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Home | Interviews | Interview: Cornelia Duryee (Portal Runner)

Interview: Cornelia Duryee (Portal Runner)

Hello Cornelia, how are you? Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Portal Runner is insane. I loved it. I love the concept of time and space within films. I think the cinematography in this movie is great. Its such a powerful concept. How did this idea manifest for you?

C.D.- This idea manifested when J.D. Henning pitched us the story. We were enraptured by it. We all decided that a Writers’ Room would be a good idea for developing the story, and it was pure delight. There was so much hilarity at each session of writing that we nearly laughed the house down. My brilliant D.P., Chris Mosio, storyboarded the film with me, and J.D. was involved as well. There were about a dozen people involved in creating the look, but Chris and I worked together to find the angles and the visual textures that we needed to make the story sing. Of course, color is utterly important in this show, to help us determine what world we are standing in. So it was important to us to get the color timing just right. We had an amazing colorist for that, Tim Maffia, who has done all my features.

Did you always know that you wanted to be in this business?

C.D.-I always knew I wanted to tell stories. I come from a family of Makers. My mother was a potter, painter, still photographer, and horticulturist, my father was an electrical engineer, inventor, and amateur filmmaker (on Super 8 film!), and my brother is an incredibly talented guitarist. As a teen, I made some Super 8 Shorts, and I worked on a feature film, The Revenge of the Spanish Armada, with my father’s Super 8 camera, and about 20 friends, when I was 16. It was a silent movie set to classical music, with sword fighting and medieval costumes. As one does. But other than those fun experiments, my mediums were mainly poetry, acting, and dance, until filmmaking came back into my life in my late thirties. It was my Godmother, (novelist) Madeleine L’Engle, who gave me the first push toward a mid-life career shift. She handed me a stack of her old unpublished play scripts, from the 1940s and 50s, written long before A Wrinkle in Time made her famous, and told me, “I want you to adapt and produce these for me.” So, I dropped out of seminary, where I was pursuing an MDIV in Pastoral Counseling, and went into film, and I’ve made movies ever since, first working as crew, and then as a producer and director.

What advice or words of wisdom would you offer to people that are trying to figure our creative paths out?

C.D.-You can make what you are called to make. The creative impulse doesn’t come to us expecting us to be perfect, but it does show us the path. Do your homework, practice, learn your craft well, try to work with people you trust, and keep following the voice of inspiration. I believe it is a sacred voice that calls us to make things. Madeleine L’Engle put it this way, in Walking on Water “Does a work of art have a reality beyond that of the artists’ vision, beyond whatever has been set down on canvas, paper, musical notations? If the artist is the servant of the work, if each work of art, great or small, is the result of an annunciation, then it does.” Like her, I try to serve the work; to listen to its voice and do my best to bring it to birth as fully as I can.

It is an enormous blessing to get to make art, and I do not take it lightly. I am very, very grateful to get to do this, especially with this magnificent team.

This cast did a great job, and it was awesome to have a cool monster movie sort of infused with Christmas. What was your preparation like as the director?

C.D.-Well, I’d lived with that particular real-life monster for a while, so I was primed for the collaborative process of dreaming up our fictional monster. Our evil creature springs from my family’s own terrible experience with toxic mold, and its home- and body-destroying properties. That part of the movie was easy to prep for. In the writer’s room we all examined, at great depth, our greatest fears. Entropy, mold, death…yeah. We went there, and then, so did the designers.

How did you wind up working with the writers, J.D. Henning and Tallis Moore?

C.D.-I’ve been a fan of Tallis’s writing since he could first wrap his hand around a pencil – he’s my son. J.D. began at Kairos Productions as my assistant, six years ago. One day he handed Larry and me a script, and we discovered what an incredibly talented writer he is. He kept bringing ideas to us, and when we heard the pitch for Portal Runner, it was clear we had to do this film. It pushed all of my own scripts aside. Sometimes that happens, and I love it when it does.

The Writers’ Room was about the most fun a creative human can ever have. I hope to do it again and again. I am now thoroughly addicted to that kind of world-building.

The effects and the portal look awesome. How did you come up with the concept of what you wanted everything to look like visually?  

C.D.- It was such a long process. There were many attempts to get the look right within our tiny budget! I believe there are over 170 special effects in the film, and each of those we had to build. The effects geniuses, Jason McKee at ModeFX and Straightface Studios (who made our green smoke…thing) did a truly glorious job. I am really happy with all the effects. And of course, the portals took the longest to build. We always knew they would, and yep, they did.

What was it like for you working with everyone?

C.D.- Wonderful. I love this team, many of whom I have worked with on multiple projects; both cast and crew. Carol Roscoe has been in most of my films, and Brian Lewis and Matt Shimkus and I have worked together many times, as well. And then our KIDS!!! Oh my, the astonishing talent in those young leads, Sloane Morgan Siegel and Elise Eberle. They are warm, wondrous, ridiculously talented humans that it I am honored to know. I wish I saw them more often!

And the crew…the crew…they all shine like gold. I hope to work with them again and again.

What are you working on next, and is there any chance of a sequel to Portal Runner?

C.D.-We are in pre-production for our next feature, which, if it gets green-lit, is as different from Portal Runner as it could possibly be. I can’t say too much right now about it. As to the possibility of a sequel to Portal Runner, the entire team would love to do one. We have a hilarious script ready to go for Part Two, it was one of the positive things we were able to put together in the desert of 2020. It’s all a matter of finding the funding, and the team. If any of your readers want to invest, please let me know!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for Horrornews.net.

PORTAL RUNNER is available on VOD December 10 from Terror Films

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