Ex-SNL writer enters world of independent filmmaking
Lori Nasso, Artsci’86, has done a lot in the entertainment world. She was a performer with Toronto’s Second City improv group, a writer for Saturday Night Live for four seasons, and a voicework actor for animated TV shows such as King of the Hill and Beavis and Butt-Head. Now she is branching out into a new area – independent filmmaking.
Lori, who lives in Los Angeles, is the co-writer, co-star and co-producer of Life Inside Out, a small-budget movie about a mother who rediscovers her musical roots and uses singing as a way to reconnect with her troubled son.
After years of working in television, Life Inside Out was Lori’s first time working on a movie set and she loved the experience. The advantage of an independent movie is that the filmmakers have a lot of control; there are no studio executives telling you what to do.
“As writers, we didn’t have to go through the process of having the story re-written by others. It’s rare to have your movie go from the page to the screen pretty much the way you wrote it,” says Lori, who wrote the script with friend Maggie Baird. “I love acting on film much more than I thought I would. It’s much slower than TV sketches, and you really get into it.”
Don’t expect to see the film at your local Cineplex next week. Lori has to pray to Robert Redford’s Sundance gods or Toronto’s TIFF angels and hope that Life Inside Out gets screened at film festivals, generates some buzz, and gets picked up by a distributor.
Lori, who is originally from Toronto, never would have believed after graduating from Queen’s that she would one day be living in Los Angeles. She worked for a theatre company in Toronto before signing up for a Second City improv class. She was a natural at it – she always was a class clown and made her friends and family laugh – and she soon found herself as a Second City performer.
It was there that she was recruited by scouts from Saturday Night Live in the mid-1990s and offered a job as a writer. She was surprisingly hesitant about the opportunity.“At Second City, you don’t write, you improvise scenes. I would have been perfectly comfortable performing on SNL. I didn’t know how comfortable I would be writing for other performers. I thought it over, but it was too good an opportunity to pass over.”
Lori enjoyed writing parody sketches, including the popular spoofs of Céline Dion (featuring Ana Gasteyer) and The View (which she co-wrote with Tina Fey).
Working on SNL forced her to become a good writer very quickly. The competition behind the scenes was intense, and it was embarrassing to have your sketch get zero laughs in front of dozens of fellow writers and actors during the weekly table read. If you got laughs, your sketch got on the air.
Lori was also responsible for producing many other aspects of her sketches, working with the set designers, wardrobe, and prop departments. She knew the frantic pace of the show was leading to burn-out, but it was a great experience that taught her a lot about working on a TV show, she says. After four years, Lori decided to move on because she missed performing, even though she would occasionally appear in minor roles.
After Saturday Night Live, Lori moved to Los Angeles and continued her career as a television writer/producer for such shows as Oxygen’s Ripe Tomatoes and the CW’s Hype. When interviewed by the Review, she had just completed a job as head writer and actress on a new show for Nickelodeon entitled Parental Discretion.
Will there be another movie in her future or more TV shows? Lori’s not sure.
“I go off in whatever direction inspires me. I’ve never made a plan for my life,” she says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised so many times! If you were to have told me back at Queen’s that I’d be living in L.A. 25 years later, I would have said you were crazy.”