Interview With Actress/Filmmaker Carolyn Bridget Kennedy (And a Review of “Super Speed Dates”)

By Ruth on January 31, 2018 in Interview, movie, television
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Some time ago, an intriguing actress crossed my path, and I instantly sought her out for an interview. Due to a variety of circumstances, she and I chose to do an email interview, but it was an amazing introduction to the wonder that is Carolyn Bridget Kennedy. As I have continued to follow her career, she was kind enough to invite me to update our interview many months ago (one of the few times I forgot an interview, and she had to remind me!), and since that time, she has patiently waited for me to post our informative chat. Since I have finally moved past Christmas and Winterfest, I am ecstatic to at long last share this updated interview I was privileged to conduct with the vivacious and insanely talented Carolyn!

RH: Thank you, Carolyn, for your patience with me! Things have been crazy, and I’m so glad we are able to chat today.

CBK: Ruth, it is my pleasure. I know how things can get really busy.

I know the last time we weren’t able to talk, so it’s nice to make this connection this time. Since we last spoke, not only have I gotten to watch Danger Pay, but I have recently watched Super Speed Dates as well.

I’m so glad, Ruth! There were six episodes of Danger Pay for season one.

I loved what I saw! Sometimes with a web series, people think it’s not going to be very professional or maybe it’s not good enough to make it on regular TV, but I thought this series was great and very well-done. While I didn’t know what to expect when I first started watching, I thought Danger Pay was funny, quirky, and entertaining. 

Thank you very much. I’m actually sitting in the office right now where the filming took place. And of course, we wrote the show, designing it around the ability to shoot everything in our own house to keep the budget down. We got quite creative. Like in episode five in particular, I think we used all three floors of the house and different zones of the house. In another scene, we had a coffee shop, and the coffee shop is actually my basement. Everything had been left from the day before when we were shooting my short film, Super Speed Dates, where it had been made to look like a lounge. But we came up with a way to make it look like a coffee shop. It is original and interesting, and we have found ways to use the entire house for different purposes. But it’s been good because we have been able to shoot four episodes in a two-day time block and not have to switch locations. This way, we can keep a pretty close filming schedule without having to worry about multiple setups.

How many awards has Danger Pay received so far?

The series has received a total of four awards so far and has received some incredible nominations. In addition to recognition at the LA Webfest, New York Webfest and others, we were nominated for best fiction web series at the forty-third annual Alberta Film and Television Awards, which is essentially like the Alberta Oscars. For the entire province, all projects that are made for the year are considered for these awards, and out here, that’s where they are acknowledged.  It was a privilege to be nominated for that especially with this being our first-time project as well.

It is amazing how creative you have become with doing independent film and TV. You find ways to keep the budget down while still creating a quality product. The ingenuity of indie filmmakers impresses me. I don’t know if the typical viewer is always aware of what indie filmmakers have to do on a regular basis. 

You have to do it. You know, Super Speed Dates is in festival circuits now, and it’s received thirteen total awards and laurels so far, including an Award of Merit from Canada Shorts Film Festival and a nomination for Best International Short Comedy Film at Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase. I think it’s interesting how you can work within your parameters when you come up with an idea. We initially had lots of problems with finding places that would allow us to film. It would have either meant shooting at night when they were closed or paying a heavy premium to use their location. So instead we set-decorated our entire basement to look like this lounge. We chose lighting that would work, little panels to make it look more intricate. It was all filmed in the basement in one day. We did the set decorating, rented tables, set everything up, and we were creative with the lighting and the shots to give it that illusion of a lounge.

I think I learned a lot while I was listening to the advice of independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, one who is famous for what he has accomplished. He used what he had on hand, and he wrote, shot and DP’d his own production based on what he had. So I developed that way of thinking. “How can I make this happen with what I’ve got?” And I’ve had to apply that to every production that I’ve done because in the beginning, funds are not there, but you still want to create something that looks good.

When you’re first starting out, it’s not easy. You have to get known and get a bit of a reputation because you’re up against a lot of competition. Even when we have grants and such available here in Alberta and Canada-wide, the competition is so tight. There’s a lot of filmmakers that have been in the business a long time and they may already have several projects under their belt. In the beginning, I don’t think anybody is going to be coming to give you money to go and make something. I think it’s really important to take that initiative and say, “Okay, so this is what I can make with nothing.” {laughs}

Interestingly enough, when it comes to getting a project finished, I think there is a statistic floating around that says of independent projects, only twenty percent of them actually get completed and seen. When you see what a curve it is and what a long process it is, I think it’s very easy for people to either get frustrated or lose interest or motivation partway through or to allow the number of things that come up as roadblocks to defeat you. Instead, you have to say, “Okay, this is the next problem. How do we fix this? How do we overcome this?” And then once it’s actually shot, you have to go through post-production and get your composing done and your color-grading done and get the whole thing cut the way you want it. Sometimes people might realize that they don’t have the footage they need, so they drop the project at that point.

