KC Film Spotlight: Cory Hinesley

 In Blog

This month, we are honored to have caught up with local Production Designer and Set Dresser: Cory Hinesley! Read about how she got into the field, what it’s like to work on the KC production scene, and what she is up to, next. Enjoy!

Tell  us about yourself as a Production Designer and Set Dresser – what got you started…and keeps you going?

I was a weird kid. My whole childhood I was constantly encouraged and challenged to be creative by my parents. They would give me a refrigerator box and I’d make it my world for the week. I built all my own Barbie houses with stairs and carpet using swatch books my mom got me from old JcPenny’s.  When I was 7, my dad gave me his 35mm camera and started teaching me how to photograph my family and my toys. After my life was changed by films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, I started playing with miniature sets for photos and became interested in-camera special effects. When I got too old for toys, I picked up power tools. Tinkering and building until I found a taste for construction and an interest in architecture.  I evolved into theater and tech design, building a lot of props and sets for stage productions and continued to build my own sets as I studied photography and film at The Kansas City Art Institute. It was definitely a journey to find my path to the work I do now, but all of it adds up and makes me the designer I am today. I remember telling my mom my first year of freelancing that “All my random skill sets and interests finally made sense.” I think it’s safe to say my 7 year old self would be pretty pumped.

I am extremely passionate about the unspoken elements of visual storytelling. Taking the time to really design the visuals with a director and a DP can bring such depth and texture to a script and environment and then also set an expectation for final results. The amount of nuance you can add to a scene with the spaces your characters live in is so important to transporting your audience and enveloping them in your story. I’d challenge any young filmmakers to work closer with the art department to collaborate on a vision, I feel so often it becomes an afterthought and it’s such a shame. Kansas City has a sweet selection of art folks in town, I’d love to see talents be utilized more. I think art can be the unsung heroes of the film world.

What have you been up to? #humblebrag

Commercial design is my bread and butter. I enjoy working with an agency or individual clients to share a vision for their product. My personal interests are much more in the creative storytelling world, but what is a commercial if not a :30 second story? Cramming a whole narrative into 30 seconds is not an easy task. I just finished my first feature film this past year. It was a modern western called HEADCOUNT coming out this year directed by the Burghart Brothers. I’ve worked on repeat campaigns with Missouri Tourism and a couple of music videos – one which was a 55’ spaceship build that was enormous and so much fun. I did a silly campaign at Christmas where we dropped 1,000 tennis balls out of a truck for a very excited dog… What else? …  I installed a hot tub out on a hilltop in a field in 20 degree temperatures this fall, and most recently I just wrapped a 1970’s werewolf movie that I am absolutely gushing over. So many fun projects that I am absurdly grateful to call my career. It’s something new every day.

On the community Cory surrounds herself with:

I think I’ve always been drawn to communities of under dogs and weird obsessive creatives. Because that’s who I am. I found myself loving the adrenaline of working in a fast paced industry and I love the family “summer camp” feeling you get with each project’s team. I love the experience of everyone coming together and grinding something out with the same goals in mind.

I did the 9-5 and the cubicle job, the salaried “creative” position at the corporate environment – I felt no satisfaction and no push to make things better than they are. Doing the bare minimum has never interested me. In film production the possibilities are infinite, I like helping directors achieve their creative goals by pushing the boundaries of our resources. My favorite thing about being in art department is the bizzare group of innovative people who can do the most impossible things. Every job is in some way doing something you’ve never done before. It’s always growing and progressing. It’s magical.

How is it to work and film in the Greater Kansas City area? In our production community?

I think Kansas City is a really special place to call home. I hate to fall back and say that we have the midwestern hustle, but work anywhere else in the industry and you see it so obviously. I find that most film crew in KC are without a jaded mentality, people truly value their role and work hard to make their job count. Our “below the line” crew are some of the most caring individuals that I’m grateful to call my film family.

I would like to see more competition in the local market, especially with production companies. It’s not a huge community, so we hold each other accountable and that creates respect. That makes everyone work harder for their team and makes production companies work harder to make sure teams aren’t set up to fail. I feel that for our industry to grow in numbers, individuals in principal positions need to make their best effort in mentoring and lifting up younger creatives. I also want to see more diversity in key roles: Directors, DP’s, AD’s leading production, the list goes on…  I’m proud of the role I carry but it is a bummer showing up on tech scouts being the only woman at the table. There is more diversity needed in the conversation to tell more developed stories.

What is next for YOU?

I think taking more control of my career creatively is my next focus. Intentionally taking on work that honors my vision and aesthetics is what is going to take me where I want to be. Perhaps a long form project, like a series or feature film could do that. Through my current work, I am actively building on my team and who I collaborate with best. I need to focus on projects that bring value to my life rather than being a YES (WO)MAN. I have a few self-driven projects on the docket for this next year too. I’ll be taking my turn at directing and putting more attention to writing some pieces I’ve been sitting on. I’m excited to step into those roles soon…I think it will make me a better designer and leader moving forward.

Cory, thank you for sharing with us this month. We are so excited to follow along on your journey – may it be long and prosperous!

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