Working for 20 years as a female cinematographer is no small task. Kim Derko faced the challenge with passion and dedication. She's had an impressive career spanning both film and television. Some of the titles she's worked on are Kardia, Youkali Hotel, I, Claudia and The Law of Enclosures.
Growing up in Vancouver, Derko was on track to becoming a professional dancer, but at the age of 18 a car accident forced her stop dancing for six months. It was then that she took an interest in still photography. Travels to Africa and the Middle East allowed her to further explore the art form.
At the age of 21, she submitted her modest portfolio to the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. While there she experimented with many different art forms from collages to found-object sculptures, and finally to creating an experimental animation of Eadweard Muybridge's photographs which earned her an apprenticeship at the National Film Board in Montreal.
After completing her art school training at the NFB, Derko moved to Toronto and furthered her new-found love for cinematography by filming art installations. It was then that she moved beyond the technical world of cinematography to using it as an artform. Her artistic background was particularly useful on Youkali Hotel, a feature-length show that aired on CBC's 'Opening Night' in 2004. A modern opera shot in an impressionistic style, Youkali Hotel earned Derko a Gemini award in 2004.
She has also been able to bring these artistic talents to more serious dramas. In the feature film The Law of Enclosures, the characters flashback over 40 years to coexist with their younger selves. "Being able to get across the feeling of the past within the present was a creative challenge that Kim was crucial in interpreting through the lenses, lighting and gels," said director John Greyson.
Derko's filmography includes dramatic features like The Law of Enclosures, TV shows like Dark Oracle and then smaller artsy projects like I, Claudia, a film adaptation of the one-woman show by Kristen Thomson. She also flexes her creative muscles outside of work by doing experimental and artistic films in her own time. In 2008, Coronation Park, a one-minute short about the environment she co-directed with Su Rynard was shown at the Toronto Urban Film Festival. Currently she is working on an independent project and recently received a Canada Council grant to complete an art gallery installation called Sum of the Parts, about amputees who had operations performed on them in the 1960s.
Most recently, she served as Director of Photography during the last three seasons of the Family/Disney/BBC television series Winging IT, and Director of one episode. She was also Director of Photography for two seasons of Murdoch Mysteries.
As well as a varied filmography, Derko has accumulated a lot of solid working relationships. Derko and director Greyson have worked on two features and three shorts together over the past 14 years, including The Law of Enclosures. She has many collaborative working relationships with both men and women, however she still encounters gender discrimination from time to time. She doesn't enjoy being singled out as a woman cinematographer and prefers to be seen purely for her work. "But I can't deny for a millisecond that it doesn't play into the whole picture," Derko said.
Looking forward, her only plan is to keep working. "I'm definitely going to keep shooting," Derko said. "I am constantly trying to work on larger projects. So my plan is to do the best that I can to reach out to the people who are producing these shows."
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