Katie Cokinos, a filmmaker and Texas native who has roots in New Orleans, considers the city her second home. Her mother is from New Orleans and, Beaumont being not so far away, Cokinos’ family visited the Crescent City often during her childhood.
But secondly, the film’s previous local screening — at last year’s New Orleans Film Festival — led to a digital distribution deal with music, film and video distribution company The Orchard.
“I Dream Too Much” will be available June 21 through iTunes and video on demand. The film’s limited theatrical release in June and July is bringing screenings to New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Dallas and Beaumont.
“I Dream Too Much” presents a young woman at the crossroads. Dora stands uncomfortably between her recent college graduation and the rest of her life.
Cokinos’ autobiographical script applies a light touch to Dora’s dilemma. Newcomer Eden Brolin co-stars with Oscar-nominee Diane Ladd (playing Dora’s great-aunt Vera) and Danielle Brooks (from “Orange is the New Black”).
Oscar-winning writer-director Richard Linklater (“Boyhood,” “Dazed and Confused”) returns a favor as executive producer of “I Dream Too Much.” Cokinos helped Linklater finance his breakthrough film, 1991’s “Slacker,” when she worked at the Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) in Houston.
Linklater also helped Cokinos refine her “I Dream Too Much” script.
“I sent him a script early on,” Cokinos said last week before a “Dream” screening in Houston. “He got back with notes and was really excited about it. There’s a lot of Rick’s stuff in the film. Ideas and people talking.
“But the major thing that excited Rick was the fact that my main character is not falling in love. It’s about self-discovery, developing who you are. That impressed him. From the beginning he said, ‘I will help you get this made.’”
“We’ve seen a million men’s coming-of-age films,” Linklater said in a news release for the film. “And now we get to see a woman who’s really defining herself in the world — her reality versus her dreams. The charming story of self-discovery that Katie expertly navigates in the film is so refreshing and original. I knew I wanted to be a part of it as soon as I saw the script.”
Cokinos shot “I Dream Too Much” in New York’s Hudson Valley. She lives there, in Saugerties, with her family, including her husband, cinematographer and editor Alex Rappoport. The snowy, icy setting gives Eden’s search for purpose a winter wonderland gleam.
“Alex said, ‘Can you write a story that’s set where we live, in Upstate New York? Can you set it in the winter, because I don’t work as much in the winter.’
“I’m like, ‘OK, Saugerties. Dead of winter. OK, who’s living in Upstate New York in February? It’s either someone who’s been forced to come here or someone who’s escaping from something. That’s where I started.”
Cokinos used her own post-college indecision as inspiration.
“Right after college, for me, was stressful,” she said. “Because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was headed to law school. I decided that I enjoy watching movies so much more. But I wasn’t sure watching movies was going to be a career.”
In “I Dream Too Much,” Eden’s mother (Christina Rouner) insists that her daughter will study law. But then Eden develops her interest in writing during an unanticipated stay with her literary aunt in Saugerties.
Cokinos wanted to tell a story about a modern young woman — a story she wasn’t seeing anywhere else.
“I had been watching a lot of films to see what’s out there for girls,” she said. “A lot of dystopia. Girls in peril. Taking drugs. Suicidal. Cutting themselves. I’m like, ‘Really?’ Are these the only female characters we have to offer?’”
Combining Jane Austen’s female characters and her own lifelong love of cinema, Cokinos wrote a different path through the Saugerties snow for Dora.
“I wanted something more positive and fun, not edgy and dark,” she explained.
Cokinos pursued her passion for film following graduation from Texas A&M University. After working at the Southwest Alternate Media Project, she moved to Austin and managed that city’s film society. She also worked as a feature film location scout and manager. And she directed several short films, including the nearly feature-length “Portrait of a Girl as a Young Cat.”
Cokinos returned to Austin in March 2015 for the “I Dream Too Much” premiere at the South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival. Screening the movie last fall at the New Orleans Film Festival was another highlight.
“Such a great audience,” she said of that night at the Prytania Theatre.
“I’ve been showing the film for more than a year, starting at South By Southwest. It’s so interesting to see how certain audiences respond. The New Orleans audience had so much fun with it. I got the most laughs from the New Orleans crowd. Which makes me so happy. They really get it.”