Karyn Kusama

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Karyn Kusama
BornKaryn K. Kusama
(1968-03-21) March 21, 1968 (age 45)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California
CitizenshipUSA
EducationNew York University's Tisch School of the Arts
OccupationFilm director, TV director, screenwriter
Years active1996–present
Notable work(s)Girlfight, Aeon Flux, The L Word, Jennifer's Body
Home townSt. Louis, Missouri
Spouse(s)(?–present) Phil Hay (Screenwriter)
Childrenson Michio
 
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Karyn Kusama
BornKaryn K. Kusama
(1968-03-21) March 21, 1968 (age 45)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California
CitizenshipUSA
EducationNew York University's Tisch School of the Arts
OccupationFilm director, TV director, screenwriter
Years active1996–present
Notable work(s)Girlfight, Aeon Flux, The L Word, Jennifer's Body
Home townSt. Louis, Missouri
Spouse(s)(?–present) Phil Hay (Screenwriter)
Childrenson Michio

Karyn Kusama (born March 21, 1968) is an American film director who had her breakthrough with Girlfight, her first feature film. She wrote the screenplay and directed the film at age 27. It was released in 2000 and won the Director's Prize and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival. The independent feature film with a budget of around US$1 Million was critically well received. It only brought in US$1,667,000.[1]

It took two years to find financing for the film.[2] After financing fell through shortly before shooting began, Girlfight was fully financed by film-maker John Sayles whom she worked for as an assistant at that time.[3]

Contents

Career[edit]

Since Girlfight, Kusama has moved on to direct commercial Hollywood productions. To date, she only directed two more feature films, Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body, as well as the TV series The L Word. However, none of her following work has received positive reviews or won critical acclaim.

Kusama's films have been set in varying genres. Whereas Girlfight was a contemporary American drama, Aeon Flux is set in the future, and Jennifer's Body is a horror film. She is one of only a few American female directors who serve a variety of genres and direct sci-fi and horror movies as well.

Themes[edit]

Kusama in especially interested in physicalizing female power. While Kusama is successful in getting inside the psyche of her protagonist, the recurring theme of her work is female empowerment through physicality, women who use and explore the strength of their body.[4] In all of her feature films, the heroine uses her physical strength to overcome suppression of some sort. In Girlfight the protagonist learns to break out of her emotionally and physically constraining life through releasing and finding her physical power in boxing. In Aeon Flux the heroine uses her physical fighting power to save humanity. In Jennifer's Body the literal men-eater uses her physical power to fight against suppression of females.

In that sense, she applies a sort of Third Wave Feminism, i.e. her characters reject the female mainstream roles and integrate aspects into their personalities that are primarily considered as masculine.[5]

Filmography[6][edit]

Director[edit]

Writer[edit]

Miscellaneous crew[edit]

Background[edit]

Kusama grew up in St. Louis, MO, USA. Growing up, movies served her as a sanctuary from her "highly emotional life".[7] She says films are a pop form of storytelling.[8]

Early career[edit]

After graduating from NYU, Karyn Kusama mainly worked as an editor, and for documentary films. After lacking a mentor who could show her the vast possibilities in film-making and the industry, and a screenwriting partner died, she abandoned filmmaking for a while. She became a nanny and painted houses.[9] Through her nanny job she was later introduced to filmmaker John Sayles and worked as his assistant for three years. It was through observing his approach to film-making that she realized there is not one single way. He eventually became her mentor, and later on, the executive producer of her award-winning first feature film Girlfight.[10] While working for John Sayles, she continued to write screenplays. In 1992 she began collecting ideas for Girlfight, but did start writing on it until two years later.[11]

Notable quotes[edit]

"I think we crave women in more active engaged roles in the world. I think men want it and need it as much as women do."[12]

"Somestimes the pure aesthetics is actually the story to me."[13]

On being a director: "Have an engaged relationship with the world, where your imagination lives in a bigger world and film is your best attempt to reveal it. Always reach out to the world."[14]

On young film-makers's strive for celebrity and wealth: "There was a real resistance – and I think this is reflected in the larger world – to your own ideas and your own expressive power. People were afraid to be personal. And it strikes me that the film-making that we all grow up on as powerful film-making comes out of some deeply personal place."[15]