It’s a big, big undertaking, but I think once you get a few things done on your own, then people respect that. And they can see it. With episodes three to six of Danger Pay, for example, our production value increased a little bit. Things got a little bit better. The acting got a little bit better. It’s like most sitcoms you see on TV. It usually takes till the end of the first season or the second season for shows to hit their stride and figure out exactly what they are.

You are exactly right. I remember when watching the first one, I thought, “This is good and it has potential.” And then with each one, they got progressively better. I think people sometimes forget that when a new series comes on TV, the first episode might not grab your attention, but you have to stick with it. You often have to get through that first episode and go onto the second one before things start making sense. 

Exactly. I’m working on developing Danger Pay now as a TV pilot, so I’m going back to these successful sitcom series and watching the first episodes.  If you go back to a show like The Office or Seinfeld or Friends, by the end, you know who the characters are. But if you watch the pilot, you can see glimpses of what their character is, but it seems like the actors themselves sometimes aren’t even very sure of who their character is yet. They’re saying the lines that are very much in line with their character, but you’re not feeling it the same way as you do by the end of season one. By the end of that first season, they’re in that groove. The characters have found their way. The show is gelling and they’re interacting with each other, and you can see where it goes.

I’m so glad you’re working on developing Danger Pay for TV. I was planning to ask you about that as a matter of fact. 

I’m preparing a few things. I’m preparing to shoot season two of Danger Pay, but that is currently on hold for the moment. The plan was to shoot season two in May of last year, but with the nominations and the awards, there was no feasible way I could cast Danger Pay, produce it, learn my lines and do everything that needed to be done.

So we pushed the shoot. Our director is my mentor who works with me in filmmaking and he lives a portion of the year in Africa. We were going to try to do the shoot when he was back next in Canada; we had hoped in August or September of last year, but we are still holding off. We’ve got a block of episodes for season two. Our plan has been to shoot six episodes and do the full season at once.

What I’ve discovered is that developing the show for television is very interesting. When you start to write the episode for a TV pilot, you find out very quickly that you can’t just take a web series and make it longer and straightaway turn it into a television show. It’s not the same thing. It’s like if you took a play word-for-word and just filmed it, it wouldn’t work as a film. Or if you took a novel and wrote it out word-for-word and shot it, it would not work. You need to adapt it and translate it so it works for the medium. So there’s a lot more backstory going on with Michelle. I think the focus of the story is going to be a little bit more on how she got herself into this predicament of taking this job in the first place. And of course, developing more of her world and who her universe is outside of the office in addition to the antics at the office. The office and the workspace also have more characters and more storylines involved, so it will be very interesting. You’ll see some resemblances, but we’ve kind of figured out some of these things through doing the web series. But I think the web series is going to be its own identity. And once it’s turned into a TV series, although it’s based on Danger Pay, it’s probably going to look completely different.

I don’t believe I ever asked you where the idea for Danger Pay came from.

Well, initially, I started off with The Bridget Linden Show, and I did that in my own back in 2012. I think it currently has over 860,000 views on YouTube. So with having a little bit of success shooting something by myself and acting in it by myself and doing everything alone, I knew I had to move on to whatever the next step was.

Living in Alberta, we have one major production shooting here now which is Heartland. As an actor, our provinces actually divide us where we cannot act in other provinces unless you build up a name that’s large enough that they will cast you and be willing to lose the tax credit for filming. For example, if my postal code was in BC, I could act on any production that was in BC, and they would get a thirty percent tax credit on my salary. But because I live here, they just go across the board and say that they are only hiring Vancouver talent for these projects with the exception of stars that fly in from LA or Toronto. So you are in a position that unless you’re going to upheave your life and move, the alternative is to build a bigger name for yourself and create your own roles. Heartland is a CBC family show geared towards a younger demographic, and I’m a woman that doesn’t quite fit into what they are looking for,  so there aren’t really any roles in the show for me. There aren’t gonna be comedy roles here for me either. So if I wanted to do comedy, I needed to write my own.

