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Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #11: Katie Cokinos’s ‘I Dream Too Much’ Is Driven by Romantic Notions

Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #11: Katie Cokinos's 'I Dream Too Much' Is Driven by Romantic Notions

After college, Dora finds herself back home, prepping for the LSAT while her friends travel the globe. When her Great Aunt Vera injures herself, Dora volunteers to help and travels to Vera’s snowy estate. The last thing the venerable Vera wants is a caretaker, and the last thing Dora wants is to be bored and isolated. Much to their surprise, Vera helps Dora through her poetic “muddle,” and Dora discovers her own unique voice while Vera rediscovers hers. [Synopsis Courtesy of SXSW]
Cokinos shared with Indiewire the inspiration behind her new film “I Dream Too Much,” as well as her biggest challenges as a writer and director.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

“I Dream Too Much” is about a high spirited young girl, Dora, who is back home after recently graduating from college. She desperately wants to travel to Brazil with her best friend but instead is handed the LSAT book and is reminded by her over bearing Mom that law school is her future – not cute boys on a beach in South America. To escape her Mom she volunteers to care for her Great Aunt Vera, who lives in snowy Upstate New York and is recuperating from a broken foot. Unable to brighten her Aunt’s mood and bored with her law school studies, Dora escapes again but this time into Vera’s journals, which she discovered in a closet. As secrets are unearthed and new acquaintances are made, Dora’s life turns around — or does she do the turning herself?

Now what’s it REALLY about?

“I Dream Too Much” is about being young and being inspired by dreams, ideals and romantic notions about life but not knowing what the hell to do or how to do it. It’s the Big Unknown we all face at some point. I was headed to law school but I got derailed when my love for movies began to materialize in college. Graduating was one of my toughest transitions because I didn’t know how to put my passion to use. My life was an exciting question mark. Basically, “I Dream Too Much” is about being in that ditch and allowing your inner voice to slowly emerge. It’s my love letter to twenty somethings (or perhaps to all generations) not to act from a place of fear but instead from the place of imagination. How to find yourself amidst the pressures of family and society.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I have been in love with movies since my older sister dragged me kicking and screaming to see “Play it Again, Sam” (now that I think about it she babysat me in the theater — lucky me). Later on I was inspired by the dialogue between Siskel and Ebert on PBS and was the film critic for my high school newspaper (totally awestruck by Fosse’s “All That Jazz”). After college I worked at the Southwest Alternate Media Project in Houston; ran the Austin Film Society from 1990-95; made short films; worked on “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and wrote, directed and starred in “Portrait Of A Girl As A Young Cat,” a featurette and then I married my d.p./editor. Since “Portrait,” I’ve continued to write scripts while raising two kids. You can have a family and make movies — so take that Jean Luc Godard!

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Making a movie is a Herculean effort but when I look back over the past two years I think the biggest challenge as a writer and director was trying to look at my work with ‘fresh eyes.’ Film becomes collaborative early on in the process; from script, to shooting but I felt challenged the most in the editing room. Editing long hours, day after day you become so close to your work that you sometimes can’t see it anymore. I had to rely on my team to give me a much needed perspective. It’s just a constant thin line of wondering — am I knocking it out of the ballpark or not? But ultimately only the feeling in the pit of my stomach and that inner voice could answer that.

What do you want the SXSW audience to take away from your film?

I want to see an audience of smiling faces. When is the last time you smiled during a movie? And it would be nice if a handful of people walked away reflecting on their own inner passion — the excitement that moves them. Besides, is it possible to dream too much?

Any films inspire you?

Surprisingly, there are not a lot of female coming of age films. However, I did draw from two Jane Austen stories: “Northanger Abbey” starring Felicity Jones and “Mansfield Park” (2007). In “Northanger Abbey” a young girl dreams of romance fueled by novels and in “Mansfield Park,” the protagonist is poor and must live with her wealthier relations. As far as films that inspire my female characters — I return ritually to the screwball/romantic comedies of the 1930’s. Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy to name a few — those women had a happy boldness that you rarely see anymore. The early films of Shirley MacLaine like “The Apartment” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” and “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” But my two most favorite films are “Gigi” and “Auntie Mame.”

What’s next?

I want to take “I Dream Too Much” to as many festivals as possible. I look forward to having a dialogue with audiences and see/hear their response to Dora’s story. (Let’s face it; I am a proud Mom and I want to show off my baby). But I hope my next film is “The Girl Vanishes,” which is a romantic comedy very much inspired by classic screwball comedies. I recently reread a two year old draft of the script (with fresh eyes) and there is definitely a rewrite in my near future.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Sony F55 and the iPhone.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?

No we did not crowd fund for “I Dream Too Much.” Pantheon of Women was our main investor along with individuals.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? 

No I didn’t go to film school. I got a History degree with a minor in Philosophy from Texas A&M University. I co-founded the Arts Film Society my Junior year and we showed Fassbinder, Fellini, Truffaut, Godard, Bergman in the Animal Husbandry building. Watching movies, making short films with my Super 8 camera, reading about directors and running the Austin Film Society was my film school.

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #2: Alison Bagnall Looks on the Bright Side in ‘Funny Bunny’

Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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