Local filmmaker Kody Cunningham sees the finish line on new movie

Cunningham chats about quarantine creativity, his new Savannah-centric movie, and more

KODY CUNNINGHAM'S feature film What We Always Wanted certainly seems like it's going to be a beautiful piece of art, judging by the teasers on the film's website alone. In speaking to Cunningham, you get that sense even more because of the way he talks about the movie and its themes.

What We Always Wanted tells the story of Isaac, played by Cunningham, who takes care of his teenage cousins while their parents are away. Isaac and his cousins end up having to navigate their own individual paths and questions about their future as creatives and artists.

The movie’s relatable subject matter is perhaps more timely than ever at the moment, during a period when many are experiencing uncertainty and anxiety about the future regardless of whether they’re an artist or not.

click to enlarge Kody Cunningham.
Kody Cunningham.

“There’s a depression that takes hold with any director, after they’re done with a project. Especially indie directors. So basically, where everyone else was in March during quarantine in terms of depression, I’d already been in that for a few months. By the time that quarantine came around, I was a little more stable,” he tells Connect of his experience.

“I’ve not been producing much work or writing that much. I’ve been mostly taking time to recharge. Also, I feel like people get so caught up in their medium and how to get better at whatever that might be. For me, I’ve been using this time to do more Black Lives Matter research, get more into politics, and get more into reading. And honestly, I haven’t been thinking about filmmaking that much outside of finishing my current film.”

Cunningham adds, though, that he’s starting to feel the urge to get back to work and do what he loves. It’s the constant push-pull of being an artist that drives creativity but also creates the necessary barriers that so often prevent burnout.

“This has been an opportunity to give myself more of a base to pull from,” he says.

What We Always Wanted prides itself on using the city as a character; something that’s not necessarily new in the world of film and television, though he greatly succeeds in those efforts just based alone on the previews available. It feels like a Savannah movie, and the vibe of the city is in full effect in the photos and videos that are currently online.

Currently, the movie is finishing the last bit of filming and going through various phases of editing.

“In our initial shoot, we did probably 80-85%of the film. We’ve basically gotten a rough cut of that 85% while also trying to shoot that last 15%, plus reshooting some of that 85%,” he explains.

click to enlarge Still from "What We Always Wanted."
Still from "What We Always Wanted."

“It’s this process of almost taking the rough cut of the film as a new draft of the script, and rewriting to those changes.”

The SCAD graduate and lifelong movie lover, who credits Pulp Fiction as a formative movie in terms of his fascination with the art form, has been working on What We Always Wanted since last year and did a crowdfunding campaign to fund the production. That campaign has since ended, but there’s a donate button on the film’s website for those who want to contribute to finishing it.

Cunningham cites Bladerunner when speaking of the process of finalizing a film, noting that Ridley Scott did several cuts of the film aside from the one that is known to the public.

“I look at some short films from my time at SCAD, and I go, ‘They’re fine, but I technically could change these things that bother me. Nobody would really know.’ But it’s the act of acceptance, I would say, to let old dogs lie and forget about it. Move on, but figure out what you did wrong and apply it to the next project,” he says.

“I feel like there’s something special about finishing a project when you’re fully, fully in it.”

CS

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