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Movie Producer Kristin West: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker

Big dreams require big, bold choices. Leave nothing on the table and give your all. One time, I made a zany, over-the-top choice in an audition. It landed me a role. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way. What keeps me going is knowing that I didn’t hold back.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kristin West, an award-winning actress, director, host and movie producer. Her first feature, “The Central Authority,” is currently screening at film festivals nationwide. She was also honored to be an “Indie Auteur Ambassador” at this year’s Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival. In addition to her film and TV pursuits, she currently has been tapped to host a live streaming talk show on the Pococha app, one of Japan’s most successful live streaming apps, which has just debuted in the United States.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town. My mother was a single mother and I was loved and supported by her and my grandparents in all my aspirations. My mother and grandparents were my first coaches in life.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

One of the highlights of my school year was competing in one-act-play competitions. Doing well in these annual competitions was my passion. As I neared college, I realized that this passion for competition could translate to making a name for myself in the entertainment marketplace.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

When you act in horror movies, there is a trope of beautiful women getting killed in bathrooms. I have spent a good amount of time in horror movies in bathroom scenes. However, I do the killing! I am usually not the damsel in distress.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I meet so many talented and passionate professionals as part of my daily life. I had the privilege of meeting Robert Zemeckis and his talented wife Leslie Zemeckis, both of whom are directors. Seeing them at a premiere, celebrating each other and Leslie’s work, “Mabel, Mabel Tiger Trainer” was inspiring to me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Early in my career, I had an administrator of an acting school tell me I had no talent. It was shocking. Many people would have let that shut them down. It hurt at first, but I turned that pain into motivation. Several awards later, several TV and movie appearances later, I know I have talent and I don’t need anyone’s approval to be who I truly am and do what I am called to do. You must believe in yourself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When you’re going through hell, keep going” Winston Churchill

This quote by Winston Churchill was particularly relevant when Armin Nasseri and I were editing “The Central Authority”. Editing a movie is a challenge. Editing remotely, socially distanced, during a pandemic was a new level of challenge. During the social justice protests in Los Angeles, Armin and I were editing a challenging scene. Our phones were buzzing with notices about increasing unrest in our neighborhoods and suddenly, there was an earthquake. We kept editing. We didn’t let anything stop us from our goal.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

As culture creators, we have a responsibility to accurately reflect the society we serve. America is a melting pot. It has been since its inception. This idea that America is a monolith or there is only one, true way to be an American is a lie and as artists, we have to commit to conveying the truth.

Secondly, as we have an artistic duty to convey the truth, we also have a responsibility to teach. Entertainment products — TV and movies — are the modern myths, fables and fairy tales of our society. When we commit to portraying diversity in the media, we are teaching tolerance.

Finally, diversity benefits everyone. Can you imagine your life without tacos, pizza, soul food, or great chow mein? Entertainment is a product just like other products and we have more to enjoy when we share our stories — much like we share our food.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We are developing sequels and prequels of “The Central Authority”. I am also developing other content and hosting a live streaming show daily on Pococha, a Japanese live streaming app that has just debuted in the United States.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

I am very proud of everyone who worked on “The Central Authority”. Our team banded together, safely, and remotely to create a feature film. Our actors were in different states and different continents and worked together in a challenging time when many people felt it was impossible to make a movie, much less a feature film. Our team was fully committed to testing and experimenting with existing technologies to achieve contactless, virtual production — and we managed to entertain people too, which is always wonderful. It has won awards at every film festival that it has screened at, which is extremely exciting.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You’re never going to feel ready when you’re ready. One of the biggest challenges I had was hosting live radio for the first time with Judy Goss on LA Talk Radio. I had never been on live radio before. However, I had valuable training in speaking and improvisation that helped me be on the air. Judy invested a great deal of faith in my ability, and I discovered that I could do live radio. I could have never guessed that I would have done two hundred hours of interviews, but I have.
  2. Not everyone is going to love or approve of you. Rejection happens every day in Hollywood. There are so many reasons things do not go your way. At the end of the day, not everyone will appreciate you or what you have to offer. What is important is that you appreciate your talents and fight for your worth. Sometimes, a bad review happens. Sometimes you do not get into a film festival you have wanted to screen at. When you are putting your work out in public, you are not going to be able to satisfy everyone.
  3. Remember your “why”. Remembering your “why” will keep you going when everything seems lost or you’re suffering from burnout. That’s gotten me through some very difficult moments in my career. I’ve had to perform and then board a plane to plan a funeral the next day. What kept me going during that and other difficulties was remembering my “why”, which is to give a voice to women and women’s issues through entertainment. When your “why” is strong and clear, not much can shake you.
  4. If you haven’t learned something, you failed. Every setback is an opportunity to learn. Failing happens when you don’t learn from a major challenge. When we were shooting “The Central Authority” we had a 20:1 shooting ratio. Some scenes didn’t come out as we had planned and envisioned. Every day, nearly every hour of shooting, we were learning something important. We didn’t get discouraged.
  5. Big dreams require big, bold choices. Leave nothing on the table and give your all. One time, I made a zany, over-the-top choice in an audition. It landed me a role. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way. What keeps me going is knowing that I didn’t hold back.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

In an ideal world, my work is a critical success, a financial success, and an art piece that I can be proud of. That’s the highest aspiration for anyone who is a professional artist. At the end of the day, all my work has a message that I can be proud of. That’s what matters most to me.

Not many people saw the potential for a pandemic-themed horror-comedy during the COVID lockdowns. This was an artistic risk, but my team and I felt that there was no better time to take a risk and use a disruptive approach to making movies. We gave ourselves full permission to fail when making “The Central Authority” because we were dealing with a difficult topic in an untraditional way. Not everyone will appreciate this movie. We wanted to challenge and entertain the audience at the same time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

We need more investment in women filmmakers. I’d like to start an incubator that develops and funds women filmmakers. Now, that seems like a fringe issue, but the way we communicate about women, women’s issues and women’s stories has been dominated by men. If we can get women’s issues front and center in women’s own voices, we can have a global impact.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I’d love to sit down with Ashley Graham. She’s a bold body positivity advocate. It would be a privilege to sit down with her and discuss body positivity, how she became more body positive and discuss the areas of challenge that women are still experiencing. It’s been a long journey for me to feel good in my body and Ashley’s leadership on this issue inspires me.

How can our readers further follow you online?

My website is kristinwestblog.com

Twitter: @thekristinwest

Facebook: @kristinwestactress

Instagram: @thekristinwest

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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