces offer us a glimpse into two singular existences; a young woman searching for an old friend in the back of her closet after an experience with sexual assault, and a young gay jew caught between his faith, a shot at real love, and an ever-approaching suicide pact (set to the music of Whitney Houston, of course).
Audiences can expect some very, very, very dark comedy with a whole lot of heart. And choreographed dance numbers. And there will be beer in the lobby, so even if you hate theatre but love to get turnt up – come on down.
Q: Can you tell us more about your artistic background? Why do you love to create/perform?
A: I grew up in Calgary, Alberta as the youngest of four. Since I was a kid I’ve always had an unspeakable connection to the arts. Watching plays and movies felt like a truly spiritual experience, something that was lodged deep inside of me. I spent many years working in community theatre and improv and developing a love for creation. I always knew that post high school I wanted to continue my education in the arts.
Moving to Toronto was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was thrust into communities with beautiful and daring individuals who would stop at nothing to make their dreams realities. I was eighteen and green as all hell, and ready to unleash my soul unto the masses.
My brain is going about a mile a minute at all times, and creating is a way for me to harness all that anxiety into something tangible. Something I can pour my time and love into, and achieve a result entirely unique to my mind. During my five years here I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with a wide variety of photographers, musicians, filmmakers, and theatre companies such as Pencil Kit Productions and Rock Bottom Movement, in both creative and performative regards.
Performing gives me a chance to take a break from myself, and I will be the first to admit that even I think I am a lot to deal with. Stepping onto a stage or in front of a camera is an adrenaline rush. There are eyes on you, and little room for mistakes – but acting gives you the opportunity to experience those feelings as an entirely different person. And that’s amazing. Life is pretty sweet these days.
Q: What are you hopes and ambitions for the future?
A: I want to live a beautiful, fruitful, art-filled life. I want to be able to sit in my strange little apartment and drink red wine and pull things out of my brain and catapult them into existence. In layman’s terms, my dream is to support myself with my art. To be respected by my peers and to make work that can change the minds of those who consume it.
In the next five years I want to write and direct my own feature film. I want to act in projects with great scripts. I want to sing in front of huge audiences. I want to have a lunch date with Tina Fey where we eat beet crostini and she tells me I’m funny and I wait to cry about until I’m in the bathroom. Which is maybe crazy to say, but I believe in putting things out into the universe. So universe? Are you listening? I’m ready to rock.
Title photo by Gerald C. Eze