With that thought, I decided to learn how to write. I wrote episodes and worked through the scripts with my mentor. If you have scripts written, that’s fine, but nobody will see them unless you shoot them. So I then decided I had to produce them. We initially shot Danger Pay–just the first two episodes. At that point, it was hard to find crew who were willing to work on a first-time bigger production for me. Yes, I had some success on YouTube, but it was a completely different beast. It was now a scripted show with other actors and we needed a crew. Initially, I found a couple of students who were willing to come help, but they didn’t really know how to operate the camera. The sound had a lot of problems. So things weren’t working out quite as well as I’d hoped.

But getting episode one done and shot and put online and then getting a best pilot nomination–that changed everything. That nomination came before we shot episodes three to six. I already had people realizing that I got an episode finished, and I had a well-respected DP who was willing to work on my projects. This guy has over two hundred credits of feature films, commercials, TV pilots and more to his name. So it lent a lot to the project to have him on board. I added a qualified sound person. And it seems like everything went up a notch. But it seems like people put faith in you when they see you’re willing to do it anyway despite whatever obstacles come your way.

And now with season two greenlit even though we’re currently on hold, I have sent out emails inviting people back. It was great to see I had across the board unanimous “yeses” from everyone. Everyone said, “I will be there.” It shows how you gel, you create a team, you build this atmosphere of gratitude. I paid everyone an honorarium out of my own pocket to be a part of the show. We made sure we had hot food and craft services and supplies here all day for everybody. We fed them beef brisket and scalloped potatoes–good food from a local grocery store–hot catered food. We made sure we looked after everybody well and did what we could with what we had. I think that goes a long way in treating people with respect and appreciating their time that they’re dedicating to our project.

I am so glad you told me all that. I had no idea about the Canadian system that exists between the provinces. 

In the U.S., I guess it works differently. I know that obviously, people who are in LA prefer the cast to be in LA, but when talent has the option of a bigger name, then, of course, they’re gonna fly in Steve Carell from wherever he lives. As far as hiring a person who is relatively unknown and doesn’t have a lot of film credits, they’re not gonna look outside the province and forfeit their percentage of the wages being returned. And then dealing with travel, they, of course, have to pay your travel. I think the approach has even been for people in Alberta that they agree to pay their travel expenses to go there and to pay them as a local, but the answer is still usually “no.” Unless you have lived here at least three months, they are not interested in casting outside. And what do you say at that point? “Okay, I live in Alberta, so I’m just gonna throw my dream out the window.” Or do you say, “Oh, this makes it interesting. Now I just have to kick it up a notch. I’ll make things happen.”

So that’s what I did. Through the experiment and excitement of learning how to write and shooting it and watching it come together, I’ve fallen in love with all the aspects of it. It’s probably a happy accident to not have hundreds of projects shooting here and having multiple auditions a day. It’s probably a good thing that I can do this. I also think it makes a really big shift in an actor’s mindset that they’re becoming less of a needy actor who is needing to be seen or cast in someone else’s project. It gives you an added confidence because you now have this other skillset you’re using and you have ways to consume your time so that your mind isn’t wandering on about why certain things aren’t happening for you. Instead, you are making your own luck, and you’re making your own good fortune out of doing it that way. It’s definitely tough. I am certainly not gonna say that it’s easy. But it’s definitely been worth it for me.

I think your perspective is exactly right. I know other actors pretty well who go to three auditions a day and become very needy because they’re not getting the roles they want and sometimes need. All too often, they end up taking a job that they really don’t want because they need the money. But it sounds like you are following your dreams anyway and making it happen. I greatly respect you for that. Now, I know you mentioned Super Speed Dates. Is the hope for this short to eventually be in distribution?

With a short film, I think distribution is something that doesn’t really exist. You’re never gonna make money with a short film. A short film is done really for a learning exercise for you. It’s also kind of a bit of calling card. You’re able to show on a lower level what you could do if you have the budget to do a feature film. Much like a web series is a calling card now for a series idea or concept. So a short film is kind of broken down on a lower budget to demonstrate something. I definitely wanted to have a film under my belt.

It kind of started with a group project idea. My mentor asked me and the rest of the group to write something that all the actors in the core group could be a part of and shoot. I presented the script by the deadline, and he read my script, and he chose my script out of the entire group. So that was the one that was shot. I had two actors that traveled from Saskatchewan for this production and one from Edmonton. So kind of across these provinces, they came along, and we did this shoot in one day. Five of the people were in the group in addition to me, but I needed two others. So we went through the casting process, and I made breakdowns and I put out breakdowns and watched auditions. I chose which actors I felt would play the parts. It was really interesting to see how that came together because sometimes I had somebody in mind for one of the roles, but when I actually watched the audition, I couldn’t see the character there. And so it was really unique to see things that way.

