Emma Kemppainen

"...when I'm in front of the camera, I feel a little more nervous because the camera is watching me and catching that moment in history. I want it to look perfect. But also, I want it to not look perfect in a way, because if it looks perfect, it might not be me. Because I'm not perfect."

At some point during the early stages of this project, I realized two things: I wanted to work with a young woman, a pre-teen perhaps, and that I wanted to recreate the last scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (which I talk about more on the About MOVING page). I wanted to watch a girl test her powers curiously and calmly, but I wanted to meet a real person and re-stage the scene in the context of her own world. Through a friend of a friend, I found Emma, a just-turned twelve-year-old performer and actor. I got to know her through the process of shooting and interviewing, and was excited to find a very funny, energetic, curious, unique girl who was extremely easy to work with, especially given the fact that I was asking her to read quietly, look around, and watch glasses slide across a table over and over again. She was very patient as we figured out all of tricks with powerful magnets on the ends of sticks.


This is a simple question but it's sometimes hard for people to answer. Who are you?

A cat.

A cat? Why did you answer that?

I don't know. A lot of my friends think my spirit animal is a cat. I pretty much live for my cat.

That's wonderful. What do you like about cats?


I like cats a lot too. What subjects do you like when you're studying with your mom and in classes?

I feel like I like watching the documentaries that we put on to learn about stuff because I think it's a lot more interesting than reading a piece of paper about it. If everything was in documentary form, I'd probably like it a lot more.

Is it because you like to look at images? Do you remember one of the documentaries you like?

Yeah. I saw one about animals in Africa. It was really funny because it had 1920s narration in it. It was talking about this one type of fruit where, when the animals eat it, they get drunk and they start wobbling and stuff. It's really funny.

Oh wow. That sounds good.

So, We did this video portrait and this one is based on that scene I showed you from that movie Stalker. Some day, you can watch the whole movie. It's not inappropriate for kids but it's probably a bit weird. It's a very long movie. What did you think of doing the scene? What do you think about the idea of telekinesis or moving things with your mind?

I think it's really cool. After you showed me the video, I went home and I tried moving books across my bed.


But that didn't really work out.

Had you heard of telekinesis before?


Yes. Do you remember how you learned about it?

Yeah. I watched Matilda.

Yes! Other people have mentioned Matilda as an example. What were you thinking when you tried to move the books across your bed?

I was thinking maybe I can do it. And then after I couldn't, I was like "Oh well, I'll try again later."

Were you repeating any words in your head or were you just like straining?

I forget.

What were you thinking about when we were shooting this video because you didn't have to say anything. What went on in your mind when you were performing?

I'm thinking about ... When I see it, it looks like it's actually moving itself, because I can't see what's happening under the table. So, it looks really cool.

And what book did you choose to read in the portrait?

My Neighbor Seki. It's a manga about this boy who's always goofing off in class and the girl can't stop looking at him. The teacher's like "All right I'm erasing everything!" and then she's freaking out.

What do you like about it?

It has a lot of comedy. If it didn't have comedy, it would be a really boring book and nobody would probably read it. But then, something happens and you laugh at the book.

And you like laughing. You did a good job of not laughing while we were recording! Good job.

And you like to perform and act and sing and dance, right?

I don't dance.

You don't dance.

I mean, I do, but I don't take dance classes or anything.

Yeah. What's your favorite part about performing or acting?

I like watching people smile.

Yeah? Do you prefer to act or perform in things that are funny?


Not so much with drama?

I mean, I do do drama, but funny things are my favorite.

Can you describe the play that you were just in when I met you and what your role was?

I was doing The Music Man and I was in the barbershop quartet. I was really happy because I was not the first person to bow. The first people to bow are always the least important people. When I was one of the last people to bow, I was really happy.

That means you had a pretty good role. Are you on stage a lot for that performance?

Yes. Everybody's on stage for the singing and dancing. I go on a lot to to talk to the main character.

