Katie Cokinos, a Saugerties filmmaker who traditionally dabbles in fiction, has won the Susana Meyer Award, named for one of the original founders of the Shout Out Saugerties Festival who passed away last year. With the awarded $1,000, Cokinos said she plans to use drones, video shot from kayaks and interviews with locals to explore the topic of the lower Esopus Creek. She says that while it may not be finished entirely, at least a preview of the film will be exhibited during this year’s month-long Shout Out Saugerties festival in October.
“I honestly really did not think I was going to be awarded the grant,” said Cokinos. “Now I have to get to work and try to, as best as I can, celebrate the Esopus Creek through the medium of film. I think it will definitely not be a normal straightforward documentary. I want to involve poetry and kind of go in that direction as well as a historical narrative about the creek … there’s a lot of stories to be told.”
Originally from Beaumont, Texas, Cokinos graduated from Texas A&M University in College Station Texas in 1987 with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and history — she was turned on to filmmaking in college, and forewent law school to immerse herself in the film industry. Since, the artist has served as location director for The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Love and a .45 and critically acclaimed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. She starred in and directed her first film, the hour-long black-and-white A Portrait of a Girl as a Young Cat, in 2000. From there, she wrote and directed the film I Dream Too Much, a coming of age story that was filmed in Saugerties and premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2015. Cokinos has made over 10 short films in total; most recently, she teamed up with director Guy Reed to make How the World Looks Now, a film exploring the “poetic effects” of the Apollo 8 mission and the iconic 1968 “Earthrise” photo taken during it on a retired English teacher.
“I’m a fiction filmmaker, I’ve never done a documentary, so when I decided to put together an idea to submit for the grant I, you know, knew it had to be something about Saugerties and I appreciate and love the Esopus Creek,” said Cokinos, who relocated from Brooklyn to Saugerties in 2004. “I thought, ‘Why not turn my camera on this body of water that essentially created Saugerties?’ Mostly, documentaries are put together in the editing room — right now I’ll just start filming and filming and see what I have by a certain time.”