Seeking a Life in Pictures

Published: Jul 28, 2005
Story and Photos by Brian Vandervliet/Web Editor

Kori Feener wants to make her motion picture dreams a reality. As a senior majoring in film and media arts, the determined 21-year-old has recently finished shooting a 30-minute movie, It’s Personal, which she describes as a whodunit murder mystery.

Since high school, Feener has shot movies for herself and in collaboration with others, but she says her plans for It’s Personal are more ambitious. After her post-production editing is complete, Feener plans to submit the project to film festivals across the nation.

“This is going to be a stepping stone for me,” said Feener, who plans to leave for Los Angeles after graduation to either enter graduate film school or seek her way into the world of Hollywood studios. “I really wanted to pull all of the knowledge that I’ve gained here into one final project. I wanted to have something really big, something that could potentially jumpstart any future plans that I may have.”

As the project’s writer, director and producer, Feener has learned to be resourceful. Using props and equipment available to her as a UT student, she shot in multiple locations throughout Tampa Bay and on campus, transforming the Rathskellar into a seedy bar and a Cass Building office into a police interrogation room. Unable to pay her cast and crew, Feener enlisted voluntary help from fellow students as well as acting professionals.

She had the fortuitous option of asking her sister, Kelli Daniels, to play the female lead. Daniels’ acting experience includes appearances on network shows such as Gilmore Girls and American Dreams as well as in the upcoming film Big Momma’s House 2. The male lead was played by Giuseppe Raucci, a New York model and actor who has had background roles in Mona Lisa Smile and Mystic River.

“It’s difficult to find actors who are both reliable and good,” said Feener. “It was really helpful to have people who were there to hone their craft and to be professional.”

Feener and her crew faced new challenges nearly every day. During the last day of shooting, UT senior Jim Scott carefully balanced a camera crane atop his Chevy Trailblazer parked in downtown Tampa. After several attempts in the mid-day heat, the 12-foot-high aluminum crane became increasingly less secure. Although a perfectionist, Feener calmly improvised by using a smoother handheld shot.
Working with people, overcoming obstacles and adjusting to changing situations are important aspects of filmmaking, said Dr. Gregg Bachman, chair of UT’s communication department. But they are also skills that can be applied to life in general.

“Staying on task and being organized can positively transfer into any arena,” said Bachman, who has advised Feener on her film. “It’s production, but it can transfer into the corporate world as well because she’s thinking creatively and logically while problem solving. Above and beyond that, it’s a way of working on her chops, like a musician.”

With more than 10 hours of unedited video, Feener said that much work still looms ahead. Although she’d like to eventually earn a name for herself, she won’t be too disappointed if her film doesn’t reach a wide audience or achieve critical recognition. Feener already considers the film, which should be finished by October, to be a success.

“It was a lot of work and a lot of effort on my part,” said Feener. “I know that I’ve done a good job, so I’m happy about it.”

Q&A with Kori Feener

What has attracted you to motion pictures?
Definitely the visual aspect of it. I’ve always enjoyed the composition of an image and how it looks and the emotion that you can get from looking at that image.

Why movies instead of still photography?
Because I like the story that goes along with it. It’s good to have a picture that you can make up your own story to, but I feel that I can be even more creative by adding something else to it to make it even better.

How has technology helped you complete a project like this?
I think that we’ve come a long way in the past couple of years with the different types of cameras that are coming out and what you can do with them. The camera that we used was a Panasonic DVX-100A, and we put it into a mode that simulates film. So it’s on a digital camera, but the camera makes it look as close as it can to film, which is great.

What techniques have you learned from UT professors?
I’ve learned a lot about the different ways to make a scene come together. There are so many rules. You can break the rules, but it all depends on how you do it. There are certain ways to do it, and that’s what I’ve learned about.

Is film directing male-dominated currently?
Yes, I really think so. It’s really hard to sit there and think of many female directors, well-known female directors. The only one that comes to my mind is Sophia Coppola who I love and who has made three great, amazing films. But it’s pretty much male-dominated. If you ask anybody who their favorite director is, they’re going to say Stephen Spielberg or George Lucas or Martin Scorsese – they are all males. So I’d really hope to someday break that cycle.

Because of that, will it be difficult to break in?
I don’t think so. I think there’s actually a market for more females out there now. Because it’s slowly starting to change. Especially with Sophia Coppola winning an Academy Award for Lost in Translation. I think that right now is the best time for females to be getting into filmmaking.

Who is your favorite director?
That would be David Fincher. I just think that he has a really interesting way of getting his actors to get deeply involved with their characters. If you look at Seven, Panic Room and Fight Club, those are some great movies that are all very original and not something that has been done before.

What’s the most difficult aspect of making a movie?
I think that the most difficult aspect of making a film without paying people would have to be getting everybody 100 percent involved. Because for me, it’s my baby. It’s my project, and it’s something that’s really close to my heart, but not everyone is going to have the same dedication that I’ll have. So it’s really a lot of talking with people and getting them to be invested into the project.

Do you have any tips for first-time filmmakers?
Definitely find people who are passionate about filmmaking. That’s the most important thing. The second thing is just to be ambitious. Don’t sit back and think that something isn’t going to work because you don’t have this, or you don’t have that. Actually try to do it because it’s better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.

Have you developed a unique style?
I think that cinematically I aim towards doing things to the extreme. I like images that aren’t neatly balanced. I think that not everything in this world is neatly balanced, so why should it be portrayed that way? I like to use color as much as possible. I like to experiment with the different exposures and the different ways to make images look.

What is your biggest dream?
To be successful and happy with whatever I do. Whether that be directing or cinematography or even just bringing coffee to people on the set.