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  • By Dana Casadei

Clare Cooney

You never know when inspiration will strike – at least that was the case for Clare Cooney. Cooney, who grew up in Bloomfield Township, was on a run in Chicago and next thing she knew, she had the idea for a short film. Ok, there's a little bit more to it than that. "It was this beautiful, idyllic fall day and I turned a corner into this alleyway and I saw something kind of shady going on down the alley," said the Groves High School alumna. "Then all of a sudden I got really fearful and my gut just clenched up. All the while the same song was playing in my headphones. It was like this really happy, powerful moment followed by a really fearful and vulnerable one," Cooney continued. "I thought that was an interesting jumping off point." And that is where her short film, Runner, begins. Currently at almost 400,000 views on YouTube, the 13-minute long film was Cooney's first venture into writing, directing, producing, and editing. She also stars in the film. In total, she said it was about a nine month turnaround from idea to completion. Then she started submitting Runner to film festivals, and waited. "I knew it was good. I hoped it would do well," she said. "But it’s really hard to break into the film festival circuit." But others seemed to agree her product was good. Runner was at 15 film festivals across the country and won six awards, including Best of Fest at Windy City International Film Festival, Best Drama Short at Atlanta Shortsfest, and Best Short Film at the Best of the Midwest Awards. Cooney herself also won Best Actress at the latter festival, and was nominated for Filmmaker-to-Watch at the Atlanta Film Festival. When asked if she had been bitten by the director bug, the smile could be heard when she said absolutely. But from the sounds of it she had been bitten by the bug long before now. "At times I’ve caught myself on set wanting to give an adjustment to myself or others. I’ve had to hold my tongue...I think I already had a director’s brain and I finally got to use it a bit," said Cooney, who mentioned she's directed a few other projects since Runner and has no plans on stopping. Right now though, Cooney's primary focus is on acting, an obsession she's had since she landed the lead in her eighth grade production of Once Upon a Mattress. From there, she went on to do musicals and plays throughout high school. After graduating, she thought, well, that was fun, but I'm done now. But then she auditioned for a play while at the University of Notre Dame, where she received her BA in theatre and BA in psychology. She was the only freshman cast in the production. "I thought, oh, maybe I’m good at this, maybe I should keep doing it," she said. So she did, eventually moving to Chicago before her recent move to Los Angeles. Before she left the Windy City, though, she was cast in a VISA Commercial for the NFL, where she's part of a mother/daughter duo who really love the Chicago Bears. "It’s been really exciting to see it on TV so much and it was a great way to say goodbye to Chicago, to be in the most Chicago commercial ever," Cooney said. Wonder what her runs in Los Angeles will inspire her to create next.

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