Having said that, in addition to creating roles for myself, this obviously creates roles for a whole bunch of other people. Eleven people had speaking roles in this production, and for some, it was their first role. And now some have ended up with a role on Fargo for season three. Yes, that’s true; one of my actors who played Robin in my film was in episode one, season three of Fargo. So it’s kind of giving roles for a lot of other people that maybe wouldn’t have this opportunity if these independent productions weren’t getting made.

I’m happy to announce that Super Speed Dates will be released on February 13, 2018, to my YouTube channel.  People can subscribe to www.youtube.com/carolynbkennedy to be sure they don’t miss it.

I wouldn’t normally ask about the distribution of a short film, but lately, I’ve been hearing how that is changing. Some indie filmmakers are distributing short films. 

For me, I really like the online platform. For me with Bridget, it did well. And I have a great relationship with social media. So for me, this film at best will be my gift to the internet. I want to put it online, and I want people to see it. I’m not concerned with making forty-nine cents or ninety-nine cents per view. I made this, and I’m happy I got it done. It’s getting through some festivals and being seen there and earning a few accolades. Once it’s done the festival run, my intention is to put it online for free so that people can enjoy it and see what I was able to figure out to do in my basement with one day of shooting.

I loved what you said about taking care of your cast and crew when they were filming Danger Pay.  That gives me great insight into you as a person because you are taking care of the physical needs of these people. I don’t always hear that. Not every independent film project has that kind of positive environment. I think you went above and beyond what I hear from the typical indie film. And I love seeing that you’re giving other people an opportunity to act and get their name out there. Not everyone is willing to do that.

When you think about it, you are having this project that is going on, and everybody that is there is needed and contributing in some way to making it happen. It wouldn’t happen without everybody that comes out. If you don’t appreciate that, word travels on that as well. It’s a small industry and people talk. I don’t want to have a reputation for not respecting and appreciating people for giving of their time. I don’t think they should be out gas money or out entirely everything. Yes, I can’t pay union rates, but if I have an idea and I’m making something that I’m filming and it’s my writing and my idea, certainly people should get something for that as a thank-you and appreciation. Everybody can dig a little deep in their pockets to do something.

And even with our crew–I think with our assistant camera it was maybe his second project he had been on, and here he is working with this DP who’s done two hundred projects, and he got to work as an assistant camera with this person. Or the director I worked with, Neil {Schell}. He’s directed one hundred twenty episodes of television in Africa, so he’s bringing a wealth of experience. It was interesting to see how everyone benefits from it and it is a learning process for everyone. But it’s highly professionally-run, quick-paced, and we’re getting the job done.

In episodes one and two of Danger Pay, we were struggling a bit, but with episodes three to six, there were moments where the DP couldn’t look into the camera because he was laughing so hard. And the director was trying to hold back his laughter. There’s a scene I believe in episode five…there’s a scene that goes over the scrolling credits, but it’s filmed from outside the house looking into the office at what happens. There’s just music running over it. Neill, the director, called “action” and there was stuff going on in the office that was ridiculous. He yelled “cut” and all five people on the lawn were on the grass laughing because they couldn’t take what they had just observed through the window. It creates this really good energy and you can almost feel the magic of what is happening when everybody is contributing their own creativity to just make it even better. It’s a very exciting feeling.

So is there anything else you can tease that is coming up for you?

Well, we’re just getting ready for season two of Danger Pay which is shaping up to do really well. We’ll have some more shaping and revisions to do for the script which often happens as we get closer to production and as we do read-throughs. There are always things you want to make better. And as I mentioned, filming for season two is currently on hold.

And as I pitch Danger Pay for a TV pilot, that involves a bit of shaping there as well. I’m pitching it as a half-hour comedy, but I’m sure it will still need some shaping and work and that’s always a lengthy process. Then I have to come up with a story arc for season one and hopefully for additional seasons. That takes a lot of time, and so that is my priority. I’m planning on doing some pitching, and when you are pitching something, you really have to have everything ready to go.

Having said that, however, I do plan on doing another short film, hopefully within the next six months to a year. I do have a few features that are burning on me right now to write. It’s just finding the time to do that. I’m thinking of working on an additional series as well, but I can’t really comment on them until I get them sorted out.

And the most exciting thing is that in March, I am making the permanent move to LA!

