Filmmaker Kori Feener gives voice and vision to six months on “The People’s Trail” with her deeply personal documentary. By Kiley Jacques
For 29-year-old Topsfield native Kori Feener, walking 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine was nothing short of life changing. When she headed out one March day, all Feener knew was that there was a film to be made. So, with a pair of solid boots, a worthy backpack, two tiny GoPro Hero2 cameras, and one heavy audio recorder in tow, Feener hit the Appalachian Trail hard, with sights set on finding her story.
Inspired by the likes of Ross McElwee, David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, and Sofia Coppola, Feener, who is completing an MFA in media art at Emerson College, approaches film as an interactive tool. “Your subject needs to be relatable,” she says, “and what they are saying needs to be emotional; there has to be some sort of connection between your audience and the film.”
The act of filming, for Feener, is itself a way to get people to open up, though she is quick to note the challenge of filming subjects in a time marked by media mania. “When you pull out a camera,” she says, “people are wary.” Attributing that wariness to troubling Internet misrepresentation, Feener is gratified by what she calls her “ability to make people feel at ease” despite the camera in her hand. And that’s just what she did in the making of Alpine Zone as she met, spoke with, and bonded with countless folks tromping the trail.
With titles to her credentials including shorts “Wrigley and King,” “Mission: Sneak,” and “It’s Personal,” as well as the full-length documentary Where There is a Will, Feener has a deep well of future film ideas, including the story of a chilling 1978 murder that occurred across the street from her home. Editing, shooting, and producing films for more than 10 years has taught her some valuable professional lessons, not least of which she says is “keeping the integrity of the subjects [I’m] shooting.”
In the next few months, Feener will begin the lengthy process of submitting her banjo-, steel guitar-, and fiddle-accompanied Alpine Zone to a number of film festivals. Locally, the Boston Underground, the Hampton, and possibly the new Beverly Film Festivals are on her radar.
While on the trail, Feener never strayed far from her camera, despite having to keep herself nourished, sleep alone in the deep woods, and walk mile after mile trying to make her deadline. She learned about other people and about herself, and she found what’s at the heart of it all: “Ambition,” she says, “is a huge part of anything we do.” kickstarter.com/projects/628286646/alpine-zone.