On a chilly November day last year, I had the privilege of working on the music video for ‘Sheena Doesn’t Mind’ by Kyle Duke and the Brown Bag Boys. Dancers with sparkling eyelids moved on a backdrop of golden tinsel as the band jammed from the room’s corner.
This was my first encounter with filmmaker and actress Emmi Shockley, a humble yet vivacious leader with a talent for fostering familial energy on set. Through keen attention to detail and regular collaboration with her inspiring peer community, her work showcases an inner art that effectively brings people together. Her brother, Tate, has worked as an editor and first assistant camera on several of her projects.
After landing a role alongside Susan Sarandon and Amy Sedaris in the 2014 Sundance feature, Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully), Shockley embarked on what has become a multi-faceted independent film career. She self-directed and starred in several short films during her undergraduate years at NYU Tisch. Right now her thesis film, J-1, is on the 2020 festival run. Also set in Ocean City, J-1 explores a romance challenged by distance. At Summer’s end, Olivia (played by Shockley) must choose between the life she’s always known and a promising future with the one she loves in Ireland.
“I knew I wanted to do a film in Ocean City. I knew I had the access,” she recalled. The result is a nostalgic invitation to view Ocean City with loving intrigue for all of its beauty and grit. Like ‘Sheena’, the film is colorfully saturated in harmony with the emotions at hand.
Her current pitch-in-progress will maintain a similar attitude. It is a television series, called Thing for Trouble that explores the complexities of a budding sexual identity, addiction and depression. “Here, drug addiction is not portrayed as beautiful or glamorous or fun, but it’s also not going to villainize people who are struggling with it.”
Shockley’s realistically-oriented, non-judgmental voice on the matter is refreshing and so valuable to the collective American epidemic.
“We [women and other underrepresented groups] are doing the industry a favor whenever they give our voices a platform.” For too long, crucial points of connectivity and truthful observations have been excluded from the canon. Thankfully, Emmi Shockley and her team are here to contribute to the evolving cinescape.