Katie Cokinos (center) is pictured here speaking on a panel at the 2015 NOFF on career sustainability.
After an impressive festival run that included a screening at the 2015 New Orleans Film Festival, filmmaker Katie Cokinos successfully acquired distribution for her film I Dream Too Much through The Orchard (thanks to a connection she made at the festival) and is bringing her film back to New Orleans this Saturday, June 18, for a screening at the Broad Theater. We took some time to catch up with Katie about her film, her experience at NOFF—as well as her ties to the city.
We understand that you have some connections to New Orleans—could you elaborate on that?
My grandfather, Michael Pelias, migrated to New Orleans from Greece at the turn of the last century. He brought over his younger brother, Gus Pelias, and sister Georgia Pelias. My grandfather and Uncle Gus began by selling candy in Jackson Square and it slowly developed into a wholesale grocery store called The Jackson in the French Quarter at 515 Decatur. They came over with nothing and built up a business that was doing so well he was able to put three kids in college during the Depression at Tulane. My mom, Lula, who now lives in Houston, was the youngest of six kids who all were born and raised in New Orleans (they all worked at The Jackson). It’s my second beloved home. I grew up in Beaumont, but we were in New Orleans as much as possible. Both of my sisters graduated from Newcomb College. And I have a script, “The Girl Vanishes,” a screwball comedy, that’s set in New Orleans. New Orleans inspires me always.
Could you tell us more about your film?
I Dream Too Much was shot in upstate New York in Saugerties, where I live now, in the dead of winter during two blizzards. My intention was to capture that time period right after college when you don’t know what the hell to do with your life. Ultimately it was about making the personal cinematic; because it was something I went through in my own life. I also wanted to make a modernized version of a Jane Austen story. So my main character, poorer relation Dora (Eden Brolin), wanting to get away from her mom and having to study for the law school exam, volunteers to take care of wealthy Great Aunt Vera (Diane Ladd) and her broken foot in Saugerties – then things start happening with comedy and some drama.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
My own experience—and I also love winter. Having grown up in Beaumont and experiencing snow only once, it’s still a novelty for me (New York natives think I’m crazy). And I am always interested in characters who are in transition—who are moving out of one life into the next. I find it to be a very interesting, albeit stressful, period cause you’re sort of in a ditch or as Aunt Vera calls it, “muddle.” Moreover, one day in the early stages of developing the script, my character exclaimed “I dream too much!” sort of out of frustration, and I thought “Well, that’s a great title.” So I just worked towards that title every day. I spent a year and a half developing the script, draft after draft, before we started to raise money and doing the casting. And can you really “dream too much”?
What was your experience at NOFF like last year?
Great. It is a filmmaker-focused festival. (Say that five times really fast.) You assume all festivals are like that, but unfortunately they’re not. The screening at the Prytania Theater was wonderful, and really, at the end of the day, that’s all a filmmaker wants—great projection and sound played to an engaged audience; that’s what I got from New Orleans. John Desplas, the festival’s Artistic Director Emeritus, introduced the film and we did a great Q&A after. All of my family from Beaumont and New Orleans were there, which was really special. I also participated in an interesting panel that weekend organized by Angela Tucker—how to live, sustain yourself, pay bills, and be a filmmaker. I was up there with these amazing women, some are producers, some are editors, some are teaching, talking about how to juggle your day job with while you’re working on your project. To me, that was another great example of how NOFF is all about filmmakers. And a big shout out to my cousin Alexa Georges, a longtime New Orleans Film Festival board member.
How did your distribution deal with the Orchard come about?
The festival has a setup where they hook up films with distributors. They hooked me up with a distributor who they thought would be interested, and fortunately they were. It was Saturday morning after my screening on Friday night. It’s sort of like speed dating. Filmmakers get about 15 minutes with distributors. My co-producer Jack McWilliams and I sat down with Danielle DiGiacomo from The Orchard. After that, we sent her a Vimeo link and the talks began. And it all happened at the New Orleans Film Festival. We had a huge turnout for the screening and we sold our movie.
Next up for the film is a New Orleans theatrical run, correct? What are you thoughts are screening in the city again?
I’m so happy to be back in New Orleans to show I Dream Too Much at the Broad Theater. The fact that my main character is on this journey of self-discovery i.e. opening up to her creativity, and that’s what New Orleans meant to me growing up in my 2nd home. The culture and diversity explodes with expression. And that’s essentially what I’m having my character tap into her excitement. Great Aunt Vera tells her niece, Dora, “You’re a Welles Dora – we do not follow a straight line.” Neither does New Orleans!
I Dream Too Much will screen at the Broad Theater this Saturday, June 18, at 7:00 p.m. Katie will be in attendance for a Q+A, to be moderated by NOFS Artistic Director Emeritus John Desplas.