Filmmaker Suzanne Lyons Puts Courage Into Courageous

By Mandi Renfroe
Photo by Kate Luhr

“Have I had struggles? Yes, but I don’t let them ever get to me,” says Suzanne Lyons, independent film producer and founder of Snowfall Films, in a recent interview for CW Magazine. She defines the word courageous as never letting something drown her spirits. A positive, happy person, Suzanne never reveals the obstacles that have come across her path as she has pursued her dreams

When Suzanne was only six months old, she had her first surgery, a precursor to many more to come. Then at two, another medical problem emerged. She was diagnosed with cancer. “My mother…saved my life,” Suzanne admits heartily. “She would argue with the doctors over surgeries that could have killed me, and she would just tell them that it was ‘mothers intuition.’”

The strength and optimism of her mother marked her life. “She always kept positive,” Suzanne says. “I don’t remember her every shedding a tear. She made the hospital sound fun and kept any drama out of it.” Since then, she never let anything make her feel negative or make her feel helpless. Instead, she became a powerful and positive woman just like her mother.

A chance viewing of The Sword and the Stone when she was seven opened her up not only to the world of cinema but to a lifelong career. “When I watched that movie, I was able to escape to that world and leave this one.” She wanted to offer that kind of escape to others and sought training for that field.

During her third year of college, she was a camera assistant for a live sports show and “fell in love with it like you would fall in love with somebody you’re marrying,” she remembers. She went on to a broadcasting school, graduating in film and television. Her love of the medium and her drive made her one of the first female vice presidents (VP of Marketing and Promotions) for a Canadian TV Network at the young age of twenty-nine. There, she created, produced, and directed news and series programming. Coming to Los Angeles, Suzanne explored movie production and co-founded the Flash Forward Institute in the mid-90s. She reached out to young and seasoned movie enthusiasts by leading entertainment industry seminars in the US and Canada.

In 1999, Suzanne took a bigger leap of faith and co-founded Snowfall Films. However, even that career move wasn’t without incident. During the making of Undertaking Betty, actors and writers went on strike. Further complicating production, the tragedy of September 11 put the whole country on edge, making air travel doubly stressful. Many actors weren’t taking roles, and even if they were, they weren’t flying to a location.

Fortunately, the actors for Suzanne’s film were loyal and courageous, especially Christopher Walken, who were willing to fly. And they also had to deal with Suzanne’s unsinkable attitude. “I would not take no for an answer. I wanted to make a feel-good movie,” she states, “and everybody was so committed and great.” The cast and crew worked six-day weeks and even on their days off. Suzanne considers Undertaking Betty her proudest film achievement because of the heart and soul of all those people that went into making that movie.

Suzanne produced seven other independent films, including Jericho Mansions starring Jennifer Tilly and James Caan. To achieve that, she has kept what she calls a “light attitude.” She recognized that her purpose is different from most in the industry. “The whole job in entertainment is to provide entertainment, and some will take it too seriously. But you just have to have fun with it.”

Suzanne Lyons has carried her childhood awe in seeing The Sword and the Stone into a career that inspires not only viewers of her films but other industry professionals, especially students of the art. Suzanne Lyons is indeed a remarkable, courageous woman.

Visit Suzanne Lyon’s Website

About The Author:
Mandi Renfroe is 22 years old and has traveled the world with her husband and daughter. She has lived in Korea, Texas and now finally living back home in California. She graduated from Allied University and is working on her first novel.

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