Art of Film

A new documentary on Karen Paden Crouch

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Making a film requires a group effort, and the locally made Karen Paden Crouch: In the Land of Make Believe reflects just that.

CHRISTINA CAPRA, KAREN PADEN CROUCH, and JESSIE ROBERTSON are the names and faces behind such a project. They are all artists associated with Wilmington’s Art in Bloom Gallery, owned by AMY GRANT and producer of the documentary.

Capra, who served as director, came to the Wilmington area because of her dad, Frank Capra Jr., who ran EUE/Screen Gems Studios. She attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington and graduated as a film studies major. A California native, Capra decided to stay in the area after graduating.

She spends her time at Art in Bloom mentoring interns, promoting local artists, and working as a videographer on the side. Her “dream is to be a director,” which was no doubt influenced by her childhood. She fondly remembers “running wild around the studio as a little girl.” Film sets were a magical experience for her. “I especially enjoyed the set of Black Knight, because they built a life-size castle and moat on the back lot,” she recalls.

Capra made her directing debut with a short film about Art in Bloom painter and collage artist Elizabeth Darrow in 2020. The documentary was accepted into both the Cucalorus and DocuTime film festivals.

Her next big foray was the Karen Crouch documentary, which she began working on in 2022. The film presents an “honest reflection on how welding transformed a former trial lawyer after several traumatic experiences.” Crouch decided to make a major life decision switching from lawyer to artist almost twenty years ago. Her “office” became her studio, and she continues to transform bronze, copper, and steel into unique, organic pieces for the house and garden. A passionate gardener, Crouch bases her work around the structure and movement of living things.

Capra had admired Crouch’s art for a while and was drawn to telling her story. “I was thrilled when Karen agreed to be a participant in the film,” Capra says. “Karen makes her art by welding bronze, which is not something you see every day. She speaks so eloquently about her work and was incredible on camera.”

Crouch was genuinely surprised and pleased that Capra and editor Robertson, two younger artists, “found something interesting in my work. Christina and Jessie exude enthusiasm and promise,” Crouch says. “It was great fun to watch them work and see their world through younger eyes.”

The sculptor says she was truly humbled to be featured and let Capra and Robertson follow their creative vision. Crouch did not see the film until it was done and submitted.

“It was their work, and I trusted them,” she says.

Robertson met Capra in 2019 as an intern at Art in Bloom. The UNCW student credits Capra with introducing her to the field of filmmaking. Robertson has since worked with Capra making artist videos and documentary shorts, including the Karen Crouch documentary. Having met Crouch and being familiar with her work, the film project gave Robertson the chance to dig deeper into who Crouch was as an artist and bring the audience along on her journey.

“Karen had such vivid stories to tell about her work,” Robertson says. “Truly, mine and Christina’s greatest difficulty in creating the film was having to cut so many excellent narratives.”

The film was selected to premiere at the Cucalorus Film Festival and has been accepted to the LA Independent Women Film Awards among other film festivals. The project took a few months to make, including numerous sessions of Robertson interviewing Crouch, filming at the sculptor’s studio as well as Airlie Gardens for the nature shots.

“It means a lot to me to be the director on this project, and I am blown away by the reception it has received on the film festival circuit,” Capra says.

“I am delighted for Christina and Jessie. Out of hours and hours of interviews, they chose what resonated with them. This is truly their art,” Crouch adds. “Mine was just the story they chose to tell, and they are being honored because of how they decided to tell it.”

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A public screening of the film short, Karen Paden Crouch: In the Land of Make Believe is part of an Art in Bloom Gallery special event, which also includes a question-and-answer session with the artists and filmmakers along with a reception.

Thalian Hall  |  2-5pm  |  June 25


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Categories: Culture