They weren’t called “indie filmmakers” at the time, yet that’s what Kathleen Laughlin became. While attending MCAD in 1966, her graphic design instructor assigned the class to communicate interesting information “about the eye” in three different mediums. Despite there being no film classes at that time, her group was directed to use 16mm film. “It turned out to be an animated film—the most work and fun I’d ever had at art school,” she remembers.
That class lesson stuck. After a couple of jobs in the graphic design field (a version of her snowplow street sign design still decorates our Snow Emergency routes), Laughlin decided to pursue her true passion. The first films she made were short, cheap, personal mixtures of live-action and animation. They made a mark at a time when shorts were often used as openings for festivals and in feature length compilations.
Laughlin simultaneously became involved with a profile of author/poet Meridel LeSueur (My People Are My Home, 1976). Many of her films grew from those feminist roots, none more so than her current project: We Will Harbor You. Once on the documentary track, she learned to work in multiple roles—shooting, editing, directing, etc. She went on to produce for KTCA Public TV (now TPT) doing specials such as Picasso, American Ballet Theatre Journal, and shorts for Wyld Ryce.
The television work segued into freelance producing and editing of various independent productions—for others and with others. With the Bush Artist's grant in '93, Laughlin accomplished Woman On Fire: Menopause Stories. Today, she is best known for her documentaries on social issues, such as her current project We Will Harbor You.
"Making a film is both a challenge and treat. I have to understand exactly what’s happening—put myself in someone else’s shoes or head—yet I get to elicit the information as simply a curious audience member. My excellent experience at MCAD gave me a confidence that has only grown the more I engage with my work!”
Laughlin on the Web: