Liya Shay’s first passion was initially not performing, but rather visual arts. As an art historian, she always saw the importance of art and cinema in their wider cultural and political contexts. It was through her studies into the significance of film in history that made her consider pursuing acting as a career.
“Diving into those worlds is incredibly fascinating both as an actor and as a viewer. I think I wanted to become an actor because I truly believe in the power of film to make a change,” she said.
Throughout her career, Shay has built an extensive resume working on many decorated projects, ranging from music videos, such as Marshmello’s “Imagine”, which has over 24 million views on YouTube, to films like Lost at Sea, Greek Yogurt, The 98, From Within, and The 4th Person, that have been screened at prestigious film festivals all over the world. Her work has left her audiences feeling inspired or moved, laughing or crying, exactly the reaction impactful art has on its viewers.
Her most recent success, S’ids Lake, is no different. The feature was an Official Selection Red Wood Film Festival 2020, Official Selection and Best Writer Winner at Cine Fern Film Festival 2020, Nominee for Best Feature Film at MPFA 2020, Official Selection at International Moving Festival 2020, Official Selection at USWC Film Festival 2020, Semi-Finalist at Couch Film Festival, Official at Selection DMOFF 2020, Best Director at Golden Earth Festival, Best Feature Film Winner at Direct Monthly Online 2020, Best Director at Golden Earth Film Festival 2020, and Winner of Best Actor at American Golden Picture International Film Festival 2020.
“I feel humbled, not only that it was very well received by the audience who appreciate this type of cinema, but also because I trusted my instincts and they didn’t disappoint me. I always go with my gut choosing roles. I haven’t yet had an experience where I didn’t learn something incredibly valuable from my participation in the project. I am very lucky in that sense,” said Shay.
S’ids Lake is a psychological drama about a young boy Sid, who goes on a self-destructive journey into his mind after accidentally killing his first love Margie, a sweet and angelic high school student that deals with her own thoughts of suicide and hatred, played by Shay, a pivotal character to the development of this psychological story.
“We go on a twisted journey through the lens of this outcast boy, and you cannot tell if his issues are psychological or paranormal. But you also can’t help but sympathize with this character, because he is so deeply tormented. Is it a mental illness that causes the events to unfold or is he simply a victim of his surroundings, both being bullied at school and at home by his father. Up until the end we want to have the answers to these questions, but similar to life, we never do. Reality is very subjective, and it is important to understand and see issues that people go through, when they find themselves disoriented like that. We have to be aware of such issues, to be able to help these individuals,” said Shay.
Margie is a very complex character. The main character sees her as the sweet ingenue, a beautiful and sweet Southern girl. However, to others she is depressed, walking to the lake often thinking of suicide. Shay knew both sides to this character had to be displayed to truly capture the audience’s attention, needing to look incredibly sweet, but also holding that dramatic tension. Writer and Director Kevin Ruiz knew that Shay would be the perfect actress to live up to such a vital and multifaceted character and approached her asking if she would play the part at the beginning of the project. She was the very first person cast.
“When the camera turned on, Liya was 100 per cent professional. She has a great talent for acting and is very tough. She was asked to lay in the dirt in the middle of a forest, and play dead for a few hours, with the fear of who knows what would crawl onto her. But she did it like a trooper,” said Ruiz. “Liya really seemed to do everything she could to get the character right. She took a lot of pride learning her accent, and we spent hours talking about what the character would or wouldn’t do. I would love to work with her again.”
S’ids Lake is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi. Be sure to check it out and see Shay’s stunning performance.