One Experience of Illness and Healing: Interview with filmmaker Katherine Cronyn

Artist interview: actor/writer/producer Katherine Cronyn.

Katherine's film Rainmaker has been selected for FirstGlance Film Festival LA. Produced by Katherine Cronyn & Christopher Cronyn, and directed and co-produced by Kristen Hester, Rainmaker is the story of K, a young woman trapped in the cyclical nature of an eating disorder. It attempts to see eating disorders from a singular female vantage point in an effort to dispel certain false mythologies and make the truth of the disorder more universally available.

I caught up with Katherine via email and asked her about audience responses so far...

At this time the film has only been shown to a very small group of people, made up almost entirely of friends, family, and financial supporters. But the response from them has been more than I could have wished for. So, we will see what happens moving forward. Naturally, I hope that the response continues to be good!


Stories of mental illness have grown to prominence onscreen over the last decade or so. Do you see a time that eating disorders will also be addressed in the mainstream media?

There are so many issues that need to be addressed in the mainstream media. Eating disorders are only one of them. But, now more than ever, I think audiences are open to seeing and discussing films on subject matter that has previously been taboo. I hope that we (filmmakers in general) are up to the challenge of presenting stories that show the unbiased, unadulterated human condition so that issues like eating disorders can be brought to light.

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What have your other adventures in filmmaking been?

Most of my experience in the filmmaking business has been in front of the camera. I graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television with a BA in acting, and I have pursued that focus ever since. I started writing fairly recently because I was so frustrated with the types of roles that I was auditioning for as a young woman. I wanted to work on characters with real depth that served stories with a higher message. And that was the genesis for ‘Rainmaker’.


Is Rainmaker a story that you’ve been working on for a while?

Yes. ‘Rainmaker’ is based on the real experiences of a number of women in my family. So, this story is a part of my blood. It just took me a while to figure out how to tell it.


This is a piece where many of the key creatives are female. How do you think that decision helped to shape the final work?

There wasn’t necessarily an idea to only hire females. I hired the individuals who were best for the job. That decision was not based on gender, but on who understood the subject matter, was passionate about the story, and had the artistic expression to elevate the project. In this case, the majority of those people happened to be female. And maybe it did have some influence on the final work, but it’s very hard to quantify that.

Katherine and Kira on set

Are you worried that male audience members won’t be able to engage with the film?

Not at all. There are plenty of male audience members who have and will engage with the film. And I don’t necessarily think it has anything to do with them being male. There are always audience members who just don’t have any connection or sympathy to the basic material. Not every story resonates with everyone. That’s just part of the filmmaking business.


You raised some of the finance through the crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark. Congratulations on the successful campaign. Have you used crowdfunding before?

No, I had never run a crowdfunding campaign before.


You worked with Leah Cevoli to create your Seed&Spark campaign. Would you recommend working with a campaign manager to other filmmakers?

Absolutely. I found out that running a successful campaign is a full-time job. You can’t just write a good pitch, shoot a quick video, throw it up online and hope that people will donate. You need a 30 day strategic plan that includes scheduled content releases (in the form of videos and photos), social media outreach, campaign updates, perks and special promotions, cast and crew interviews, etc. It’s daunting daily work. Having a campaign manager to support and guide us was essential to our success, especially since we couldn’t take the risk of not meeting our goal on a platform in which you need to raise a minimum of 80% of that goal in order to collect. That would’ve been a lot of work for a $0 payout. And I was right, we owe the campaign’s success to Leah.

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What were the key ingredients that brought your campaign across the line?

We were very fortunate to find a backer who was willing to match every pledged donation during the final 48 hours of the campaign. I think that tactic was extremely effective. After the campaign, a number of supporters mentioned how they hadn’t donated because they didn’t think the $10 or $25 they could afford would make any difference in helping us reach such a high goal. But the ‘matching funds promotion’ encouraged them to contribute. All of a sudden their $10 became $20, $25 became $50, and $50 became $100. That promotion really pushed us over the finish line. 


Did the fact that your film has a social dimension to it give you a useful angle when spreading the word?

Yes. I think the social angle gave people something to connect to. The film has yet to be shown, but people have an immediate emotional response to the subject matter. Even though eating disorders are frighteningly prevalent, the individuals who suffer from these disorders are stigmatized as superficial, vain, or attempting to achieve some socially idealized form of beauty. But that is rarely, if ever, the case. I’ve had a number of people reach out to me over the past few months to share their own experiences with eating disorders, depression, and addiction. It’s been a truly humbling experience, especially since a majority of these individuals are people I’ve never met. But somehow, word had reached them of the project and the campaign. 

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Did you partner with health organizations and other interested groups to find supporters?

I would have loved to partner with a health organization or eating disorder non-profit to help spread the word, but that didn’t work out in our favor. Those organizations are fully committed to raising funds to aid ongoing research and support individuals in their recovery process. Their focus is not, and should not, be on other endeavors. However, since we filmed in the state of Montana and a large portion of our crew was local to the area, the Montana Film Commission has been, and continues to be, one of our biggest supporters. Their unending dedication has brought more visibility to the project that anything else.   


Do you use social media to promote the film? What platforms do you use and what sort of content do you post?

Yes. Social media is the easiest and quickest way to get new eyes on the project and to get in touch with supporters. I have found Twitter and Facebook to be the most useful. On Twitter we try to tag people/groups who might be interested in the film and use daily trending hashtags to garner visibility and interest from new people. Facebook really caters more to established supporters, and we’ve had the best response to behind the scenes videos, interviews, and anecdotal stories from the filmmaking process.


In your Seed&Spark campaign you mention film festivals quite a lot. What do you expect a successful film festival run will do for your film?

A successful festival run would do two things. First, it would bring the project and the creative team behind it to to the attention of other filmmakers. This is very important to us as young professionals. We are always looking to expand our circle, find new people to collaborate with and new projects to delve into. Second, a successful festival run would bring the subject of eating disorders to the attention of a wider audience. There is a vast and deeply complex psychology tied to this disease. Every experience is different, as is every journey toward recovery. Our hope in sharing this story, this one experience of illness and healing, is to bring light, understanding, and acceptance to a group of people who could use a little more love.


What does your ideal film marketing campaign look like?

The ideal film marketing campaign is the campaign that attracts the ideal audience for the film.  It’s hard to be more specific than that at this point.


Do you have any techniques to make sure your film is seen by the people that most need to see it?

Dogged perseverance. That’s the key. I don’t believe that it will be much different than running the crowd-funding campaign… It’ll be a full-time job. We have a comprehensive list of festivals that we are targeting (chosen based on a number of factors) and how we can create our best chance at being accepted at those festivals. We won’t be accepted everywhere, but I hope that the clarity and tenacity with which we approach the 2018 festival circuit will make all the difference in the world.


Finally, what’s next for you? Are you back in the theatre or do you have more film projects coming up?

I’m playing with some ideas for screenplays and looking at other projects, hoping something catches my fancy. I’m ready to begin again!

Find out more about Katherine Cronyn and Rainmaker here. To get along to the FirstGlance Film Festival LA screening hit this website.

As always, if you have your own film to launch, follow these pointers from the Follow Magazine Launch Your Creative Work download to really make a splash.