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Three Short, Local Films By Katherine Mumma

On the set of "Bare"
Jason Nofs

Since January, Kalamazoo filmmaker Katherine Mumma has been hosting Unreeled, a film series at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. On April 12th, the KIA will show three of her short works.

Mumma’s career as a filmmaker started out like many others. She made videos with her childhood friends and years later attended film school in New York. Ultimately she decided New York wasn’t for her — but that wasn’t the end. 

“I asked my parents if they would rather invest in buying some equipment and within a year I had them paid back," Mumma said.

"I started doing wedding videos and that led to corporate gigs and that afforded me the ability to do really fun projects of my own from time to time.”

Mumma went on to found her own small film company in Kalamazoo, VDA Films. She also acts and does photography.

Film 1: Bare

“Bare” which premiered in 2012. It’s about a college professor in an abusive marriage who develops an obsession with a nude model. Mumma says this was inspired by her time at the School of Visual Arts in New York: 

“I walked by this class where you can’t help but do a double take when the window is wide open and there’s someone just standing there nude. And you just kind of look around at all the people just nonchalantly painting this person and you start to think, ‘Why is it such a big deal?’”

Film 2: Sobriety Test

“Sobriety Test” was Mumma's first short film. She says this comedy was another local filmmaker’s idea, Kevin Park. Park told her he had this vision of a girl bringing home a guy, things get saucy, and then…

“They go to have some coffee. She takes a sip from the coffee mug and puts the coffee mug down and I’m [Park] standing there,” Mumma explains.

“Sobriety Test” has the usual comic moments, but there’s also a lesson here. The woman in the film has as many flaws as the man she regrettably took home.

“There are things that we point out about males that might be a little bit in us too. We might have a little superficiality going on. We might be able to be abusive too," said Mumma. "‘Bare’ and ‘Sobriety Test’ both touch on that.”

Film 3: A Music Video, “Somebody Else” by Alex Shier 

Singer/songwriter Alex Shier is Mumma’s cousin. You might remember him from the 2015 season of American Idol. Mumma says her father is also a professional musician.

“My cousin Alex has always been very inspired by him and took up the guitar at a very young age and just happened to be a prodigy," she said.

"It’s so funny to watch him blossom as a singer songwriter — and I mean that song is nothing in comparison to what he’s writing now even.”

Mumma says the whole video was shot at Winston’s in downtown Kalamazoo, which is now closed.

Mumma says the shoot had a lot of challenging camera tricks. Shier plays not only himself in the video, but two other characters — some of which are seen in the same frame. In some scenes, the characters vanish like ghosts.

“In editing when you get all of that footage and go, 'Gosh, I hope we have it.' You put it all together and it makes magic like that…it’s just," Mumma pauses. "When I put it out to the rest of the crew, none of us could believe it that we pulled it off.”

So what’s next for Mumma? She says she wants to do a screen dance — a kind of short dance movie. She’s also working on her first on-camera musical.

You can see Katherine Mumma’s short films at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts on April 12th at 6:30 p.m. It’s part of the Unreeled series which takes place the second Thursday of every month.

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.