Fast Forward Style: An interview with Kari Kennon



When did you realize that you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I think from young age I would walk out of a movie theatre and think to myself “look at me doing nothing with my life. I’m 8 years old but I need to figure out how to live an epic life.” When I was a freshman in college, I remember coming across a behind the scenes book of the making of the new “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”(2005) movie and I thought wouldn’t it be cool to immerse yourself in a world with a team of people for a sustained period of time in cool costumes.

When did you make your first film and what was it like to work on your first film project?

“Charlie” was shot in 2018. I wrote it and directed it and acted in it. It went to two festivals. I learned that it’s not easy or feasible to act in your own film. It was a commemoration of Charlie Bethel who was a theatre legend who acted on the fringe festival circuit doing one man shows of ancient tales such as “Gilgamesh” and “Beowulf”.

It was a way for me to lay the groundwork on how to get the three phases of production down. It was my first time to work with Colby Doler who edited and did visual effects and colorist work on it. Tommy Granville did the original music for it. We had a lot of extras in Natchitoches. I had to get production insurance for one of our locations and talk to city officials to get permission to film in the farmer’s market. We had a stilt walker and a juggler. It was ambitious and I probably bit off more than I could chew. It’s very hard to do justice to the memory of someone who was so ethereal, but Tom Zembrod was great and thanks to Anthony Gutierrez, my cinematographer, we were able to cast some really beautiful people who brought the story to life.

What kind of films inspired you as a director?

I love the story of Kuki Gallman as depicted in “I Dreamed of Africa”. That films brings you close to what Carl Jung would call the “numinous”. It’s the story of someone who hit rock bottom and then risked it all to live in Africa where she then lost her son and husband yet she still fights as a conservationist to protect wildlife. The sacredness of nature and the connection to the land that movie illustrates is something that I strive to recreate in some form or fashion in the future.

My other all time favorite movie is “I Heart Huckabees” which is vastly more irreverent but it poses a lot of spiritual questions in hilarious ways.

What genre of filmmaking are you trying to create in your work?

I think at this point, being in love with a comedian (David my boyfriend) and having a successful RomCom on the festival circuit is pointing me in the comedy direction. We want to use our improv skills to generate some sketches as a collective for “Shreveportlandia” which may be a web series.

Please name three of your most favorite directors?

a)Kyle Kleinecke

b.)Scott McEntire

c.)Charlie Kaufman

What were some of the challenges of making an independent film for you?

Making an experience relevant to other people and writing a script that speaks to other people even though it’s very personal about a guy you met at a Joseph Campbell conference in Atlanta in 2006. You only have so many credits with talented people – even if you can afford to pay something so you have to use those credits wisely. For me, there’s only a handful of themes or experiences to explore that are worth devoting the time and resources and human energy to.

We live in a very competitive film community in Louisiana and everyone is vying for the same actors and crew and equipment. The Louisiana Film Prize gives us a deadline which is essential however the competitiveness of making art can also suck a lot of the joy out of it unfortunately but I guess you have to take the good with the bad

Do you plan to continue working on indie films?

David and I are (knock on wood) shooting a Rom Com with some sci-fi elements next weekend as long as COVID-19 doesn’t mess up our plans.

Do you recommend film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?

I recommend film schools but I also recommend researching film festivals in your area and discovering via social media or other means where they are getting their content from and then thrusting yourself into a production assistant role. There’s literally hundreds of film festivals all over the world looking for content and if you or your kid is looking into a career in filmmaking, you need to be aware of that.

How challenging is it to distribute indie films and find an audience for short films?

Short films are a calling card for the director and reel material for the actors in my experience. Making money of short films doesn’t seem super feasible based on what I have learned so far. Making some good short films allows you a better chance to get paid for freelance work in my opinion – if the world ever gets back to normal.

'Fast Forward Style' is about finding love and dating but it is also a comedy. What was the inspiration behind the making of this film and the themes involved?

The script was written by my mother, Brenda Evans Kennon. It was inspired by our dear friend Melinda Jones who has been on a lot of dates after losing her husband several years ago. No one was aware of the source of the idea until the last day of filming when Melinda showed up at Bella Fresca to be an extra. I didn’t even know where the inspiration came from.

How can cinema improve the world and make it a better place?

Joseph Campbell talked about the need for ritual and a shared experience to insure the health of a community. I think we are running low on meaningful shared experiences. There are literally 7,397 churches in Louisiana and I can guarantee you even within one of those churches not two individuals have the same views. When we see a movie, we aren’t stuck contemplating something that happened 2,000 years ago in a land that we have no connection to. We are engaged in a reflection on something that is created in the world TODAY, possibly in our back yard- although of course some movies are about historical events. I think people need to watch movies about their own communities. Good stories show transformation within the protagonist and what we all need is to believe that transformation is possible in ourselves and in the world on a macro scale.

Why do you make films?

My ultimate goal is to bring what we are collectively unconscious of to light and films are a story telling medium that have the power to reveal and change us collectively.

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© Toronto Film Mag I 2020