Learning To Focus On Success – Kelley Kali

Filmmaking is a discipline that requires not just hard work but also passion. A filmmaker has to reach deep down into their soul, giving all to their craft. The filmmaker has to be sensitive enough to explore humanity through their craft and be strong enough to helm the project to the finish line. From the very inception of the idea to eventually putting out the final cut, the filmmaker has to go through the high heavens and the deepest pits of hell. Many low points in the lifetime of a film project may come that seem like the final straw, the death knell, the last breath of the project, but through sheer force of will, the filmmaker carries the project through to the finish line. 

Although filmmakers call the process of the craft their lifelong passion, nevertheless it is not for the faint of heart. The filmmaking process takes a lot from the maker of the film. The craft demands a lot from the filmmaker, and rightly so. With so many parts that need to be working in perfect order, or at the very least agreeably, the filmmaker has a lot on their plate. All these gears have to sync up properly for the process to work smoothly from the narrative to cinematography, sound or audio, and from mise-en-scene to editing. 

When a project comes to fruition, it is the most intensely excruciating time for the filmmaker, as their baby is all done and ready to be presented to the world. They have put all of their passion, creativity, and energy into the project, and they are happy with their work; but will the audience love it the same way? And with all of these pressures, being a female filmmaker makes the experience even more daunting. It is even tougher for women filmmakers because they have to carve out a place for themselves in an industry dominated by male directors. They also have to fight against stereotypes and constantly have to prove their worth. But now, things are changing for the better, and many women filmmakers have proven their mettle. Many up-and-coming female directors are also making their names in the market.

One such rising star in filmmaking is Kelley Kali. Although up and coming may sound misleading, as Kelley Kali has already done some great work in the television and film industry. Kelley Kali was born and raised in Northridge, California. Graduating from the prestigious Howard University as well as USC School of Cinematic Arts, Kelley Kali started with a stint at National Geographic Television and Film, kicking off her professional career in TV and filmmaking. From there, Kelley Kali went on to direct a TV series titled ‘Noh Matta Wat’ in Belize. She added to her burgeoning filmmaking career by directing the BTS (behind the scenes) for ‘Prince Among Slaves,’ a PBS production. Another one of her noteworthy contributions to filmmaking was as a co-director in a James Franco-led production titled ‘The Adventures of Thomasina Sawyer.’ She then went on to co-write, direct, and produce ‘Lalo’s House,’ a short film, which won Kelley Kali the Silver medal, at the 45th Student Academy Awards, in the narrative category.

By the time Covid 19 pandemic set in, the film world came to a screeching halt. But not for Kelley Kali, as she produced, wrote, and starred in her seminal feature film. ‘I’M FINE (Thank You For Asking)’ made the industry recognize her as a filmmaker. The premise of the feature film also mirrored her own career, as it talks about showing resilience in the face of adversity. The story depicts the hardships faced by a recently widowed young woman, who, along with her 8-years-old daughter, loses her home and has to face a lot of struggles finding a permanent home for both of them. 

More recently, Kelley Kali, along with another filmmaker, Waad al-Kateab, have been selected for the 2021 Academy Gold Fellowship for Women as the domestic and international recipients, respectively. This selection is a part of the Academy Gold, a global talent development and inclusion initiative. The initiative is a one-year program that encourages emerging women filmmakers to further their careers through direct financial support, personalized mentorship, and unhindered access to networking opportunities. 

Filmmaking is a process that is not unlike the clock’s inner workings. Each part needs to work precisely to make the whole process work. A filmmaker has to do fine-tuning in all sections of film production to keep the process moving toward a finish line. There are many examples of great filmmaking endeavors that stalled along the way due to the filmmaker losing focus. So, the lesson that filmmaking teaches, ultimately, is never to lose focus. Kelley Kali has undoubtedly followed the advice and has made a place for herself.

Written by Monella