A few years ago, Katherine Dudley had a solid career as a high school teacher in Wilmington, North Carolina. She’d started out teaching television broadcasting classes, and eventually worked her way up to assistant principal. But she also had another life, one separate from her students and colleagues.
“In my spare time, I worked on a lot of movies,” Katherine says. “I was a stand-in for Julianne Hough on the film Safe Haven. As an extra, I was in The Longest Ride, Tammy, and I got to work on the television show Under the Dome a few times.”
Spending so much time on set meant Katherine was exposed to the inner workings of the film industry, something that had always fascinated her.
“I just fell deeper in love with it,” she says. “Eventually, I decided I had to pursue my dream of working on films full time. I sold almost everything I owned and saved up enough money to enroll in the Film Production Master’s program at Full Sail.”
Once at Full Sail, Katherine didn’t waste any time. In her second month, she made a short documentary called The Perfect Selfie, about the dangers of self portraiture. The film explores selfies as a cultural phenomenon, including the fun, confidence-building side of taking and sharing photos. But there’s a darker aspect to selfies, one that isn’t often addressed in popular culture.
“About 15 people a year die taking selfies because they’re not aware of their surroundings. I wanted to talk about that, as well as possible internal damages like contributing to a culture based on looks and likes.”
“I’m not anti-selfie,” she adds. “I think they can be a positive force. But it’s important to maintain an awareness when taking these kinds of photos.”
The Perfect Selfie would go on to win several awards, including nods at festivals like the Orlando Film Slam and a bronze Telly Award. Another film, The Bet, soon followed. The short comedy follows an arrogant man after a friend bets him he can’t go a full day without talking. And Katherine hasn’t stopped there. Both of those films are still making their way around the festival circuit.
A few months before graduation, Katherine got the opportunity to attend several on-campus events with director (and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee) Steven C. Miller. She’d been following Steven’s journey for a long time, and deeply admired his work.
“I had the opportunity to talk with him,” she recalls. “I asked if he ever hired Full Sail grads, and he said he did, all the time. A week after I graduated I drove to Ohio where he was starting production on his latest movie, First Kill. I interviewed with the line producer and got a job working in the production office.”
Katherine did such a good job during her first couple of weeks that Steven personally requested she transfer to set for the final three weeks of shooting. Once there, she was able to work as an on-set assistant to the film’s stars Bruce Willis and Hayden Christensen. The new position put her right in the middle of the action, which allowed her to observe and learn even more.
“Steven had to make a feature film in just 13 days, which is incredible. Watching him, I learned so much. How he dealt with the community and the physical spaces we were using, how much respect he had for everybody. Even as fast as he was working to get the movie done, he always treated everyone — from the actors to the production assistants — with respect.”
As a brand new graduate, Katherine rocked a lot of Full Sail gear on set.
“People kept coming up to me to say they graduated from Full Sail too,” she laughs. “My Full Sail t-shirts were a big hit. I found out we had grads operating cameras, people working in the props department, and more.”
Filming on First Kill wrapped in late August, and since then, Katherine has been traveling around the country to different festivals in support of her short films. She’s also developing a feature-length script that she hows to put into pre-production soon. For now, she says she’s going to continue to aim high.
“I wrote something a few days ago. ‘Dream big, achieve big. Dream little, achieve little.’ I want to be a director, so I’m dreaming big. I’m willing to make whatever sacrifices I need to. I’m ready, and I won’t stop at anything.”