Ever since I saw Silent Running, I have been in love with the power of speculative fiction. I think genre stories are one of the most direct conduits into the human heart; they can tap directly into the subconscious. They are the language of dreams. At least, that’s how it is in my case.
For my first foray into directing sci-fi, I jumped at the chance to explore the story of a family dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Like all families, my family has dealt with some; and our struggle is part of the DNA of Portal Runner in deliciously creepy ways.
Portal Runner, Kairos Productions’ fourth feature film, was born of collaboration. We wrote of shared life experiences, like the terror of losing your home, and the joy of finding family where you don’t expect it. Then, we tossed in a healthy dose of Y2K paranoia, great actors, comic timing, interdimensional speculative fiction - and Portal Runner was the result.
I love that our movie bends reality along with genre. I love the way that the intimacy of our film’s location concentrated the tension in the storytelling. I love our hilarious actors! And our brilliant, dedicated, and selfless crew.~ Cornelia Duryée
Portal Runner follows NOLAN (15), a boy on the run from a monstrous evil that is chasing him through parallel worlds. However, when he winds up stuck in a world with a furious older sister he’s never met before, he realizes she may be the key to defeating his adversary.
The story treads on familiar ground for J.D. Henning, the originator of the concept. “When I was a kid, my head was always in the clouds. I was always thinking about fantastical stories, like the fantasy and sci-fi books I was reading. At the same time, I had three older sisters that I was always with. So Portal Runner is basically the fusion of those two things--family and the fantastic.”
Director Cornelia Duryée and writer Tallis Moore worked with Josh to hone the script. “Some ideas are like a virus. They attach and never go away. The best part of Portal Runner comes from things that fascinated or terrified us. Our own idiosyncratic fears definitely influenced the way we thought of the destructive forces in Portal Runner,” says story creator, J.D. Henning.
While creating a high-stakes sci-fi environment is something usually left to major film studios, Kairos has long pushed itself to make creative use of its resources to innovate storytelling. In Portal Runner, location became a story-driver. With access to a stunning, empty older home, the structure of the film was, in part, determined by its physical location. “As we were writing, we were thinking specifically about specific rooms and spaces in the house, and how to utilize them in a satisfying way. The fewer resources you have, the more strategic you need to be in how you use them,” says director, Cornelia Duryée, “ It’s like playing Tetris: you have to be thinking ahead, and you have to always think flexibly, because you don’t know what circumstances you’ll find.”
And, on set, there are always surprises. One example was a gas leak that struck in the middle of filming, which stopped the movie completely. The whole cast and crew were stuck outside, following the leak, for obvious reasons. Thankfully, the crew only lost about half a day of work, which they were able to make up later in filming, due to careful scheduling. That kind of nimbleness and flexibility is a hallmark of Kairos, and the people with whom they work. Kairos, like the main character in Portal Runner, is constantly moving, keeping ahead of the forces of entropy. This project is the company’s 4th feature film, and Kairos has at least three more films in the pipeline.
The company’s indefatigable spirit comes from founder (and Portal Runner director) Cornelia Duryée. Cornelia is a powerhouse of creativity, energy, and passion. Her films explore dance, horseback riding, trauma, autism, love, divorce, faith, and family. Cornelia credits her passion for storytelling to her godmother, the novelist Madeleine L’Engle,“She inspired me to try to capture the deep beauty beneath things that aren’t so beautiful on the surface.”
That is exactly what drew Larry Estes, “Hollywood’s Quiet Godfather of the Offbeat Film,” to join Kairos. “After working so long in Hollywood, I wanted to make movies that I wanted to make. Cornelia’s vision for the company, and the films we choose, allow me to work on stories that are good for the heart.”
“My whole purpose is hope,” says Cornelia, “All the stories I tell are about hope and redemption. They are usually full of struggle and darkness, because that’s what the light fights against. But, ultimately, the light will always win. And believing that is what keeps a person grounded and sane in an insane world.”