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SXSW Women Directors: Meet Katie Cokinos – ‘I Dream Too Much’

SXSW Women Directors: Meet Katie Cokinos - 'I Dream Too Much'

Katie Cokinos has a history of supporting independent film, starting in Texas, where she was an administrator for SWAMP and Managing Director of the Austin Film Society. She’s made five short films, and her featurette “Portrait of a Girl as a Young Cat” premiered at SXSW. (SXSW

I Dream Too Much” will premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival on March 16. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

KC: “I Dream Too Much” is a coming-of-age story about a high-spirited young girl, Dora, who finds herself back at home after college and feeling “plain and small.” While her mother dreams of Dora going to law school, Dora dreams hopelessly of jetting to Brazil with her best friend. In order to escape her overbearing mom, Dora volunteers to care for her formidable great aunt Vera, who has broken her foot. In a quiet old estate in a rural village, Dora makes discoveries about her family’s past and takes a meaningful step toward her own future.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

KC: I wanted to capture the transitional time between college and the “real world” because I recall it being one of the toughest, most vulnerable periods of my life. I also researched female coming-of-age movies and found surprisingly few, so I felt like it was a story worth pursuing. Also, we could shoot in and around my hometown, Saugerties, New York.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

KC: Besides the endless drafts of the script, beyond the anxiety of asking people for money or even the crazy three-week shoot amidst two major snowstorms, my greatest challenge was losing the ability to “see” my work after months and months of editing. One might assume that the process of assembling and re-assembling footage would draw me ever closer, but there were days I felt so alienated from my own work that folding laundry was a joy. Those were the times when my trusted team took on a new importance to me — screening and offering notes. I would take a couple of days off, put my ego aside, let the notes filter through, and begin editing again.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

KC: I want a smiling audience. But I also would love to have them reflect upon their own inner voice, or better still that kick inside. There’s an old saying — follow your bliss, or better still, your excitement. Can we truly dream too much?

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

KC: Advice for all filmmakers: persevere. Don’t approach filmmaking as a profession; creating movies is more like a cause worth fighting for. To female directors in particular: be ambitious. We need to create new myths, push boundaries, challenge worn-out structures, and breathe fresh air into tired story conventions.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

KC: It’s more like a misconception I had about myself: Can I make a film and be a mom? (Jean-Luc Godard in a New Yorker interview said “non.”) Prior to starting a family, I had made numerous shorts and had written, directed, and starred in a featurette, “Portrait of a Girl as a Young Cat” (2000). I knew going into “I Dream Too Much” that filmmaking is a tough, time-consuming, sometimes impossible undertaking, and I didn’t want my kids to get the brunt of that.  In the end, I am pleased to say that I dispelled that fear. In fact, my kids said visiting the set was the best time they had last year — whew!

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

KC: Pantheon of Women is the major investor, along with a handful of individuals. One of my producers, Jay Thames, worked diligently to cultivate the Pantheon funding: without it I’m not sure how we would have made the film.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

KC: It wasn’t until college that I saw a film directed by a woman. it was “Meshes Of The Afternoon” by Maya Deren. Not only was the filmmaker not a man, but she was blowing the medium up through experimentation! I was never the same again. After that, I discovered Agnes Varda, Shirley Clarke, Yvonne Rainer, Sally Potter. They did it, and way in the back of my mind all those years ago, that inner voice said, “Maybe I can too!”

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