Kentucky Film Commission Interview

Here’s a brief interview that appeared in the latest Kentucky Film Commission Newsletter:

Why are you interested in the film industry in Kentucky?

I was born and raised in Northern Kentucky, and discovered my passion for film and TV as a student at the University of Kentucky.  But at that time, I found information, access, training and opportunities related to the entertainment industry to be limited statewide.  I love Kentucky, but had to leave it to pursue my dream. Luckily, things are changing now in Kentucky, and I want to do my part to help create new opportunities for aspiring filmmakers in the Commonwealth so their path can be easier than mine.

What is The Kentucky Film Lab?

KFL is a not- for-profit film education company I co-founded with Arthur Rouse, Mark Shepherd, and with the help of Kris Kimel and the IdeaFestival.  Our mission is to provide low-cost film education to interested Kentuckians, as well as access to world-class filmmakers. To date, we’ve held seven filmmaking workshops, training close to 1,000 aspiring artists, and bringing high-profile professionals into Kentucky.  KFL guests have included writer Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One, Castle), cinematographer Victor Kemper (ASC Lifetime Achievement Award-Winner), TV Writer/Producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (Friday Night Lights, CSI:NY), feature writer/Chair of USC’s Screenwriting Division Jack Epps, Jr. (Top Gun), actor/director Domenica Scorcese, game designer Jason Shankel (Spore), and producer Jon Landau (Avatar, Titanic). We received consecutive grants from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to fund our programs, and several years ago, building off KFL’s success, Arthur Rouse established a certificate program in filmmaking at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington

How would you judge the creative talent in Kentucky?

As is evidenced by our impressive roster of film commissioners, and the long list of Kentuckians who have gone on to do great work in film and television, we have no reason to believe that our native creative talent leaves anything to be desired; however, we need to continue to build the foundational training and educational opportunities necessary to develop a prominent and lucrative film culture in the state.  Our young people shouldn’t think of a career in media as an impossible long shot only attainable for those who can take huge risks or who can afford to leave the state. Growing a film economy begins with growing our talented filmmakers and craftspeople and keeping them home to provide an ever-expanding, knowledgeable and well-trained crew base. To me, that all begins with education.  We have excellent, growing programs in place at Asbury and NKU, as well as several of our other institutions. We have to continue to grow that commitment statewide, especially in our high schools.

What do you enjoy most – screenwriting, filmmaking or teaching?

There is nothing quite like visiting a set to see hundreds of people working hard to turn your words into images.  And seeing your name on screen during the opening credits is an unforgettable thrill worth all the effort every time. But I’ve always known I would teach. My parents are educators, it’s in my blood, I love being on campus working with young people, and hopefully making an impact on their lives.

Can Kentucky be a successful player in the film industry?

We have a passionate and informed Governor, the First Lady has been a devoted advocate, and together they have enlisted a talented, experienced, and diverse Film Commission, as well as the dedicated, tireless folks in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. All of that is an amazing start, but we also need to do better at the grassroots level.  We need to remind the citizens of the Commonwealth that film and TV is a viable business that can employ hundreds of people across many, many different professions. We need to help them realize that it will be worth it to us all to develop this industry within our borders. If we do that, then perhaps demand will create new educational and training opportunities across the state, and the legislature will continue to give us the tools needed to showcase Kentucky as a prime destination for filmmakers.

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