Do you feel different if you're on stage like that or when it's like this and you're in front of the camera?

Well, when I'm in front of the camera, I feel a little more nervous because the camera is watching me and catching that moment in history. I want it to look perfect. But also, want it to not look perfect in a way, because if it looks perfect, it might not be me. Because I'm not perfect.

That's a cool thing to think. I think it might sound negative to somebody but it sounds really positive to be aware that you're not perfect. If you're not perfect, what are you?

Ummm...not perfect?

What are some of your other favorite things? Things to do ...

I really like to read. Yesterday when I got home from the library I read four of the eleven books I checked out. Then I almost finished this one today, since you got here.

That's great! Because you had a lot of time to read during every take we did. And can you tell me a little bit about this tie you're wearing?

I got it from my sister who got it from my grandparents, I think. I really like wearing ties. I don't know why, but I like them.

When I was your age, I really loved wearing belts on top of my shirt. It was the 80's. In the 1980s we dressed funny. I would wear a long shirt and I would wear belts all the time on my shirts.

I sometimes wear belts on my shirts.

When I stopped doing it, everybody was shocked because it became such a part of my character. Okay, here's another question. When in life do you feel the most powerful?

When I'm on stage and everyone's eyes are on me and not somebody else.

Yeah. What makes you feel powerless?

Sometimes my parents. Because they're in charge of me and there's not much I can do about that.

Right. It will change someday. Someday you will be in charge of your own life then you'll wish you still had your parents helping you.

That's what I told mom when I asked her if she'd make me eat mushrooms when I grew up.

You don't like mushrooms?


I didn't either when I was your age and then I did probably when I turned thirty. All of that stuff changes at some point. You'll be surprised.

Is there something about yourself that you really like that you want people to know?

Yes. I really, really, really like cats. I read this one book on cats I had. It was like a fun book, but it was also teaching me about cats. It was ten facts about why cats were better than dogs. My favorite fact was "Face it: Dogs drool. Cats wouldn't even think about it." And I really liked that because every dog I've met has drooled and cats don't drool.

I did know a cat once who drooled. It was a weird cat. His name was Kevin and when you'd pet him on his butt, he would stick his neck out and he would have one little line of drool that would come down his lip. It was weird because, as you said, cats don't drool normally. Do you like dogs though?

They're okay. I like cats a lot better though.They're easier to take care of. You don't need to walk them. You don't need to worry about them knocking down food and eating it. Sometimes they might. My cat doesn't. She mostly stares out the window and hisses at rats.

You can pick them up... which is really fun.

Yeah. I can pick them up. My cat usually does not like being picked up. She'll let me pick her up for a little more than ten seconds and then she's like "Okay, I'm down now." She used to not like to be picked up at all. You would die if you picked her up.

Can you tell me about what's written on your hand?

It's an email to my best friend that I wrote there because I didn't have paper with me at the moment. I mean, I did but I didn't want to use it. Also, it was a nice color with the color I already on.

And then the lines that you traced, it's sort of like you're tracing your bones.

Yeah. That's what I was doing! Maggie, another friend, was pretending to be a skeleton so she was trying to draw a skeleton. She messed up and then I tried. And I don't know if I messed up. I just kept going.

When you play pretend, do you have regular things that you pretend to be?

Yes. Cats. I pretend to be cats. Sometimes I pretend to be a famous actor or I pretend to go to school.

Is there a particular actor you really like?

Yes. I forgot her name. She plays Hermione.

Oh, Emma Watson. Yeah, she's really cool.

I like her.

Me too. You want to be an actor as a profession? What kind of acting do you want to do? Mostly movies or theater?

Yeah. Mostly theater, but I guess if I got a big role in a movie, I'd take it.

What do you like about acting?

Everything. Tech week is really crazy. When you're trying to get all the tech stuff done, but then it's also fun because I get to spend a lot of time with my friends all day.

