Meet Kathryn Harriman, Winner of Winter Docs

March 10, 2015

Who are you and what’s your filmmaking background?

I am a Canadian indie filmmaker, now living in Los Angeles. My background in film is varied. When I was a kid I did some acting but when I got older I developed a bit of stage fright so I focused on other creative avenues. I studied a lot of things including art, business, marketing, visual culture, political science and some film, although filmmaking wasn’t my focus at the time. I got my start in the industry behind the camera in the art department.  Later I began creating various forms of content, mainly for online audiences, for corporate clients and eventually some recording artists and other celebrities.

I had a great little business but it was taking me further and further away from what I truly wanted to do, but life has a funny way of redirecting you sometimes. I thankfully, survived a bout of cervical cancer and just as I was getting back on my feet my car was hit by a drunk driver and I was badly injured. Some people call me “Kat” instead of “Kathryn” and the irony is not lost on me because I seemingly have nine lives.

When I was back on my feet once again I found a job in Los Angeles as creative director for a reality show and packed up my car. The past few years I’ve been directing shorts, music videos, corporate videos– really anything I can get my hands on.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on my first feature film. It’s a documentary about Fukushima five years after the Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. My brother has lived there for the last ten years and remains there today. He was there for the disaster and since it was home for him he stayed. Through him I’m going to explore the aftermath and the lives of the people living in Fukushima City and surrounding areas in the past five years.

What are you promoting?

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting my crowdfunding page for the Fukushima documentary. For the next year that is my main focus and that is what I will be promoting.

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 2.58.28 PM

Still from Kathryn’s winning film “Catwalk.”

With my favorite films I always have those one or two moments I think about afterwards. It could be a line, a scene, the way something was cut… I hope people remember things like that from my films. Maybe as I learn more as a filmmaker I’ll get better at capturing those moments for the audience.

What’s your favorite story from filmmaking?

My favorite story from filmmaking was from a documentary short I did earlier this year for the Documentary Challenge. Our topic was a little taboo. We were exploring sugar daddy relationships in Los Angeles. No one wanted to speak on camera, even when we offered to blur their image or disguise their appearance. When it came time to film, the camera would often freak people out. I’ve always said I could make a film with $20 and an iPhone so we ended up doing just that. Making a video on a phone didn’t scare people so when we started asking questions they really opened up. We went to Sunset Boulevard to get opinions from people on the street. I remember one guy asking “you’re filming on that?” before we started asking questions and as soon as we finished interviewing he said “this is really interesting, where can I see it when it’s finished?”.

What are your wildest dreams for your filmmaking career?

My dream is to be in a position to focus completely on filmmaking and not have to worry about making rent or paying the bills.

What is something bizarre about you?

There are two things that I have heard that people find bizarre about me.

1.) I have a really hard time watching my own films. I can hardly sit through screenings and I mostly cover my eyes. It’s because I always see things I want to go back and fix. It’s especially difficult with timed competitions because of the deadline. The films are never perfect and something as small as a spelling mistake in the credits can haunt you.

2.) I have really strange sleep habits. It’s not uncommon for me to be up for two days straight and not be very bothered by it as long as I can fit in a few “Kathryn-naps” (those are 20 min cat naps that Kathryn takes). I’m also a night owl. My favorite time is between 2-4 a.m.

What currently inspires you?

I recently did some logging work on an upcoming feature documentary by Allan Moyle (Pump up the volume, Empire Records) and he sat down and spoke with me when I was at a bit of a low point. I’m inspired by him and his outlook on the industry. It was because of his encouragement that I decided to take a leap and start working on the Fukushima documentary. One of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

What’s your best advice for an aspiring filmmaker?

Just start shooting. Even if you don’t feel like you have what you need, you’ll get a little better every time you make something.

Follow Kathryn’s career at The Audience Awards.

The Audience Awards is film’s social network connecting audiences to films, filmmakers, film schools and film festivals. The Audience Awards hosts short film competitions where the audience chooses the best films.

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