Morgana McKenzie

5 Questions with Youth Shorts Winner Morgana McKenzie

Morgana McKenzie is an award-winning director and cinematographer.  Her short films have screened at over 100 festivals and won over 30 awards including the Best Youth Short at the 2016 Kingston Canadian Film Festival — not too shabby for someone who was born in the late ’90s. We chatted with Morgana about filmmaking, festivals, and her newest projects.


1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in filmmaking

The summer before I went into grade 7, I saw a movie by JJ Abrams called “Super 8”. If you haven’t seen the film (which you should) the subplot of the film has teenage characters who were making their own short film. The fact that Super 8 was a great and fun film aside, it started an idea in my head that I wanted to do that to. I wanted to be like those kids. So I started making short films. They weren’t very good, it was mostly 10 minutes of my friends and I running through the woods in zombie makeup, but they were the start to many more films to come in my career and work in film.

2. What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

I love films that approach telling a story visually. Films like “Let the Right One In” and “No Country for Old Men” do this perfectly and stuck with me. They inspire my work and how I tell stories. I think the visual side of storytelling can sometimes be overlooked. Roger Deakins’ early career was doing documentary work, and he often remarks that he credits his eye for visuals from years of observing life. How things behave and look, how you can capture that. This is what I strive to do.

3. Are you currently working on any new projects? If so, could you tell us a little about it?

Currently I’m working on a narrative music video called “Atlas World”, where a young girl walks through a fantastical and gruesome nightmare. Finding good locations is important for this film, as everything needs to feel dream like. I spent a large portion of my summer scouting these natural locations around Ottawa, like Lusk Caves and the Carbide Wilson Ruins in Gatineau Park. They’re the most beautiful locations I’ve ever shot in, but also the hardest. Whether it’s having to shoot in a cramped environment like a cave, or in water with rain at the ruins, it’s hard. But oh so worth it.

4. What are your favourite things about attending film festivals?

The biggest thing I’ve always taken away from film festivals are the people and connections I make while attending.  I’ve attended several festivals over the years, and from those festivals I’ve not only created lasting friendships with like minds, but also lasting connections. I met Max Retik, a very good friend of mine and fellow filmmaker, at NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth) in 2014, and in the summer of 2015 he worked on lighting for me on my short Ellie. People like Max, and people you meet at festivals are gems that you can only uncover from attending.

5. How was your previous experience with KCFF?

I’ve attended for two years, and always enjoyed my time at KCFF. I’ve seen some cool films by other youth filmmakers, and met others that I can now keep in touch with (like 2014 winner Noah Lalonde who now attends Ryerson for film). My grandparents live in Kingston so it makes visiting KCFF each year extra special.


Do you know someone 17 years and under with an extraordinary knack for film?

We’re accepting submissions to our 2017 Youth Shorts program until December 30.  It’s free to submit and you never know where it will take you.