Writer and Director Katie Shannon has been involved in many aspects of filmmaking. Katie, born in Massachusetts, graduated from Stonehill College in 2004 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Katie was also a member of Stonehill’s 2003 women’s lacrosse National Championship team and was named an All American Defender. She then obtained her Master’s Degree in Visual Media Arts from Emerson College in 2009. Her thesis project, A Square With Three Sides (2009), has been an official selection in several film festivals such as Chicago’s Reeling Film Festival, London’s Film Festival, and Santa Barbara’s OUTrageous Film Festival.
Realizing that Boston is where she wanted to have her film career, she created the web series 617 The Series, which follows six late twenty something’s as they try to navigate their lives through the city of Boston. She wrote and directed the pilot episode, which can be seen at www.617theseries.com
Her next project is a documentary series that will be following the new generation of players from the 2012 Stonehill Women’s Lacrosse Team in their quest for their own National Championship.
She is currently in development for two feature films. The Things Stolen is a story of a family that lives so far in denial, that they don’t even know what’s the truth anymore. This family drama takes place in Hingham, Massachusetts and follows the struggles of one household when they try to handle the patriarch of the family infidelities.
Her other feature film is A-Town which is based in the year of 2000 in Agawam, Massachusetts, and follows seniors in high school before they go their separate ways and venture off to college.
What current project are you working on?
It’s a webseries based in Boston, which follows six individuals as they navigate through their lives in the city. We just released the twenty-two minute pilot episode “One Nighters” which focuses on two of our characters as they deal with the aftermath of their most recent one night stand. I will also be shooting a documentary in the spring that will be following the Stonehill’s women’s lacrosse spring season.
What are some of your favorite independent films and shorts?
I recently saw Like Crazy and absolutely loved it. The writers Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones depicted a love story in a way I’ve never seen before, and the actors’ portrayal of the relationship was real and genuine. I think a lot of the improv that was done was the reason it came across so real.
What is the casting process like?
The casting process for Amy, the executive producer, and I was unique. At the time we started 617 I was living in Los Angeles, so I was only in town for the first round of auditions. Amy would hold the auditions and record them. She would then send them to me, and then we would discuss them. In my mind, our six main cast members are some of the best actors you will find in Boston. I feel lucky being able to work with them.
How do you measure success?
How do you handle rejection?
You can’t be in this business and not be able to handle rejection. It comes hand in hand. I do my best to take it in stride and remind myself that this is what I want to do with my life, and that it is a process.
Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
I would say I knew from an early age that I wanted to do something in film. I was always behind the camera in our family home movies and whenever I had the choice in school to write a paper or make a video, I always chose to make a video.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
When I first saw the movie Mulholland Drive, I knew becoming a filmmaker is what I wanted to do.
What is your opinion of a civil union vs gay marriage?
I believe everyone should have the right to marry no matter their sexuality. Civil unions are a great step for the gay community. However, they instill the notion of “separate but equal,” when in reality there is no difference between the love that is shared by a man and a woman, two women, or two men.
What is the best thing about being a filmmaker?
To me the best thing about being a filmmaker is being able to create a world that came entirely from your own head.
What is the worst thing about being one?
When you are as impatient as me, the worst thing about being a filmmaker is how long it takes to get things made.
What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?
Who is your favorite filmmaker?
How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?
I’m much happier doing what I love, but much poorer.
What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to become a filmmaker?
To be confident and persistent when it comes to your work. You will get a million “no’s” before you will get a “yes”. Work on any project that you can where you can get on set. I learned a lot by being in many different roles; from a production assistant, to an assistant director, to a script supervisor. Hands on is the best way to learn.
What do you like to do besides filmmaking?
I coached women’s lacrosse at the collegiate level for the last five years and I’m still coaching club lacrosse.
Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a filmmaker?
I coached lacrosse as a way to make money so I could be a filmmaker. If I didn’t pursue this career path, then I’d probably be a head coach somewhere.
What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?
American Films: Black Swan, Once, Boondock Saints, But I’m A Cheerleader, Boys Don’t Cry
Foreign Films: Aimee & Jaguar, Amelie, Ma Vie En Rose
TV Shows: Happy Endings, Sex and the City, Golden Girls, Queer As Folk, Parks & Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
How would you describe your film education?
I started taking film classes during my undergraduate education at Stonehill College. I then did several internships before attending Emerson College, where I obtained my masters degree in visual media arts.
How would you describe the film “scene” where you live?
I definitely think there has been an influx of film opportunities in Boston, and it seems to me that it just keeps growing which is very exciting. It’s a great place to start your career and I have found the people I work with here to be very genuine and happy to help out in any way possible.
What is your favorite Boston landmark and why?
The Garden. I’m a diehard Celtics fan.
Can you believe the show “Falling Skies” takes place in Massachusetts, but is filmed in Canada?
Doesn’t surprise me. Look at Rizzoli and Isles. With every exterior shot, you can tell that it is not shot in Boston. It’s disappointing because it would add so much more authenticity to the show.
How has social media changed the film industry?
The ways to promote, advertise, and even fundraise for a film has changed with social media. It allows films that may never have gotten made previously to have a chance.
What’s your opinion on crowdfunding?
I think crowdfunding is a great concept. Again like social media, it gives people the chance to raise money for projects themselves and not necessarily always have to find investors. People can raise anything from $100 to over $100,000. Check out 617’s kickstarter campaign: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1909809246/617-the-series.
How does independent film differ from the mainstream?
I think independent has become more mainstream in the last few years. But to me true independent films would be films with a small crew, little money, and everyone who is there is truly passionate about the project. You eat, sleep, breathe the film.
Have you seen the webseries “Husbands”?
Nope, but I just googled it. It’s my new favorite webseries.
You could go back in time and see any film being made. Which film would it be and why?
I would have to say Rear Window. I love the film and it would be amazing to get to see Hitchcock direct.
What’s your favorite quote and why?
“This too shall pass.” My dad always used to say it to me growing up when I was going through a tough time.
What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?
I think that remakes rarely live up to the original; same goes for sequels. However, I’m a big fan of Rocky IV.
What is your opinion on book to movie adaptations?
The movies are never as good as the books.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Life’s too short to not do what you love.