Huge congrats, Carolyn! You must be so excited! {pause} I like the fact that you are so organized about this pilot pitching process. I have seen people do that process in a much more haphazard way, and as you can imagine, they have not been too successful.

When you’re pitching in front of a network, executive or broadcaster, you want to give them a reason to say “yes.” Give them something original or that’s a unique viewpoint that they haven’t seen before. And they want to see that you’ve done the work to flesh it out. You don’t just go, “This is the pilot.” They want to know where it’s going.

At the end of the day, the pilot you’re pitching and the pilot you’re actually going to make are probably going to be very different. But at least they have a starting point, and they can tell that you’ve given some thought and spent a little bit of time in consideration. You know a little bit about the characters’ voices, and you’ve seen a little bit of their journey and they can see the overall story and the message of what you’re trying to do. Everyone can have an idea and say that they want to make a story about this or that. That’s great, but a developed idea is an entirely different thing.

Carolyn, I am so excited for everything that is happening for you! You are truly an inspiration, and I can’t thank you enough for chatting with me today!

Ruth, it was my pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and to feature me on your site.

 

As far as I’m concerned, Carolyn is one phenomenal woman with talents and skills that would put many in the mainstream business to shame, at least, in my humble opinion. Carolyn has labored tirelessly for years to make her visions a reality, and she has never given up in spite of the numerous obstacles that have been hurled her way. In her position, a less tenacious and committed person may have thrown in the towel long ago or compromised the dreams within her heart and soul so that she could attain some semblance of success within the entertainment universe. The fact that she has stuck to her guns and done things “her way” is proof to everyone within the industry that she is an artist that will persevere and think outside of the box on a regular basis in order to produce the kind of content she enjoys and suits her tastes and unique talents. The fact that she has produced so much wonderful content that has been recognized domestically and internationally is a true testament to her as a professional and as an artist, and I am incredibly excited for what is yet to come for this fantastic and charismatic woman!

So please take a moment and check out some of the links below that Carolyn has so graciously provided for you. While some may consider web series and independent works subpar, I can personally attest to the fact that the quality of Carolyn’s work is on the same level as some shows and films that pop up in our TV schedule on a regular basis. Carolyn has worked hard to develop her own brand, and I can only hope that once she arrives in LA that her star will only continue its steady ascent towards the actualization of the veritable menagerie of her hopes and dreams!

FOLLOW CAROLYN

IMDb:  www.imdb.me/carolynbridgetkennedy

Watch Demo Reel

 Website     YouTube     Funny or Die

 

Social Media Verified Accounts

Twitter @CarolynBKennedy

Instagram @CarolynBKennedy

Facebook Profile

Facebook Fan Page

 

Watch “Danger Pay” Comedy Webseries on YouTube & Funny or Die (www.dangerpayseries.com) 

Watch “Super Speed Dates” Short Comedy Film Teaser on YouTube (www.superspeeddates.com)

Watch “The Bridget Linden Show Webseries on YouTube (www.bridgetlinden.com)

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MY BRIEF REVIEW OF SUPER SPEED DATES
I was especially honored when Carolyn agreed to permit me to review her award-winning short film Super Speed Dates, and while it is a short film, I can attest to the fact that it was well worth the several minutes I spent enjoying this work of hers.

First of all, I would have never thought that this film was shot in one day in her basement! While it may not look like a big network or studio shot it, the camera work is solid and instantly sets the mood for the environment of this quirky tale.

If you have ever heard of the phenomenon of “speed dating,” this is probably a perfect example of why a woman (or a man) may not choose to take a chance on this unusual form of dating. While the group of women seems willing to give this speed dating a try, their experiences are uproariously funny and often relatable. The women relate their experiences through real-time sharing with each other as well as a set of flashbacks to the actual dating scenarios. Indeed, I found this a fun style to recount this story.The guys seem to be the ones who are mysterious and desperate. In fact, the only criticism I have is that I would like to have this same story told from the perspective of the men. Why is it that only the women get to ask the questions? The simple answer to that is that this is a film that is told from the female perspective, and as we are still in such dire need of more women in film, I won’t complain too vehemently about this.

When Carolyn releases this film next month, I would recommend that you take some time and check out this unconventional but entertaining film. It doesn’t include any profanity, sex, or violence, but adult themes are explored and alluded to. It is possible that sensitive viewers might struggle with the film, but I seriously doubt that it will be a major barrier. I can hardly wait for another film from the delightful and witty Carolyn Bridget Kennedy!

About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

1 Comment

  1. denise February 1, 2018 Reply

    Wow! Really impressive woman!

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