Filmmakers Lillian and Lizzy Myers
Student News

Sister Act

Sibling Directors on Drama, Therapy, and Drama Therapy

December 1, 2023

The Cohen brothers, the Wachowskis, the Marx brothers…and now, the Myers. CIIS is home to half of a sibling duo of filmmakers, and their most recent work is making waves. Currently on exhibit at the de Young Museum, “CounterTransference” is the work of current Drama Therapy student Lillian Myers and their sister Lizzy. In this short film, Lillian and Lizzy lovingly explore some of the foibles of the therapeutic process, creating a brief but impactful narrative full of sure-to-be signature humor. Despite their work as a student and filmmaker, Lillian kindly found the time to discuss their process and insights with CIIS.

Can you tell us a little about "CounterTransference" and how you came to create it? 

In the spring of 2022, my sister Lizzy was taking a film class at City College of San Francisco. For her final cinematography assignment she was asked to film a scene that recreated moonlight. Without a prior plan in place, we started spitballing ideas around the dinner table with my then-roommate, Rose.

At the time, I was reading an assignment chapter from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth for a class called “Self-Care for Therapists.” I recalled a notable scene in the book about the “painbody” very vividly, and the idea sparked from there. We dressed the set, rolled camera and, using Tolle’s book as a guide, I began to improv. You know you’re onto something when the director is holding in laughter.

Lizzy's craftful edit shaped the film's final form by using music and pacing to create elements of tension and humor. Although the moonlight effect never quite transpired, a goofy, dramatic and heartfelt short film was born.

You’re also a current student in Drama Therapy. How did you discover and end up at CIIS? 

I learned about CIIS when I was a student at Naropa University, a Buddhist-inspired contemplative institution in Colorado. I was earning my BFA in Performance, including acting, dance and voice, with two minors, one in Contemplative Education and the other in Yoga Theory and Philosophy. I always had an inkling I wanted to be a Drama Therapist while I was an actor in undergrad, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that I was ready to embark on the next step at CIIS. 

How has it been to balance an M.A. counseling program and being a filmmaker? What are the synergies, and what are the challenges? 

I have noticed that acting and filmmaking feed my studies in the M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Acting provides a necessary creative expression, freedom and zaniness that balances the rigor of my academic studies. Filmmaking gives me the opportunity to work with a talented and wonderful, homegrown crew.

Not surprisingly, acting and therapy require similar skill sets. Both call for us to seek to understand someone else. They ask us to enter into someone else’s mind – why do they do what they do or think how they think? What makes them tick?

The challenges are that time, and availability are very limited. We’re often working on a production with a shoestring budget. 

Has studying Drama Therapy impacted your partnership? In what ways? 

Drama Therapy has given our sibling relationship new communication skills that are playful, dynamic, and cut to the core. Our communication and interpersonal skills have strengthened, which has enabled us to work better as a team. We have also learned how to be better peer resources for one another personally and creatively.

We are very close, but when we do fight we make up quickly, often through the helping hand of humor. 

What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your work so far?

The most important thing we have learned in our work thus far is that we just have to keep on going. The crumbling capitalist patriarchy has not been generous to us as women, artists, and teachers. When we face external or internal criticism, we have had to learn to shrug it off or else collapse. So we carry on, following the thread of humor that gives us those sacred moments in which we lose track of time. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from your film? 

Honestly, it has been so meaningful and gratifying to see who resonates most with this three-and-a-half-minute film. The greatest response we have gotten is from therapists themselves. My supervisor, who is a licensed social worker (LSCW), came up to me and said, “I didn’t know you were hiding this? This was so hilarious, helpful for me to see…I get it! You see me!” Some of my cohort members at practicum were like, “This is how I felt all week! That was so cathartic.” One retired clinical psychologist from Santa Rosa emailed Lizzy out of the blue and said, “Just wanted to tell you that your film, 'CounterTransference,' gave me some good laughs. Thank you!” Emotional resonance and catharsis are the big takeaways.

What’s next for you artistically? 

Lizzy is enrolled at CalArts in Los Angeles earning her masters in Filmmaking and Video. Her comedic genius, love of satire and mundane are supported through the rigor of academia. I am beyond stoked to see how her new artistic skill sets will take flight. We have filmed “CounterTransference’s” sister, “Transference,” and it is in the process of being edited. Stay tuned!

For now, we want folx to come out to the de Young Open 2023! This public art show is incredible, and our film is being screened every day at 10:02, 12:02, 2:02, 4:02 in the media room on the first floor. Saturday entry is free! We will be there to discuss our work on December 17 for the 12:02 and 2:02 showings. Please join us!

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