When Kathleen Davison was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her primary concern wasn’t her health –– it was a deadline.
In September, Davison, Class of 1995, had just finished directing, writing, producing and starring in her second film, “Primrose Lane,” when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
However, Davison did not accept the diagnosis with defeat. Instead, she pushed back surgery in order to finish production and meet the submission deadline for the Sundance Film Festival.
“I’m a person that if you drop me in a mud puddle, I’m going to make mud pies,” Davison said. “I refuse to let people or situations get me down.”
Prior to “Primrose Lane,” Davison’s first film — a short named “Effloresce” — was nearly completed when a technical failure destroyed the project.
Certain aspects, such as computer-generated imagery (CGI) and visual effects created by Emmy award-winning visual effects artist Todd Sheridan Perry, could not be recreated.
It took more than ten years to restore the short to its original state.
This time, Davison would not let anything, even health, get in the way of her film’s completion.
“When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she was like, ‘My God, even though this is terrifying, how am I going to finish the film?’ ” Anthony Dimino, Davison’s husband, said. “She was like, ‘OK, what lesson I can learn from this?’ ”
Davison has always been interested in learning from experience.
After graduating from Penn State’s School of Theatre in 1995, she moved to Chicago and worked on the set of David Schwimmer’s directorial debut.
Davison then moved to Los Angeles and encountered a large network of Penn State theatre school alumni.
From there, her opportunities and experiences only expanded.
Davison worked as an apprentice to renowned directors such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, reading their scripts and giving them advice. She also resumed contact with Penn State alumni whom she had known during her time in school.
Stephanie Wing, a School of Theatre alumna, became friends with Davison in college and now has a supporting role in “Primrose Lane.”
“To have your dreams and what you worked for, it’s so important to her,” Wing, Class of 1995, said.
Former Penn State student and star of “Primrose Lane,” Curtis Mark Williams, agreed.
“You’re talking about a person that is extraordinarily passionate about making a film and also completing a film,” Williams said. “Lots of people attempt to make films and very few people finish them…The fact that she did it with no outside funding, with two kids — never mind a brain tumor — I mean, it’s incredible.”
Davison was able to meet the Sundance deadline with a rough-cut of “Primrose Lane,” but for her, this film is only the beginning.
Post-surgery, Davison has been steadily recovering. She has no permanent loss of vision or hearing, and shows no signs of lasting paralysis or brain damage, Davison said.
“I used to, like most people, see the world in a linear fashion; reads left to right, it goes in a straight line,” Davison said. “Now, centrally, I’m so grateful that I’m still able to put things together, and I’m still able to write.”