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raymac Written by raymac
Oct. 9, 2014 | 5:02 AM

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An Interview With Jennie Kong, Writer/Director of The Resolution

The Resolution (Clip) from Jennie Kong on Vimeo.

What would you do if you slowly began to lose your memory and sense of self? That is the issue at the heart of The Resolution, which premiered at the 10th Annual Hollyshorts Film Festival, and is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit including winning Best Drama Short Film at the Independent Film Quarterly Magazine fest. Writer/Director Jennie Kong created a powerful work that shows us the devastating impact of the disease without falling into melodrama. I had the opportunity recently to ask her a few questions about this outstanding short film.

We tend to associate dementia with older people rather than someone as young as Dakota. What drew you to this as a subject and made you decide to tackle it as a story?
Jennie: I was actually revisiting old music records last spring while I was writing this film when I stumbled across many of singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon’s music (Jack’s Mannequin/Something Corporate). Now here’s a highly accomplished guy who was sadly diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 22 just as his career took off.  He ultimately survived it but had to do so in the public eye.  It loosely inspired me to ponder about the journey of someone surviving a gut-wrenching illness.  To me, it felt like a story worth telling.  During post-production,  I had the chance to meet and talk to Andrew personally about my filmmaking ahead of one of his shows and he was very generous with his encouragement and his blessing.  Instead of leukemia, I decided to focus on early onset dementia, an illness with less awareness that has impacted over 200,000 people in America.   

I was fascinated by the details such as the notes on the wall that she uses to help remember. How much research did you do on the subject?
Jennie: Although I wrote the script in a few days, I did spend some time upfront researching the stages of the illness as well as the differences and commonalities between younger and older patients with dementia such as patient experiences, symptoms and coping mechanisms. Flash cards are crucial for jogging recognition not only for sufferers but also a tool for caregivers to have in their communications repertoire. It was vital to me to give an honest portrayal of early onset dementia as part of the story.

Dakota seems so alone without any real support network to help her cope. Is this something most patients deal with or was this just a choice you made as a writer?
Jennie: That’s a great question! Actually during my research I came across a lot of healthcare literature that DO advise on the importance of having a support network at home, and the sensitivities this illness can bring to the patient. I believe most patients have some kind of support. But for someone suffering - the different stages of dementia can develop into a range of symptoms from memory loss to hallucinations, hearing difficulties, lack of motor skills, etc.  As a result of this, I actually felt dementia to be one of the most misinterpreted, frightening and isolating of conditions.  And possibly this could be what a sufferer may feel internally despite their external support network.

When I began writing The Resolution it was crucial to me to focus on Dakota’s character as the backbone to the film.  To protect Dakota’s story as a strong, giving and determined woman - who not only must survive the illness, but fight bloody so not lose her “self of being and spirit” to it as well.  It’s not so much that she is alone… she just chooses not to give up fighting for herself.  And there is a point in the story where all of her prior generosity as a teacher pays back in spades.  This is the George Bailey moment that we all kind of hope for ourselves should we ever hit rock bottom.

Meaghann Cobb - Resolution

Meaghann Cobb gives a poignant and devastating performance as Dakota Turning. Where did you discover her?
Jennie: I was fortunate to discover Meaghann through the plain old audition process. I had seen her reel and was excited to have her read for the part, I always had Dakota as a hardened yet warm redhead in my mind.  During the auditions, I was pleasantly surprised that she knew not to portray Dakota for empathy.  That along with her performance sealed the deal for me.  She gave that role everything and it shows. Meaghann, Corinne Chooey, Matt Kriger, AJ LoCascio and the rest of the cast really got behind it, they were incredible.

THE RESOLUTION is about someone fighting to keep their identity and in your previous film, MADE BY MAGGIE, the character is searching for her identity, do you feel there is a connection between the two films?
Jennie: Wow, I never saw the two films in that way but that makes sense.  For me, I’m truly motivated to tell stories of hope and am fascinated by the genres of fantasy and magical realism.  For both of these films, the protagonist’s world and hopes are tested and taken to the extremes of lightness and darkness throughout the story. I love exploring a person’s journey of finding hope in the unexpected and the bursts of miracles, beauty and the fantastical that can happen between these moments in life.  In that respect, The Resolution is certainly a spiritual successor to Made By Maggie.

Were there any challenges that you faced during production?
Jennie: I had an amazing team in Kristal Ramin Smith (DP), Chris Coulter (UPM), Nick Rodriguez (Script Supervisor) and our crew who worked so hard in the 3-4 days of shoot time that we had.  We only had a 1-camera set up (we used a Canon C300) even though we were very ambitious with the depth of storytelling and volume of locations we included.  Due to time constraints, I had the challenge of balancing the visual, storytelling and performance dynamic overall.  Ciaran Vejby (editor) did a fantastic job in protecting this and pulling it all together for us.  I always try and write very in-depth short films with rich characters and multi-layered moments for the audience.  It’s always a tough ask to make these types of short films quickly, so hopefully we were able to pull it off. 

Jennie Kong

Are there any other aspects about the film that you would like to touch on?
Jennie: I always love experimenting with music and subtle visual effects to accent the storytelling.  My composer Jim Fowler, who also scored Made By Maggie, did a beautiful job in creating Dakota’s theme as well as making the film unsettling and poignant with his music. It was also a true delight to team up with Joanna Orland (Sound Designer) and Nigal Raymond (VFX) again. They both add so much finesse to the final film!

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into filmmaking?
Jennie: Hard work, passion and belief can certainly go a long way. However, I think whether you’re a writer, director or producer – I always believe that knowing your voice, audience and market can open more doors for you as a filmmaker in the long run.  Learn what the above means to you because storytelling of any kind cannot be created or consumed within a vacuum.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Jennie: The Resolution just debuted at the 10th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival and the 2014 Independent Film Quarterly Magazine Festival, which has been great. I’ve also recently had the deep privilege to assist and be mentored by a couple of super talented directors on productions, from development to launch.  It’s been such a thrill to grow professionally and personally like this…  I can’t wait to finish up on writing new material, get back behind the camera and start shooting again.

Resolution premiere

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