KEPLEY is an award winning short neo-noir thriller centered around veteran detective, Gillian Kepley. During Kepley's investigation of a troubling missing persons case, hidden truths from her past are uncovered. The case pushes her beyond her limits and forces her to confront mistakes from her burdened life, ultimately leading her to discover peace and redemption.
Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant are accomplished directors and writers. Their last short film, Dominion, was accepted to several film festivals including the LA Shorts Film Festival (Oscar Qualifier), Cannes Short Corner, Calgary International Film Festival (Oscar Qualifier), and Orlando Film Festival. Additionally, they completed two commercial fashion campaigns in 2018 for Brandy Melville and J. Lindeberg. It was our pleasure to interview Michael and Stephanie.
Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant have also worked extensively as actors since moving to Los Angeles in 2009. Michael Grant starred as a series regular on the ABC Family teen drama SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER for many seasons. Additionally, he has had supporting roles on hit shows such as Brooklyn Nine Nine, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Pretty Little Liars, Criminal Minds, and many others. Outside of his work in television, Michael has starred in numerous feature films, winning a Young Artist Award for Best Actor in a feature for his role in Where Hope Grows (Roadside Attractions).
Stephanie Katherine Grant can currently be seen in her 8th season as recurring guest star, Emmy Mirsky, on ABC's hit comedy THE GOLDBERGS. She has also been cast in standout roles on shows such as STARZ’S Survivor’s Remorse, Criminal Minds, and Nickelodeon's Deadtime Stories. In addition to her TV work, Stephanie played a supporting role in the 2013 Cannes hit, Max Rose, playing the granddaughter of the legendary Jerry Lewis. For her work on The Goldbergs, she has won a Young Artist Award and Young Entertainer Award for Best Recurring Actress in a Television Show.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
We first started making films about 7 years ago. Having worked successfully as actors in the industry, we got our directing start making music videos and putting together lyrical short films. We wrote, directed, and produced our first short film, Dominion, released in 2016. It was a thriller centered around a young wall street executive who was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Michael was the lead in the film and also composed the score. We were thrilled that Dominion was accepted to six film festivals, including Oscar qualifiers Calgary International Film Festival and LA Short Film Festival.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Kepley?
SK: The inspiration from Kepley originally came from our love of detective noirs. One of my favorite films of all time (and best noir film, in my opinion) is Double Indemnity directed by Billy Wilder. I’ve always wanted to do a film in the “film noir” style and find a way to take the qualities that made the noirs of that era so unique, and modernize it. Once we started brainstorming ideas for the story, the characters of Detective Gillian Kepley and Detective David Logan really started to fall into place.
MG: The film was designed to function on multiple layers of meaning and understanding. The noir genre provided an ideal vehicle for many of the themes we were interested in exploring: redemption and loss and the like. Our goal was to have a very human story at the heart of a highly stylized genre piece.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker is trying to get projects made. The industry is all about connections and networking and it can be difficult for first-time filmmakers to make those contacts in order to get actors cast, pull a great crew together, and actually take the project all the way through production.
Independent filmmaking is all about being willing to do anything. It’s not particularly glamorous, but you have to be able to approach the set with no ego and work symbiotically with your team to create an amazing final product.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
SKG: It is so hard to name only three directors, and they are always changing! Currently, I’m really influenced by Alfred Hitchcock (And tied for first, Billy Wilder), David Fincher, and Christopher Nolan. I can watch Hitchcock’s films over and over again and always glean something new from every viewing. Vertigo continues to be just as an amazing masterpiece as the first time I saw it. And Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak give stellar performances. I think David Fincher is really the quintessential neo-noir director. He has such a smooth and artistic way of composing shots and storytelling through stillness and sound design.
If Alfred Hitchcock is the ‘master of suspense,’ Christopher Nolan is the ‘master of time.’ I am constantly in awe of how Nolan crafts stories of such physical magnitude, but feel so intimate in the development of characters. I think Interstellar is such a wonderful example of this dichotomy.
MG: I echo all of the above, and would add Terrence Malick, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu to the list, as well. There are so many phenomenal directors who have influenced our work, but these three have had a profound impact on our style of storytelling. Their ability to create macro environments out of the seemingly ordinary and everyday encounters continue to inspire us.
How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
The pre-production process of Kepley was quite long. We were in casting and prep for over a year before going into production in early 2020. Aaron Stanford (Detective David Logan) joined the cast first, and shortly after, Elizabeth Mitchell signed on and production really fell into place from there. The remaining supporting roles were cast by our fantastic casting director, Katrina Wandel George, and the crew was assembled by early 2020. We had about five weeks to prep in 2020 and spent the majority of pre-production shot listing with our cinematographer, Mark I. Davis, and location scouting in and around Los Angeles.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
So far, Kepley has received wonderful reviews and audience feedback. The film just won the Best Narrative Short and Best Cinematography awards at the Montreal Independent Film Festival. This film was a true labor of love and we are thrilled that it is connecting so positively with audiences. For distribution, our plan is to continue screening Kepley on our current festival run.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent short films?
As far as the making of the project goes, for us we really try to hone in on a singular vision. Without that, the project won’t have a guiding structure. With indie films in particular, the timelines are often so tight that we find the preparation and synchronicity between the cast and crew to be so key to successful shooting days. We have found the film festival route to be an effective means of distribution for our projects, but it really depends on the film and what is the right fit for the director/team.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
We are currently working on the feature adaptation of Kepley and are still in the middle of our festival run with the Montreal Independent Film Festival coming up in the fall. We are also in development for several other film projects at our production company, HarisGrant Productions, which are under wraps at the moment.
Why do you make films?
We truly believe that filmmaking is a way of life. We believe in the power of film to transform and touch the hearts of individuals. Through our filmmaking, we strive to create content that serves as a vehicle for love and truth. We both love the craft and medium of film immensely, but above all, strive to make honest work in every film we produce.