Student Spotlight: Kenna Fojas

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student spotlight photo May 2023

Kenna Fojas
Year: Class of 2023
Majors: Cinema & Media Studies and Psychology
Hometown: Mission Viejo, California
Favorite movie: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

How did you know you wanted to major in CMS?
A: During high school, I took film production classes and fell in love with filmmaking. I loved storytelling and being on film sets, but I did not have the confidence as a filmmaker to think of myself as an artist. I came to UW with the idea of becoming a Marketing and Psychology student. But after one day of class, I realized I missed film too much. So, I went to the UW Film Club where I was able to reconnect with movies. I took my first CMS class with Mal Ahern’s Feminist Approaches to Media. That made me realize that film is one of my big passions and it was a subject I wanted to pursue.

What do you like the most about the major?
A: I love how passionate the professors are and their specific perspectives on their topics. For instance, Professor Ahern goes into media history and brings in ideas that I never expected to learn, but made me feel like a better agent in the world. The same goes for Professor Jennifer Bean’s and Professor Steve Groening’s classes. You can feel their passion, which creates an engaging learning environment for students. I think Professor Warren Etheredge’s screenwriting classes further the interactive classroom experience within the major. I also enjoy how Cinema and Media Studies has developed over time, because it is still a young major, there will be more classes offered that focus more on production. Overall, I love the mixture of learning, absorbing, and then getting hands-on experience.

What are your focuses in film production? How did you get started? How can others get involved as well?
A: Storytelling is my main focus and what I work towards. In fact, I am currently working on writing and directing a short film called Peach Fuzz. At UW, I started with production design for an independent film and also produced a short film, which were both really fun. In order to get involved, you need to take initiative. Find others that have a similar interest and make films together.

Can you tell us a bit more about the short film you are writing and directing, Peach Fuzz?
A: In 2021, I worked at the Walla Walla Movie Crush in the green room. Kiwi Smith, who is an idol of mine, was one of the jurors that year, and I was able to meet her and get to know her for the weekend. I told her I wanted to make another short film before my graduation because I was leaving Seattle. I was revamping an old idea, for the sake of being productive, but it wasn’t flowing out of me. So, I asked her if she could help me find some short film scripts and she happily agreed. I ended up receiving Kiwi’s poetry book, The Geography of Girlhood, during Hanukkah, and I loved it so much. I told Kiwi how I felt about the book, and she allowed me to adapt her poetry into a short film. I finished the script for Peach Fuzz in March, and it is based on some of the poems in the book, woven together with my life experiences. Kiwi was extremely helpful throughout the writing process, and I learned a lifetime's worth of writing wisdom, which was incredible. We are currently in the pre-production stages, looking to film in the summer!

What’s a short description of your film, Peach Fuzz?
A: Penny and her older sister go from sharing a guitar to sharing a guy. It is a coming-of-age adaptation that takes young feelings seriously.

What is your creative process like?
A: I have always been a big daydreamer. So, I would play out different scenarios in my head and put myself in the scenes. I would mentally poke and prod at things that I like, and then make them real (as long as I stay clever and creative). A lot of the time it Is just trusting my intuition and taking chances.

You are a double major in Psychology and Cinema & Media Studies. How do they intersect for you?
A: My focus in psychology is more research-based. But I think there the intersection between art and brain science is undeniable. Psychological thriller was a genre that intrigued me growing up. So in my head, they have always worked together. The best psychology classes I have taken that helped my filmmaking progress was social, cognitive, and abnormal psychologies. Those classes gave me insight into human behavior and a psychological explanation for the characters’ actions in Peach Fuzz, which helped a lot during my writing progress..

Advice for new majors?
A: My motto is: “I got into this situation being myself, I’ll get out of this situation being myself.” In scientific experiments, there are controlled variables, you need to keep yourself as the constant. Be true to who you are and rely on that more than anything. So, when things are going well with people you know it is because of how you interacted with them, and they genuinely enjoy you for who you are. Be clear about who you are and talk to people in the manner you want to interact with them. Also, Seattle can be hard to get around at times and people may limit themselves but try and go out of your comfort zone. Just put yourself out there and try everything.

Follow Kenna on social media to get more news on Peach Fuzz and her future projects!
Instagram: @makfo @peachfuzzfilm

Kenna was recently featured on the College of Arts & Sciences graduation issue of the Perspectives Newsletter! Take a look at her story "Making Films, Making Community".