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Westside grad is assistant director on Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’

Posted at 4:34 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 18:53:44-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Mary Kerrigan's love for film started with Westside High School’s journalism program.

“I actually didn’t really know that you could have a career in film growing up. That wasn’t one of the careers that was advertised to me,” she said.

And last Sunday, Nomadland, a film she worked on, won best picture at the Oscars.

“It’s been kind of unreal and I sometimes am like, wait, is this actually happening? Is this all fake?” she said.

Mary left Omaha for New York University’s film school, honing her craft in a much different city than she was used to.

“It was a big change for sure but I think it’s a change that I needed,” Mary said.

After graduating and gaining experience working on different films, she got hired as the unit production manager and assistant director of Nomadland.

The film, directed by Chloe Zhao, is a cathartic journey of a woman in her sixties who lost everything in the great recession. She decides to live in a van and travel across western America, meeting fellow nomads along the way.

“The mentality during Nomadland was like, what can we all do to help make this happen? We were all like that. Frances McDormand was driving vehicles and picking up trash,” said Mary.

Nomadland had a crew of 25 compared to hundreds with a typical Hollywood film. They filmed in various locations, including western Nebraska.

After its release, the movie quickly gained attention and Mary's family was very proud.

“My mom and I actually masked up and went and saw Nomadland in IMAX when it did a limited run here in Dallas and we were standing and cheering in the completely empty theater,” Mary’s brother, Jim, said.

Nomadland received six Academy Award nominations and last Sunday, won three, including best actress, best director, and best picture.

“I think that Fran's story and a lot of the other nomads’ stories in the film connect to people on a multitude of levels,” said Mary.

Mary is only 27 years old — and Nomadland is proof of a bright future ahead.

“A lot of people strive their whole careers to have an Oscar and it’s so cool and I’m very thankful,” said Mary.

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