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“You become adept at wearing many hats”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Kathryn Kennedy • Producer, Kennedy Films


The Irish producer, selected as one of this year’s Producers on the Move, talked to us about producing in Ireland and her new projects

Kathryn Kennedy • Producer, Kennedy Films

We spoke to Kathryn Kennedy, producer at Kennedy Films. This year, the Irish producer has been selected as one of the participants in the European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move initiative. During our interview, she spoke about her first steps into the film industry, producing in Ireland, and the new projects she is working on.

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Cineuropa: What pushed you to enter this industry?
Kathryn Kennedy: Growing up I was always very creative, so I naturally applied to a variety of degrees after school; Film, Animation and Fine Art. It was the decision to choose a degree in film which set me on the path towards working professionally within the industry. I am a very hard-worker when I’m doing something I love. In film school I specialised in both cinematography and directing. But I was still young, and felt I needed to learn more about the business of being on set before deciding on a career path. I started out as an assistant director for film and television, and moved into Production Management. I missed being creative in these roles, so I took a year out to do a Masters in Screenwriting. I set up my own company immediately after that and produced a short film called Just Saying by Dave Tynan, and then I was sent the script for My Name is Emily [+see also:
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. I love having my own company, which I now run together with my husband, filmmaker Frankie Fenton. It affords me the opportunity to collaborate with many different creative people from all over the world, while also generating my own ideas, and writing and producing my own material.

What is the most challenging aspect of a producer’s job?
Each stage of a project has its unique challenges, but obviously the mix of creatively developing and financing a film in tandem is hugely challenging. You become adept at wearing many hats! There are so many different kinds of curveballs that can come at you, and financing is so tenuous; it is a constant balancing act. But I relish the variety, from budgeting and financing to developing and writing screenplays. I do love a challenge.

Which is the most rewarding?
When something you believed in and nurtured from a budding idea, not only becomes a tangible machine which employs a lot of people, but is also creatively satisfying for you and a wide team of people in their daily work; which then, hopefully, goes out into the wider world and actually moves people, and changes perspectives — that’s a very rewarding feeling.

How would you judge the current state of Ireland’s film scene?
The scene is vibrant and busy. We have a great tax break, along with internationally renowned highly professional crews, a great mix of locations from urban to rural, and busy studios. So we are a very attractive country for international co-production and service productions, and as such, the business is doing very well.

How do you think being one of the Producers on the Move will benefit your career?
I am very excited and honoured to be a part of Producers on the Move 2023. EFP is a fantastic support, I took part in a Producer Lab with EFP at TIFF a few years ago, so I know how strong their programmes are. My company has recently been awarded the Creative Futures Slate Fund 2023 from Screen Ireland, which is a highly competitive fund. With that, we have hired new staff, expanded our slate, and I am very excited about pitching our projects at Cannes this year. I am also very much looking forward to learning about the projects by other Producers on the Move, meeting financiers and sales agents, and expanding my profile and network in Europe.
How do you think your job is changing, owing to the historical events and digital transformations we've been going through over the last two years — for instance, the rise of VoD platforms and the surge of AI and algorithms?
There is so much to talk about here! I am feeling positive about all the changes society is going through. I think we are at an unprecedented point in history and it’s exciting to be living through it. With the right kind of legislation, enacted quickly, AI will be a fantastic and exponentially beneficial tool to the creative industries. We shouldn’t be afraid, but I do think we need to move quickly to define legislation for its use. The rise of VoD has been dramatic but we can see that financing model is already sort of imploding in its own way. I’m interested to see how things progress. I don’t think audiences are going to change their viewing habits too much in the comfort of their homes, which is another impact. However, I think if we hold firmly to the USP of the cinema — the collective experience in the auditorium, the lifelong memories created by life-changing films — and give the art of cinema back to the public, it will flourish. Rather than keeping ticket prices at a premium across the board as they are now, make cinema more accessible. My father has memories of paying just a pound to see a full day of films in his local cinema as a child — let’s get back to that, and cinema will continue to be anchored in the hearts of all generations.

What are your next projects?
Kennedy Films has produced award-winning live action and documentary features to date, so we are developing more of those, while expanding into fiction, documentary series and animation. During Cannes I’m mainly pitching our psychological folk horror film Pooka, and the comedy satire My Mother, She Wrote, but I’m also interested in pitching our hybrid doc/animation anthology series The Thin Place and our documentary mini-series The Shields.

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