Interview with Filmmaker Emily Penick (THE CORONATION)

THE CORONATION was the winner of BEST EXPERIMENTAL Film at the April 2022 DANCE/EXPERIMENTAL Film Festival.

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What motivated you to make this film?

The people came first, then the story. I was on-set directing my first feature, An Iliad, with DP Anastasiia Kulivalova, when I noticed that she was practically dancing with her camera. Her grace and artistry told me I simply had to make a dance film with this woman. Later that same day I was on instagram and I saw a dance improv Kelsey Burns filmed in her tiny apartment (during covid). Her honest and confined wiggles spoke to me. I remember feeling “Oh, this is it. These two women need to dance together.” Kelsey and I started our devising/writing journey with a line from Homer, which I thought may serve us on our odyssey, and it ended up being the first image of the film: “When Dawn with her rose-red fingers crept over the horizon…”

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

17 months

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Absurd. Collaborative.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Figuring out how to make a giant tea cup with no budget to fabricate such a thing.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was so moved! Having made this film in the social void of covid, it was so life-giving to see actual humans respond to our film! It’s deeply personal and very absurd and specific in its humor and themes, so while I felt good about the product personally, I didn’t know if it would resonate with others. It meant a lot to see that it did! I am especially thrilled that the surprises we worked so hard to map in the film were, indeed, surprising! The introduction of the blinds and the second world was something composer Meredith Butterworth and I worked especially hard on. I also come from the physical theater, clown, and circus world, so much of this devising and writing process used clown techniques I’ve honed over a decade. Not to mention playwriting structures. So it was wonderful to hear that people found the absurdity and physical comedy funny, like the clown-car bra moment, and the shock of one character being eaten by the other. Anything is possible with a foolish outlook and collaborators who are game!

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I started storyboarding music videos when I was 11 or 12, to the Backstreet Boys Millennium Album, but I actually built a life directing theater. (And choreographing, producing, literary management, stage managing, and doing fight and intimacy choreography for theater). It wasn’t until Covid stopped the theater industry in its tracks that I had the space to shift my attention to learning how the camera could help me tell stories in a new way! In my literary manager capacity in regional and off-broadway, I’d read a lot of scripts for the stage which I’d felt would be better-suited for film or TV, so I’ve been fascinated for years with the difference between what makes a good film script vs what makes a good theater script.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

This is not a fancy answer, by it’s honest: Mary Poppins. The OG one, not the new one. I just watched Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai for the first time, and I would gladly watch it every year of my life from here on out.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Online networking events are fantastic!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I love film freeway!

10. What is your favorite meal?

Fresh handmade pasta with a generous dusting of parm and fresh basil on top, followed by some perfect and cold watermelon for dessert.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

As a small piece of a larger machine, I’m working with composer Joshua Schmidt on his next film The End staring Tilda Swinton, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. It’s a post-apocalyptic original musical. It’s thrilling. I’m obsessed with the script and these songs.

In the writer/director’s seat, I’m already collaborating with Kelsey again, on a new piece we’re building which celebrates healthy human love and the fabric of community. We love using books in our research phase, so we’re heavily influenced by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, and Paul Stamets’ book Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift, Consciousness, and Save the Planet. My dream is to either film this in the Pacific Northwest or New Zealand.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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