Last night I attended the first day of the AMC Kansas City Film Festival’s short form program. The films on display crossed genres and ranged from issues of impotence to tales of the loss and survival of US Veterans.
One of the films of the short program, cumulatively titled People Like Us, was director Patrick Rae’s Hell Week, a disturbing yet captivating tale of revenge, written by the multi-talented Michelle Davidson.
Michelle was kind enough to speak with me by email earlier this month about balancing the various aspects of her career and the tools and technologies she utilizes to facilitate a career based out of Kansas City.
As an actor/producer/writer/reporter/organization leader, Michelle’s work is emblematic of the multi-disciplinary paths sustained by many Kansas City artists. Michelle began her career as a reporter, graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. While she currently acts as host of KCTV5’s CinemaKC, a weekly series profiling the Kansas City film community, her focus on writing has turned to a more creative form, writing screenplays that have come to life both in festivals and online.
Along with Erin McGrane, Meagan Flynn, Tasha Smith and Jennifer Plas, Michelle created the webseries, The Unreal Housewives of Kansas City, winning a Mid-America EMMY® for Writing/Producing/Acting.
Making her directorial debut, Michelle wrote, produced and stared in the film, Ready to Pop, co-directed by MileDeep Films‘ Anthony Ladesich and screened in festivals in LA, Houston, Palm Beach, Chicago, Tulsa, Omaha and KC.
More people are seeing our films on their computer than at film festivals. It’s exciting that I can share a short film on a phone, I-pad, computer or at a film festival. Either way, it’s showcasing all of the people that came together to make a film. It makes me proud to create something entertaining that is consumable in so many new and exciting ways. It’s a great way to market your talents without real limitations.
In our interview, Michelle pointed to the need to differentiate between her job as actor, writer and producer. “People sometimes get confused when you present yourself in a variety of roles… I try my best to be versatile.”
Michelle is also the current President of KCWIFT – Kansas City Women in Film and Television, “an organization of women and men with the goal of helping women to make films and tell their stories & to promote them in the entertainment industry.”
One of the benefits of the KCWIFT is its ability to help promote its membership through their website.
Sometimes it’s uncomfortable promoting yourself online, but I can promote another filmmaker through KCWIFT’s social media without it coming across as bragging. It’s great to have organizations that support artists’ efforts to promote their screenings and events.
In an interview for the KC Film Festival, Michelle points to the focus of the organization to bring that online discourse, offline.
Our primary goal in the last six months has been to be more visible so that people are talking, that they know the organization exists. Networking is the most important thing that you can do in independent film & TV in Kansas City – the more people that come to events (seminars, workshops, showcases), the more we can introduce female filmmakers to those people.
As President of Kansas City Women in Film & Television, Michelle was recently featured Google’s national “Get Your Business Online” campaign.
The impact of Youtube, Vimeo and other social media sites on the Kansas City film community is not lost on Michelle.
Advances in technology have helped independent filmmakers get their work seen. People are talking about films they saw on Youtube or Vimeo. I personally enjoy watching [these sites] stats for viewers of films. It’s thrilling to see people around the world are watching your film online. There are great platforms to distribute films to a mass audience, but the problem comes in translating that into monetary success.
I utilize social media, my agency’s web site and my personal website everyday to promote myself as an actor and performer. I’m also booking more jobs without leaving my house, because clients can see my reel and resume online.
While the work being produced in the area does not reach the scale of the major markets, the area continues to supply opportunities for artists to generate their own work and grow the community – opportunities like the AMC Kansas City Film Fest, presented by the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee, which this year is being screened not only on three screens at the AMC Mainstreet downtown but at the AMC Ward Parkway in Johnson County Kansas, a move festival programmer, Jeph Scanlon, hopes will help the films reach a broader audience. ““Kansas City has had a growing arts community for years. The time has come for KC FilmFest to take its place among all the other wonderful arts venues and events.”
The future, it seems, is being dictated by artists like Michelle, who are harnessing Kansas City’s close-knit relationships of artists rather than look at the area’s location as a roadblock to creativity. “Collaboration is the key,” Michelle says, to the community’s success. “We utilize performers, art designers, cinematographers, composers, editors and many more types of artists to create short films and television shows and in order to continue, we need a variety of talented people.”
Fostering this new talent is important to Michelle, who credited Kansas City filmmakers Vicky Bates, Aaron Laue, Patrick Rea and Anthony Ladesich in her film fest interview for mentoring her in her career. “They’ve been so helpful and have given me opportunities to discover my talents, whether they be in acting, writing, producing or directing. I want others to have that experience – I’d like to do for them what so many people in KC have done for me so far.”
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the film and television production community in Kansas City,” said Michelle, at the end of our interview. “It’s great to see how many people are making films and web series in our community that are entertaining, imaginative and inventive. I have high hopes for the Kansas City art community.”