Alumni Spotlight: Kate Schumaker

In the welcoming spirit of August and back-to-school, ESK alumna Kate Schumaker recently returned home to ESK’s campus to film her college senior capstone project, a feature length movie.  Kate, a 2011 graduate of ESK and current Sewanee senior, wrote, directed, and will produce the project, which only the greats of the film world can pull off.  In between her responsibilities as a preschool STEAM Camp leader, I asked her a few questions.

Kate Schumaker filming

Your aunt (Ms. Riley – JK4 teacher) told me you’d be shooting a movie here at ESK. Can you tell me about your project?

Yes! I’ll be working on my senior project, which is a graduation requirement.  We’ll be shooting a feature length film. I have 10 days planned for shooting; we’ll shoot 3 days here at ESK, mainly in the dining hall and library. We’re taking over my mom and dad’s house for the rest of the time, since it will be the main setting.


Wow! How long will your film be and how long have you been working it already?

120 minutes. I’ve written the script over the past 2 years.


Which is how many hours of filming?

Well, I’ve written 81 scenes, so for each scene I’ll take anywhere from 1-4 hours of film.

What is your movie about?

Grief. I know that is a tough topic.


That’s heavy. How did you land on exploring the idea of grief?

I’m interested in the way that people who haven’t ever experienced a major loss in their life deal with it the first time they lose someone or something of major importance to them.


Your topic is relevant for a wide range of audiences. I’m personally interested in the topic. As an adult who hasn’t yet (fortunately) had to experience the pain of losing a close friend or family member, I’ve often wondered if I’ll be ready to deal with the emotional trauma when it happens. How did you write about the topic in an authentic way?

I spent time observing friends and family members who went through a difficult loss. I saw a lot of different people experience significant loss in a short time frame.


I’m interested to see how it will come across on the screen. Directing a movie means you’ll need actors! Where did you find people willing to spend 10 days over the summer acting?

A lot of my friends at Sewanee are theater majors, so I recruited them. My boyfriend is an audio engineering major, so he’ll work on the soundtrack and sound design.


Kate filming

Do you require your actors to memorize their lines?

Yeah. I also had them dye and cut their hair to fit the characters I’ve written.


What about costume design?

I had a friend draw up the design for clothes. Then I went to thrift stores and ordered off Amazon to find what I needed.


Thinking about the amount of work you’ve done before even starting to film is impressive. What has been your greatest accomplishment in film up until now?

I made a horror short film with friends that we submitted to the Knoxville Horror Film Fest. It won 1st place for best local film. It’s called Girls’ Night about a sleepover gone wrong. You can watch it on the youtube channel BCFilmstrip.


How did you decide to become a theater major?

I always wanted to be a writer. Then in 5th grade YouTube came out, and I realized I could make movies.


Do you have any plans for post-graduation?

I want to move to LA and find a job as a writer for TV or movies. I’d like to be a director one day.


Have you seen a movie recently that you think everyone should see?

A Quiet Place. John Krasinski wrote, directed, and starred in the science-fiction horror film. It is almost completely silent, because if you speak or make noise, evil creatures attack you.


So how do the characters communicate with one another?

They mostly use sign-language, which is really cool. The movie uses subtitles to translate what the characters are saying. Rachel (ESK 8th grader and Kate’s sister) and I saw it together.


Kate, thank you for telling us about your upcoming project. We are glad that you came back to ESK to shoot your film. Use the campus anytime; we want this place to feel like home to our alumni!  

Kate filming


Kate will be a senior at Sewanee during the 2018-2019 school year, and she plans to graduate with a degree in theater arts and creative writing. She’s lined up an enviable schedule for the fall, including courses in Shakespeare acting, advanced costume design, fiction writing, and independent screenwriting. While she’s a little nervous about executing her senior capstone project, we know she has the creative talent and know-how to make a compelling, relevant film. Kate, here at Episcopal School of Knoxville we are proud of your continued accomplishments. We admire your drive to pursue your passions and interests with focus, and wish you all the best in your senior year.  We are fortunate to count you as an ESK alumna.