Is there something you like about the act of acting, like when you're pretending to be someone else? Do you think of it as "pretend"?

No. When I'm acting it out, I think of it as a real thing and I pretend I am that real thing. When I'm off stage, I think of it as something pretend.

Have you taken acting classes too?

Yes. I take a theater class.

What's the coolest thing you've learned that's helped you when you're acting?

How to be really loud.

That helps in theater, right?

Projection, yeah.

Can you project for me right now? Wait, no, don't because I'm holding a microphone. It's probably going to be too loud.

I was going to say, do you want me to shout into your microphone?

Yeah, that's a bad idea. Did you do these paintings?

I did that one.

In the upper left hand corner? I like that one a lot. Oh, it's a cat lady! I love it.

Originally that cat girl was ... You see the yellow there? You can kind of see the yellow sticking out. I originally drew lions in a chamber eating somebody because that's what they do. And you can see the ladder there. I was also learning about the soil, so it has different colors for the different parts of the soil. Underneath were a bunch of bones and stuff. I mean, I thought, that's probably pretty gruesome for an eight year old child, so I kind of drew over that.

I like how you were aware of yourself in that moment. You were like "What am I doing? This is not appropriate for me." That's pretty funny. Maybe you should be a stand up comedian. [Emma grimaces] You have plenty of time to figure out whether or not you want to do that.

So you're in sixth grade? You've got a lot of school left to go. You don't even have to decide exactly what you want to be or where you want to go after high school yet.


It's too early.

I don't even go to school anyways.

Oh that's true. What do you say when you're learning? You don't call it going to school. Do you call it something else?

Actually, when people ask me what school I go to I'm say "Home." They're like "Oh, where's that?" And I'm like, "It's at my house." That usually confuses them for awhile and then they're like "Oh, you're home schooled." A lot of kids don't really care. Some of them are like "Oh, do you get an education?" And some of them think it's pretty cool.

Do you like it?

Yeah. I do. I have a lot of time to do what I want and I don't have to sit in a classroom all day. I mean, it might be fun to sit in a classroom all day, but I don't like sitting still.

School is not always fun. Sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. I'm sure there's good and bad in every situation.

Did you enjoy doing this shoot today? What was your favorite part?

Yeah. I had a lot of fun. In the last one, I jumped when it made the loud sound for the green one. I wasn't expecting myself to jump because I knew it was coming. I was like "Okay, it's going to make the loud sound." And then it went [glass clanging sound]! And I pretty much jumped out of my skin.

It was good acting. Even though it was real, but that's why it was good, because it looked really real. You reacted really well.

Here's another question: Do you have a favorite woman in your life? Maybe like a role model or something.

I have a lot... and I don't even remember their names right now. I already told you before I like Emma Watson because she's a good actor. But then I also like a lot of really good women writers. I read a lot of books by women.

When they're from Japan though I can't always tell because I don't understand the names. There's one author I like who wrote a book about the Olympics and it has lesbian in it and it makes me really happy because not a lot of books have lesbians in them. And all the characters are girls. And there's another book, and it's really good. I don't know how well known she is, but she wrote a book called Magick which is about magic.

I got into that for four months and then I was waiting for the next book and I got bored with it, so I found another series. And I tried reading that book I was waiting for, but I was still bored with it so it didn't really work out. Unless it's a manga, I get bored with it and I find something else to read. I still like it, and I know it's really good but then I want to read something else.

Do you read a lot of books at the same time?

Yeah, I read a lot of books. I don't even know which one's I'm in the middle of right now. I'm probably in the middle of a lot because I start a lot and then get bored with them. Then put them down and then pick up another one. Then I read that. And I reread books a lot too. When I find a really good book, I want to memorize it. If I read it over and over and over again. A lot of my friends are like "How do you do it? I can't read the book right after I read it because I know what's going to happen." I now tell them, after hearing your show, with someone who thought the same way as me, that each time you read it, it gets better and better. Because I understand more of it.