Katie Funaki, originally of St. Marys and now living in Pittsburgh, has parlayed her love of the moving image into a career as a freelance digital media specialist.
This line of work involves a meticulous knowledge of technical and aesthetic aspects concerning film and film production and requires versatility in a number of different facets of those processes.
Funaki described this line of work as a calling of sorts, wherein her fascination from a young age with cinema and television led naturally to her working with the image. She does not describe the act of watching the small and silver screens as a passive pasttime as much as she depicts it as having been a study of the art form.
"Ever since I was about eight or nine, I’ve always had dreams about being involved in the media industry. I used to wake up two hours before school and watch music videos in the morning before I went to school," Funaki said. "I also watched as many movies as possible and analyzed them, from the technical aspects to the aesthetic elements. I knew from that age that I wanted a job that was fun and made me happy. I wanted to wake up every morning knowing I am doing what I absolutely love."
Funaki, born and raised in St. Marys, is the youngest of her siblings, Raymond, Caroline, Meti, and Richard, born to Diane Stauffer Funaki of St. Marys and their father Metihola Funaki of Tonga, an archipelago island located in the south Pacific Ocean.
After graduating from Elk County Catholic High School in 2006, Funaki enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where she went on to receive her B.A. in Digital Media Production in 2009. Funaki said her course of study encompassed a number of aspects of the production and post-production processes involved in filmmaking.
"Many people ask about my course of study and what I do and it’s sometimes difficult to explain in one sentence. Digital media production is an umbrella of specialties which include videography, non-linear editing, motion graphics, audio recording, scriptwriting, lighting, etc.," Funaki said.
In working as a freelance digital media artist, Funaki is constantly engaged in a variety of projects and working in varying capacities. She has filmed and edited events ranging from stage shows to sporting events and is able to render and reconstitute the footage for the purposes of promotional spots, highlight videos for company events, or even interviews, behind-the-scenes features and short films as required by a client.
"During my career, I have collaborated with an array of clients and been involved in a lot of job experiences. My objective when working on a new project or collaborating with a new client is to be involved with something completely different from my previous work experience. I do this to spice my job up while gaining valuable workflow knowledge in a different working environment," Funaki said.
In her time spent as a freelancer, Funaki has worked with companies and organizations including The Elizabeth Grand Theatre, Rage of the Stage Players, Nakturnal, Baierl Car Company, Camp Jam, Interactive Video Productions, Afrika Yetu, Pittsburgh Dance and Theatre Arts, Quality Life Services, Women in Film and Media, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, and Pennsylvania Nascar Motordrome Speedway.
Currently, Funaki's talents and expertise have been enlisted by "Rewind Memories" in her position as film specialist. The company specializes in digitizing old home movies and converting now-archaic film mediums like VHS to DVD, and as Funaki explains, this entails her "converting old film into a high-definition digital format and edit upon each client's request."
Funaki finds she thrives on the fast-paced nature of freelance work and her level of commitment often involves sacrificing a good night's sleep in the interest of completing a project by deadline.
"To me, completing a project before the deadline winds down is one of the most thrilling experiences! There have been times when the project requires a fast turnaround time. In order to finish the project on time, sleep is cut out of the equation. I often apply this quote to my work situation from one of my heroes, Taylor Hicks: 'When you’re doing something you love, sleep can wait.' This quote keeps me going when I’ve been up for 48 hours straight trying to complete an assignment. Even through sleep deprivation, I often find myself saying, ‘This is the life’ while finishing my assignments," Funaki said.
Funaki said she has found that being a freelancer requires one to be well-versed and versatile. In her work she is constantly tested and her horizons continuously expanded as she is thrust into new scenarios with new objectives all the time.
"The newfound discovery behind the subject of my project becomes a personal reward every time, especially when it requires me to step out of my comfort zone to learn something new. As a freelancer, I have been thrown into environments and situations that require me to adjust quickly," Funaki said. "For instance, I was recently employed by two racetracks to film their weekly shows. Prior to this, I had no clue about the auto racing industry. That quickly had to change.
"I soon began to realize and appreciate all the time and effort that goes into this sport, from the time and effort the drivers put into their cars to the actual racing process itself. As a result, I learn something new about each assignment and project I take on. To me, that’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job."
Funaki's love of the craft has even extended to her off time, during which she works to establish programs for aspiring filmmakers. In 2010 Funaki partnered with the Bailer YMCA in Pittsburgh to develop a film workshop for adolescents with an interest in filmmaking.
"I’ve had an interest to create a program for young aspiring filmmakers since 2007 when I was employed through the YMCA as a child mentor for their afterschool program while attending college. I love kids. I think they are inquisitive, thoughtful, creative, and they inspire me more than they’ll ever know," Funaki said. "One of the assignments for my workshop includes creating a two-minute short film. I love watching my students go through the filmmaking process. It’s so refreshing to see them create a project that they enjoy doing. I really learn a lot from the kids who attend my workshops. They reinforce the thought that if you’re not having fun, it defeats the whole purpose of doing it."
Funaki recalls her own childhood in St. Marys affectionately.
"I couldn’t of asked for a better place to grow up with such supportive family and friends. There are times when I’m homesick and I try to come back to St. Marys as much as I can," Funaki said.