On casting for Girlfight: "I was shocked. There was an obsession with being small, and obsession with frailty, and it was just really interesting, because I never knew until I saw all of these talented, often very articulate young women coming in who had to literally sell their bodies."[16]

On the theme in Girlfight: "I was interested in ... Girlfight because I did see her narrative trajectory as being one from emotional paralysis to emotional openness and vulnerability."[17]

"We need to see more women on screen that are emotionally moving and powerful, and in posession of herself and her body. We need more difficult and complex women on screen." [18]

Major films[edit]

Girlfight (2000)[edit]

Her breakthrough film. It was not a major box office success, but gained Kusama recognition and a name in Hollywood because of its critical acclaim, especially its success at the Sundance Film Festival.

Aeon Flux (2005)[edit]

Her second directoral work and first commercial work was backed by Paramount with a budget of $62,000,000. It did not receive good reviews. Moreover, during its production process, Paramount changed executives, which gave the project a difficult position within the studio. Its worldwide gross it estimated at around $52,000,000.[19]

Jennifer's Body (2009)[edit]

Jennifer's Body, written by Diablo Cody, was Kusama's third feature film and first horror film. It was not well received critically. However, it was her commercially most successful film, grossing around $31,000,000 and was produced with a budget of around $16,000,000.[20]

Planned films[edit]

The Rut (2013)[edit]

Most recently, Karyn Kusama was hired to direct The Rut, another drama around a female lead on her journey to testing her strength. The film, written by Kevin Caruso, stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Ray Liotta. It is currently in pre-production (May 7, 2012).

Awards[edit]

YearFilmRoleNotes[21]
1984GirlfightDirector, WriterDirector's Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival
Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival
Prix de la Jeunesse at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival
Nominated for Best First Feature - 2001 Independent Spirit Awards
Grand Prize at the 2000 Deauville Film Festival
Best Female Newcomer at the 2000 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Feature
IFP's Gotham Award for Best Feature
Silver Spike at the 2000 Valladolid International Film Festival
FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention at Flanders International Film FEstival
Nominated for Grand Prix at Flanders International Film Festival
Nominated for Bronze Horse at the 2000 Stockholm Film Festival

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=girlfight.htm
  2. ^ Kusama, Karyn, and Gordon, Bette: Karyn Ksuama Reviewed work(s). BOMB, No. 73 (Fall, 2000), pp. 74–79. New Art Publications. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40426122 .Web. 28/04/2012
  3. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 309. Print.
  4. ^ Kusama, Karyn, and Gordon, Bette: Karyn Ksuama Reviewed work(s). BOMB, No. 73 (Fall, 2000), pp. 74–79. New Art Publications. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40426122 .Web. 28/04/2012
  5. ^ Kusama, Karyn, and Gordon, Bette: Karyn Ksuama Reviewed work(s). BOMB, No. 73 (Fall, 2000), pp. 74–79. New Art Publications. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40426122 .Web. 28/04/2012
  6. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0476201/
  7. ^ Bernardi, Daniel, Ed. Filming Difference. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009. 265. Print.
  8. ^ Bernardi, Daniel, Ed. Filming Difference. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009. 266. Print.
  9. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 312. Print.
  10. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 315. Print.
  11. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 314. Print.
  12. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 315. Print.
  13. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 320. Print.
  14. ^ Kusama, Karyn, and Gordon, Bette: Karyn Ksuama Reviewed work(s). BOMB, No. 73 (Fall, 2000), pp. 74–79. New Art Publications. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40426122 .Web. 28/04/2012
  15. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 309. Print.
  16. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 316. Print.
  17. ^ Boorman, John., Walter Donohue., and Lippy, Todd., eds. Projections 11: New York film-makers on film-making. London, New York: Faber and Faber, 2000. 317. Print.
  18. ^ Kusama, Karyn, and Gordon, Bette: Karyn Ksuama Reviewed work(s). BOMB, No. 73 (Fall, 2000), pp. 74–79. New Art Publications. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40426122 .Web. 28/04/2012
  19. ^ http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=aeonflux.htm
  20. ^ http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=jennifersbody.htm
  21. ^ http://karynkusama.com/awards/

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernardi, Daniel, Ed: Filming Difference. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009. Print. 263–288

External links[edit]