Spotlight on Local Filmmakers: Corinna Halloran

By Andrea E. McHugh

The Newport resident has made several documentaries at the cross-section of nature and adventure

Corinna, second from left, on location filmming with 11th Hour Racing.

“I REMEMBER IN THE third grade distinctly staring out the window and thinking, there must be more to the world than this island,” recalls award-winning producer and storyteller Corinna Halloran.

The Middletown native grew up the daughter of two creative s— her father was a chef, always composing new dishes — including when he was executive chef at the Clarke Cooke House years ago — and her mother was a photography teacher at Middletown High School and is an accomplished painter.

At 14, Halloran saved her babysitting money to buy a Sony Handycam video camera. “I started making videos with my friends, and we would make surf and skate movies like every other island kid,” she laughs.

Around that time, Nancy Donahoe, co-founder of the Newport International Film Festival (the precursor to today’s newportFILM), invited students from Middletown High School to film the event’s trailer and be a part of the student jury. “And that was really the start of everything,” Halloran says.

Wanderlust drew her far from home — to the University of San Francisco, where she earned a B.A. in creative nonfiction writing. By graduation, Halloran discovered a way to see the world while financially supporting herself — crewing on yachts.

“When I was a little girl, I remember looking at the stars and saying to my mom ‘The stars look so amazing,’ and she was like, ‘Well, yeah, but they’re nothing like they are offshore.’ So since I was eight or nine, I really wanted to go sailing offshore.” Her work took her to far-flung ports across Europe, throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

Storytelling and the sea became inextricably intertwined for Halloran. “There’s something so special about living next to the ocean and it’s just like breathing for me, you know? It’s so a part of who I am as a human,” she explains.

She headed to Maine to learn more about the craft of visual storytelling. It wasn’t long after she spotted an issue of Yachting World magazine featuring the 2008/2009 Volvo Ocean Race, sailing’s best-known round-the-world race. “I was like, ‘I want todo that.’ So that became my goal — how can I do the Volvo?” she says.

A few years later, she had her chance. She learned about Team SCA, the all-female crew team competing in the 2014-15 edition of the race. Halloran jokes that she “harassed enough people” to get involved, becoming not only the team’s official on-board reporter — and the first female on-board reporter in the history of the race.

While it was never her intention to shatter any glass ceilings, it’s hard to ignore the accomplishment when browsing the folios of her all-male counterparts. The role, called the “toughest job in sports media,” requires daily dispatches alongside compelling photography and video — all while trying to survive the ocean in the most extreme sailing race on Earth.

Five sailors have perished in the race over the years.

Nevertheless, the position was a natural fit for Halloran. “Maybe it’s just the thirst for adventure, and going into the unknown, and going in with a team, and getting to bring to life the stories of those humans,” she says. “You’re IN the chaos. There’s just something special about it, and some of the girls that I sailed with are lifelong sisters. I’m just so grateful for them in my life.”

Continuing to cover extreme sports after the race, Halloran headed to Austria to work for Red Bull, where she wrote and produced adventure documentary films including 2021’s The River Runner, about a kayaker who sets out to become the first man to paddle the four great rivers that flow from Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash, and 2022’s Wild Waters, about world champion French kayaker Nouria Newman.

Last year, she joined 11th Hour Racing as its creative projects manager where she was the senior producer on Shaped by Water, an artistic film highlighting athletes who continually push to the edge and who also align with the Newport-based environmental organization’s mission to protect and restore the ocean.

“As a film producer now, I think I just love what video allows for in terms of storytelling, and then there’s the writing, which I think is just the coolest,” she says.

Halloran continues to hone her craft.

She’s currently studying creative writing with an emphasis in screenwriting at Harvard Extension School. “I’m really liking the direction that it’s taking in terms of how it’s all being intertwined,” she says. “One day, I would love to write a TV show or to be a showrunner; I guess maybe my career dream, but right now I’m thoroughly enjoying the documentary space, and bringing to life real human stories. It’s just so incredible.