Katrina V. Kinder Blair is one of the founders of the Grenada Afterglow Film Fesitval, which started in 2013. Since that time, she has worked as an assistant camera operator on a number of shot-in-Mississippi features, including “Jakob’s Wife,” “Demigod,” and the upcoming “Muti” and “The Inspection.”
Where did you grow up and go to school?
Grenada, born and raised. I have partially completed a degree in business online.
At what moment did you discover an interest in working in Film/ TV?
As a kid, my mom always took me to film festivals all over the state and country. Seeing those indie films and being around the creative people that made them was when I realized I wanted to be involved.
At what point did you realize you could take steps to pursue your dream from Mississippi?
When I was 17, I founded a film festival in Grenada with the help of my family and others from the city called the Afterglow Film Fest. During that time, I started working on sets full time as an assistant camera. Now I still AC, and also drone op and occasionally camera op.
What type of training have you had and where?
Everything is a learning experience. I don’t have any formal training. I’m just figuring it out as I go and learning something new every day.
What was your first Film/TV job?
My first documentary experience was as a B cam operator/editor on a shoot spotlighting good things happening in my hometown, Grenada. That was in 2013. The first scripted set I ever worked on, with several more people involved than the doc stuff I was used to, was a feature shot in Tupelo in 2015. John Wee invited me on set and I snuck my way into the camera department by talking the AC into letting me help change lenses and slate. I started working full time in film after I met Michael Williams at the end of 2017.
Are you working on any current/recent projects?
I’m currently working on season 13 of “Alaskan Bush People” as their Assistant Camera and Junior Camera Operator. We are shooting in Washington state. I’m missing the Mississippi version of winter, and my husband Mason, who is currently busy working as a grip on a TV series in New Orleans.
What has been the most surprising thing about working in the film industry?
For me, film has been a very itinerant industry and I love it. Getting to see the country and make a living while doing it is a dream come true. A lot of my AC and drone work sends me out to really random places. I work on a mix of scripted/reality/commercial projects so it’s always something different. The spontaneity makes it so fun. I got the call for this job I’m currently on and less than two days later I hopped on a plane, flew across the country and now I’m driving around rural Washington in an F-150. That definitely wasn’t how I thought I would be finishing out my year, ha. Also, I love constantly getting to meet new people on jobs.
Who has been an influence on your career and why?
My career would look very different had I never met a couple people, and I’m so glad I met them both because now they’re two of my best friends and favorite people on the planet.
One of them is Director/DP Michael Williams. He took me on as his AC and taught me most of everything I know. We’ve done five features together, a ton of shorts and commercials and even a few cross-country work road trips together, one of which caused us to spend last Thanksgiving eating Cracker Barrel in an Ohio parking lot together!
Wes Cavins is the other, we became friends on a feature back in 2019. He’s always encouraging me to take the next step towards the bigger picture, of becoming a DP or whatever else life presents. I recently got the chance to shoot some commercials in a series of commercials for Terror on the Coast that he was directing, and we had a blast. He is also the reason I love horror movies.
How does being a Mississippian help you stand out in our industry?
I think a little southern charm goes a long way when building work relationships. Jumping from gig to gig, you have to be able to figure out how to quickly communicate with new people all the time, so being friendly is a huge help!
If you could create a scene built around one location in Mississippi, where would that be and why?
Probably the 14-cabin fishing resort motel that my parents own in Grenada. It’s located four miles from the lake packed full of crappie that Grenada is known for. The best part of growing up at a motel was getting to see all the characters that pass through. There was always something wild going on. It was pretty much like living in a real life sitcom, so I would totally turn it into a scripted one.
Favorite moment on set or with a project?
I recently got the chance to pull focus on Morgan Freeman during a feature shoot in Jackson. That was exciting! Another favorite moment was when Wes and I worked on a commercial for the Mississippi Aquarium on the coast. So much fun stuff happened on that shoot. It was my first time working with an underwater rig, and the gorgeous exotic birds were landing on our camera cart. But the highlight was that we got to pet a penguin.
What would you say to convince/encourage a producer to bring their project to Mississippi?
Mississippi is one of the friendliest places you’ll find. Chances are people here will be more than willing to help out your production in any way possible. Plus, Mississippi offers a variety of settings: quaint small towns, forests, farms, antebellum homes, a beautiful gulf coast and more.
What do you do when you’re not working on a film set (other jobs, hobbies, etc.)?
I’ve been trading crypto, it’s fun because it’s so volatile. I’m usually always looking up new, weird places and things to see when I’m traveling for work. I’ve seen the world’s tallest filing cabinet in Vermont, and a few different abandoned hospitals. Spooky!
What are your hopes for the film industry in MS?
That it keeps on the same trajectory. 2021 was a busy year for film in Mississippi, and several different productions are already crewing up this year.
What’s your advice for someone looking to break into the film business?
Get on as many sets as possible and make friends with as many people there as you can. Almost every job in this industry gets filled because of a recommendation by someone who liked working with you previously or is willing to give you a chance. A good attitude is everything.
How can people find/reach you?
I’m on Instagram @katrinavanessa and Facebook: facebook.com/Katrina.Vanessa.Blair or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.