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KRIS KRISTENSEN
 
 
Kris Kristensen
 
Kris Kristensen
 
Director/Producer/Writer/Editor
 
Kris Kristensen has been haunted by film-making since his first childhood memory; watching the 1933 classic King-Kong on television. At age ten he was entertaining his friends with his own short films. Before graduating from high school, he had won his first award for a 30 minute film titled Dealing.
 
While attending the California Institute of the Arts, Kristensen directed Self-Portrait. The film was one of the first ever to receive a camera package donation from Panavision's Young Filmmaker's Program.
 
Kristensen spent seven years working in Hollywood as everything from camera assistant to film editor. During these years he wrote several screenplays, all of which finished in the top 10% of the Nicholl's Fellowship.
 
After moving to Seattle, Kristensen set out to make a demo tape, Life & How To Live It. The plan was to simply exhibit his directing skills, but the demo won him the silver medal at the 1998 Emerald City Awards for Best Music Video.
 
In 1998, he joined forces with some of Seattle's strongest up and coming directors to co-found The Focus Ring; a small group of filmmakers who meet on a weekly basis to focus on the craft of directing actors.
 
In late 1999, Kristensen was a semifinalist along with co-writer Brian McDonald in the Austin Heart of Film Festival for the Inheritance script. The script finished in the top 1.5% out of 3100 submissions.
 
That same year, Kristensen was the director of photography on The Good Egg, the feature film directorial debut of screenwriter Mark (Nell) Handley. With a limited crew, budget and schedule, it was a project that challenged his abilities not only as a visualist, but also as a pragmatist. Despite the constraints, it reinforced what he's known since high school; "The day I make movies for a living I'll consider myself retired, because this is what I love to do."
 
In 2000, Kris co-produced, edited and shot the short film White Face for writer/director McDonald. Described as a serious comedy about racism, White Face won the 2001 audience award for best short at the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival.
 
Before going into production on Inheritance Kristensen produced a full length concert film of musicians Robyn Hitchcock and Grant Lee Phillips titled Elixirs & Remedies.
 
For Kristensen, fundraising was the most unnatural part of making Inheritance. "I'm not good at asking for money or blowing my own horn. That's why Brian and I invited Scott Schill and Lisa Halpern to get involved. Luckily they have no problem doing either of those." The preproduction was also stressful, "We had very little money and a four week shoot scheduled. Brian and I had both worked for no money, and we didn't want to ask people to do that. We wanted to pay people something even if it was only enough to cover meals, mileage and laundry on their days off. We'd never interviewed anyone for a job before, and because of our financial situation, I often felt like we were auditioning for the crew. We'd give them the script to read, and show them White Face. It felt like we were hustling as much to secure our crew as we did for our funding."
 
For Kristensen, who is used to doing every aspect of production himself, had to acclimate himself to having the support of a crew around him. "I finally agreed to leave the production office so I could work at home in peace. Several days later I entered the office and there were all these new faces staring at me. Then one of them asked 'Can I help you?' I was a stranger in my own office."
 
It got even more bizarre the first day on the shoot. Because they simply ran out of time, Kristensen wasn't able to scout their first location. He didn't even know where it was. That morning his wife, production designer Jean Landry, drove. They passed a building with an enormous grip truck parked behind it unloading lighting gear. "I thought to myself, 'hey, look someone else is shooting a movie.' Then Jean turned the car into the parking lot and I realized 'Oh, my God. That big grip truck is ours.' I felt like I'd arrived."
 
But the greater challenges lay ahead for Kristensen. Eight days into the shoot Kristensen made the decision to replace lead actress Katheryn Cain with Jen Taylor. "I couldn't believe it was happening. This is the type of thing you read about Apocalypse Now when Francis Coppola replaced Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen after shooting had begun," he joked. "I'm not Coppola and this isn't Apocalypse Now." Replacing Cain was a stressful experience for Kristensen. "It wasn't fun for me, and I'm sure it wasn't fun for her, but I had to do it."
 
Ultimately though Kristensen looks back fondly on the shoot. "It was a relatively low stress shoot. I was surrounded by wonderful people, both cast and crew, and they all hid the headaches from me allowing me to focus on directing. By the time I heard about any 'fires', they were already distinguished."
 
Not only did the director enjoy his first feature directorial experience, but more importantly "We pretty much made the movie that Brian and I sat down to make. You'll never exactly realize the film that you imagine, but we came pretty close and I'm thrilled with the result."
 
Click here to read an interview with Kris Kristensen.
 
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