Sunny Star: Katherine Simon

I’ve always been interested in the film industry. With the recent Academy Awards and my current enrollment in the History of the American Motion Picture, I’ve got movies on my mind. That is why I am so excited to introduce our Sunny Star of the Week, Katherine Simon, who currently studies film at UCLA Graduate School. It is so inspiring to see someone follow their dreams; whether it is pursuing a career in film history or studying to be an astronaut, there is no dream too big if you see it for yourself. The film industry is a unique case. I’ll never forget when an actor teaching told me that if you want to be an actor and you have a Plan B, you will fall back on Plan B. It is so refreshing to see someone pursue their Plan A in the movie industry…Katherine Simon.
1. You are currently in the UCLA Graduate Program for film. Can you tell us about your experience and how it has added to your happiness?
Primarily, studying at UCLA has opened up a myriad of avenues for me in terms of research opportunities, which is one of the main ways it’s added to my happiness level.  Not only are there world class resources on campus (the UCLA Film and Television Archive is second only to the Library of Congress in terms of holdings of media materials), but the Los Angeles area plays host to most of the chief collections of primary production materials that deal with American film.  Of special note is the Margaret Herrick Library for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Being able to research using documents signed by the likes of General Eisenhower or first drafts of scripts of your favorite movies is an unparalleled experience in itself.  Being able to do so in a room with numerous Oscars hanging out of the shelves around you, though?  Priceless.
Additionally, studying at UCLA has allowed me the opportunity to live in and explore Los Angeles.  I lived in New York before I moved here, so I welcome the opportunity to get to learn about and how to move in a new city.  While I don’t intend to stay here long term, I know that years from now, probably when I am snowed into a Brooklyn apartment, I will appreciate the time I spent in sunny Southern California.
2. What is your favorite movie and why?
Asking a film student to pick their favorite movie is one of the cruelest things a person can do, and here’s why:  I seem to have a different “favorite” movie for each mood.  Also, while there are some movies I’ve watched over and over, they may not be my favorites, per se, but they are my favorites to watch and rewatch.  I have a favorite Christmas movie and a favorite musical, a favorite movie for a rainy day and a favorite movie to watch when I don’t know what to watch.  I have a favorite movie for each actor and actress I love, and, when I’m feeling particularly nerdy, I may even have a favorite movie for each studio for each decade that I like to study.  See what I mean?  Cruel.
All that said, when I am forced to choose as I am now, I always seem to go back to Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950).  Every time I watch that movie, I am in awe of how intricate the storytelling is, how beautifully Wilder set up each and every shot, and how incredibly well acted it is.  The script is biting yet elegant, and the film is so beautifully self-reflexive.  It’s one of those movies that haunted me after I saw it the first time, and it’s one of the few that I seem to know by heart.  Not “by heart” in the sense that I’ve memorized it, but “by heart” in the sense that I seem to be able to feel each emotional note of the film.  No matter how many times I see it, I never tire of it.  That said, it’s also a movie that I don’t often watch on my own at home; I never want to endanger that feeling of “newness” that I still get every time I see it.
3. What movie makes you the most happy?

With musical legend, Patti LuPone

Another tough question!  Because my research focus is musicals – partially because they just make me happy – I think I have to go with a musical for this one.  Probably a Vincent Minnelli movie… maybe not.  I was tempted to say Brigadoon (Vincent Minnelli, 1954), but, in the end, I think I have to go with White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954).  Even though it is very much a Christmas movie, I can watch it any time of the year and often have.  Rosemary Clooney has always been one of my favorite performers, and it’s a joy, every time, to get to watch her in one of the few movies she made.  Also, the movie combines most of my favorite things: singing, dancing, crooners, colors, World War II, veterans and snow.

Of course, that’s just the answer for me.  Everyone will have a different answer when it comes to what it takes to make a movie their happiest movie ever.
4. What would you like to do with your degree in film?
When I eventually, finally finish school, I’m hoping to, cross my fingers, get a job as a stodgy film history professor.  That basically just means that I’ll continue to do what I’m doing now, minus the excessive class-taking.  Even though research and publishing are supposed to the main concerns for professors – at least for those teaching at large universities, which is why I’m hoping to teach at a small, liberal arts college – I’ve always wanted to be a professor because I like to share knowledge.  Teaching always seems a good way to do that.
5. What would you say to students who are interested in studying film, even though it is known to be a tough career to break into?
Honestly, I would tell them that, if there is another viable option that they would enjoy just as much, they should take it.  However, like with theatre, if film is something that’s in your veins, that you can’t imagine doing without, then go for it.  The most important thing to know going in is that it is going to be a lot of hard, exhausting work.  Sometimes people will try to tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about or that you’re not good enough.  It’s your job to prove them wrong.  The most important thing is to know your strengths and to play to them whenever you can until you know you are the best at what you do.  Everyone is the best in the world at something; it’s just a matter of figuring out what your something is. 
In addition to that, it’s important to learn early on that nothing comes easily.  Persistence will be your best friend no matter what you decide to do.  No matter how hard it gets, the most important thing is to keep trying, keep improving, and keep motivating yourself to get up and give it another go.  If you are determined enough, as corny as it sounds, you can actually achieve whatever you set your mind to.  Look at me.  When I was 12 years old, I decided that, someday, I wanted to study film history at UCLA…
Keep shining,
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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3 Responses to Sunny Star: Katherine Simon

  1. Alberto says:

    That was a really good interview. I also hate when someone asks me what are my favorite films. I can list a handful of films that I just adore and others that are great but I don’t think I’ll watch in a long long time. Keep up with the studying.

  2. Debi says:

    Nice interview. I’d love to be in her class – she looks too happy to become a “stodgy” professor.

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