Katharine Emmer never envisioned being an award-winning director.
Then again, she never believed that she would ever write, produce, or edit a film either.
Emmer, an Edina High grad, moved to Los Angeles after graduating from New York University, where she studied acting and had difficult finding acting roles. She worked as a nanny during the day to pay her bills.
Emmer, after a lengthy job search that proved unsuccessful, was persuaded by her partner to create her own role.
“I had a period of seven years or so where I wasn’t acting, and I wasn’t doing what I loved,” Emmer said. “I met my boyfriend, and he introduced me to the world of independent filmmaking.
“He sat me down, had me watch all these independent films, and he convinced me I could do what those people did.”
Emmer then sat down, wrote a script, which she entitled “Life in Color,” and convinced Josh McDermott, who is known for his role of Eugene on “The Walking Dead,” to co-star in the film after the two met in an acting class in Los Angeles.
“I believed in what he was doing, and I thought he was great every time he presented in class,” Emmer said. “I asked him if he would do it if I wrote him a role in the film and he wasn’t doing anything at the time, so he said yes.”
Emmer, in order to complete the cast, reached out to one of the actors through Facebook to share the script for the film.
“The lesson in that is don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know,” Emmer said.
Emmer, after compiling the cast, put together a list of locations where she could film for free, as she did not have much money at the time to support paying for a full set. The family Emmer worked as a nanny offered its home for Emmer to use during filming.
Her most difficult work began after the filming was completed, as she was set to edit a film for the first time.
“I had no idea how much work it would be after you wrapped the film,” Emmer said. “I had never edited a film, so I had to learn quickly, and I had someone from the Apple Store teach me to learn Final Cut.
“I had no idea how to get the film in festivals or anything like that.”
Emmer, following the completion of the editing process, had to find ways to have her movie screened in front of a large audience.
“It’s quite intense, and it feels like you’re applying for a college,” Emmer said. ‘You pay a hefty application fee, you send in a copy of your film, and they pass the film up the ladder until it gets approved.”
Her first way of doing so? The South by Southwest Film Festival.
Emmer’s film was placed in the narrative spotlight category, and she went up against films that included one directed by Robert Duvall.
“It was crazy to think, coming from Edina, that I would be in a category that featured a film directed by Robert Duvall,” Emmer said. “That was pretty out there for me.”
“Life in Color” proved to be a success, as Huffington Post named it as one of the top films to watch at South by Southwest in 2015, and the film premiered March 12 last year. The film won the Best of Fest award at the 2015 Lower East Side Film Festival June 23 in New York, as well as the Special Jury Prize at the Napa Valley Film Festival on Nov. 15.
“It’s been great, it’s been exciting, and I’m excited to move on and hopefully do another film,” Emmer said.
The film was released on iTunes and Amazon Feb. 11, and it has garnered mainly positive reviews.
“We have gotten a lot of positive reviews, and a lot of people reached out about how much they liked the film and that they couldn’t believe that we made what we did for as little as I had,” Emmer said. “Rather than sitting at home and getting upset that I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on the film, I got creative and used what resources I had.
“The film is a testament to what you can pull off with very little. I’m proud of what we were able to pull off with no budget and limited resources.”
Emmer credits her hometown and its value system for her success.
“I’m very proud and grateful about the fact that I grew up in the Midwest,” Emmer said. “The Edina community is more into who you are as a person, rather than being fixated on what you have accomplished, so I feel grateful I have those roots.
“Being from Edina and having the strength to be around the right people for the right reasons and make great work, is something I’m proud of, and I feel I was able to make a great product because I didn’t get swept up in things that weren’t important.”
Emmer hopes that she will be able to bring her next film to Minneapolis to share with the community where she grew up.
“My dream is to play my next film in Minneapolis or even Edina,” Emmer said.
Find out more information about Emmer and “Life in Color,” at lifeincolorthefilm.com.
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected]