No matter what happens from here on out, Spokane filmmaker Kendra Ann Sherrill can say her first post-college movie got into the Sundance Film Festival and was screened in America's theaters.
Granted, it wasn't exactly her movie — she was simply a production assistant on Captain Fantastic, the drama starring Viggo Mortensen coming out this July. But she got to spend two months on location in the summer of 2014 in some of Washington's most beautiful landscapes, doing everything from paperwork to running the film's base camp to herding six child actors into position.
The job gave invaluable experience to Sherrill, who's dreamed of a film career since childhood and through her years at Central Valley High School and then at Eastern Washington University's film program. It also inspired her to surprise her film-buff father with a trip to Utah to see the movie's January Sundance premiere this year.
"We were only there for four days," Sherrill says. "It's intense, and it was amazing, and there are celebrities just walking down the street and you can't freak out, but inside you want to freak out. It was once in a lifetime, and it was so cute; my dad, on the plane home, was already planning how to go back next year."
That might be a little soon, but given the experience the soon-to-be-23-year-old has already gained in the film industry, there's good reason to believe the young auteur will make it back to Sundance with a movie of her own. Sherrill's short films have received numerous awards from other festivals.
2014's Serenade was an official selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, or NFFTY, in Seattle and the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Film Program, won the prize for Best Northwest Short at the Spokane International Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle Shorts Film Festival. More recently, her period piece Michelle was selected to screen last month at NFFTY's 10th anniversary edition.
"It's a film festival that's all filmmakers 24 and under, so it's all these amazing, talented people in one place," Sherrill says.
"You watch these films from a 16-year-old, and you're like, 'This is something that's better than anything I'll ever achieve!' It's insane. It's super-inspiring."
Not that Sherrill has ever lacked inspiration. It started when she was a child, acting in theater productions, before she realized she could be creating her own stories. That fed into her regular requests of teachers to take every big project assignment and turn it into a homemade movie — about, for example, the Lewis and Clark expedition or World War II — with herself writing, directing and starring in the productions.
"I was always that weird kid," she says with a laugh. "When DVDs were a big thing, I'd beg my parents for the special editions with all the extra stuff on them. My friends would come over and I'd be like, 'You want to watch the behind-the-scenes commentary with me?'"
Acting has faded into the background, but writing and directing remains her passion. After earning accolades at EWU for Best Director and Best Feature-Length Screenplay before her 2014 graduation, she hit the workforce like every other college grad, cobbling together a living from various freelance projects and gaining experience in the film industry.
In addition to the stint on Captain Fantastic, she's toiled on Spokane-area TV productions like Z Nation and Washington Grown, worked on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Downtown" video, assistant-directed a Microsoft commercial, done graphic design for her high school's theater program and taught classes at Spokane Falls Community College. In between, she volunteers for the Spokane International Film Festival, a commitment to the local scene that she's found incredibly supportive as she starts her career.
"Spokane is such a cool film community because everyone is just so willing to help everyone, with everything, and all the time," Sherrill says.
She's currently working on a couple of student films, and might again work on a feature film this summer in Portland. In between all the hustling, she's mulling a move to Seattle, where there's more commercial work available. And she's trying to figure out a way to film a couple of her own ideas.
"I haven't really made anything of my own since I graduated. This summer I want to do a couple of passion projects," Sherrill says.
"I just want to be making films. You forget sometimes when you're working on other people's projects, then you go home and you're like, 'I want to make a movie!'" ♦
See some of Sherrill's work at kendrannsherrill.com.