LIFE IN COLOR Director Katharine Emmer Encourages Us to “Embrace the Ride”
Life in Color is an endearing, true-to-life story of two people stuck in a proverbial rut who come together to learn the importance of friendship and moving forward, whatever that may mean at any given moment in one’s life. I had the opportunity to speak with Emmer at SXSW this year and she is a perfect reflection of the film itself. Unassuming, sweet and with a strong belief in her work, as well as the importance of finding one’s own cheerleader to help you through the scary moves in life.
To learn that Life in Color is Katharine Emmer‘s directorial (producing, writing, editing and starring role) debut is very surprising. The film flows so seamlessly and perfectly that it seems to be the work of a seasoned team rather than a fledgling actress. Emmer has found a way to make her first project a beautiful reflection of her own struggles and realization that with the right person cheering you on and pushing you out of your comfort zone, you can keep moving forward and achieve things beyond your own belief.
Emmer’s own want to delve in to writing a project was stunted by her belief that not having gone to film school would keep her from being able to put together a viable film. As an actress, she has read scripts and has experience in film, but felt unsure that she was ready to take on writing and creating her own story.
Emmer said that rather than trying to tackle a subject that she was unfamiliar with, it made much more sense to stick with something she knew. So, she took common elements from her own story and very smartly wrote for people that she wanted in the film (like co-star Josh McDermitt as Homer). Knowing their voice, she was able to gear the dialogue to those actors. Emmer did spend time, as her main character, Mary, as a nanny, but does still have her parents, unlike Mary. One of the main themes between herself and the character that really spurred Emmer on was aging and feeling as though she should be doing more of what she wanted.
At one of the more poignant moments of the interview, Emmer said that we find ourselves doing things out of necessity, but how does one balance that with following their heart, what their purpose is supposed to be? She goes on to say that it is painful when you are doing something because you literally need to pay the bills from a logical standpoint, but you don’t feel like you are alive or that you are doing what you are meant to do. She feels that this struggle resonates with a large audience and that even though it has been done in film before, that it’s not always portrayed in a grounded way. With this film she wanted others to be able to see someone else’s struggle in a real situation and not feel so alone in their own.
Emmer is quick to point out that even though she did take on so many jobs on the film that it was most definitely a group effort and she believes everyone should find someone who can support them. Even during the process of making the film there were times that she wondered what she was doing and that the film was never going to work, she shouldn’t be doing it and all of those very familiar self-doubting thoughts. In those moments she had someone telling her to keep going, and that is how the film came to completion. “When you have upsets or things that aren’t going as planned, they are happening for a reason.” says Emmer, “It can be a happy accident or mistake you can learn from, but just embrace it all…embrace the ride.”
Emmer was exceptionally astute when it came to editing the film. She stated that the first cut was about two hours, but her ideal situation was to have it closer to an hour and a half. To go in as a writer and edit her own work was difficult, but in doing so she made sure to pull out anything that didn’t move the story along and this is a huge part of what makes this film so engaging and such a pleasure to watch. Her eye for what really matters is impressive to say the least. When asked about her favorite role in the process, Emmer cannot pick just one. She says that acting is her passion and her first love, but everything she did on this film was interesting, new and something that she enjoyed.
Life in Color is a labor of love and passion of one person reaching out for something they were very unsure they could achieve. In a wonderfully portrayed mirroring of life, the film reflects the same. One can assume that being in the midst of the struggles and angst her subjects are going through made the film that much more personal, and in doing so, that much more relatable and real. Emmer had a vision, followed it and then put a lot of honest, hard work behind it to create a film that though it will speak to a wide audience, each person watching will feel it was written just for them.