Digital Media and Film: A Conversation with Kari Kennon
By: Darida Rose
Kari Kennon is the producer and director of the short film Fast Foward Style. The film is a wonderful depiction of the online dating world and the many obstacles and hurdles individuals face before matching with the right one. The film is currently cruising around festival circuits and is set to bring home quite a few awards and recognition for the emerging director and producer. The subtext of the film, love in the time of digital media, can be a great platform to generate discourse and dialogue regarding the benefits and disadvantages of romance through cyberspace and the notion of self-worth on a large-scale platform full of competitors.
Kennon provides Phoenix Journal with an inside look behind the making of Fast Forward Style.
Darida Rose, Phoenix Journal (PJ): Can you elaborate on the dynamic of social media and dating as you see it in relevance to the film?
Kari Kennon (KK): To be quite honest, my mom wrote the script (which I converted numerous times to Final Draft) and it does not have personal relevance to me as a participant in online dating because I never had extremely good or extremely bad experiences with online dating.
The story is a result of a compilation of experiences our friend Melinda Jones had after her husband Al Jones died a few years ago.
(PJ): How does Caroline’s character help bring out their comedy (re: the men she dates).
(KK): I think people who are capable of a great deal of empathy suffer and fail to set boundaries. There is reality in this. Watching Tanya play the lead role of Caroline is funny because we see her really want to listen and be kind to her partners and she gets pulled in and by the time she realizes how incompatible she is with the men, it’s too late: she’s engrossed in their stories and can’t enjoy herself.
On a technical level, I really told her to relax and that the camera could pick up a single thought in her mind. My theatre background taught me that the actor must never “emote”. An emotion must be a result of an action. This is core Stanislavski – the guru whose disciples founded American theatre. She is gifted and it wouldn’t have been worth doing without her. She is so very intelligent and that preparation she did with me and on her own mixed with her emotional intelligence laid a foundation for her to be present and listen to her partner.
(PJ): What is the film’s reception so far? What is in store for the film? Are there plans for a feature?
(KK): Honestly, I am proud of this film but I am even more happy that Tanya and Karen (Katherine) still text me a year and a half later. We ate dinner together not long ago. This film was an exercise in marketability and getting a foothold in the community here. It’s very hard to get into the Top 20 of the Louisiana Film Prize. That being said, we can never guarantee where our films are going in the age of a pandemic and social distancing. Online festivals just aren’t the same. I do want to make a feature one day. I feel a huge need to be of service and I’m not sure a romantic comedy is the solution. Socially relevant films with a healing message or a message that imagines solutions to our disintegration as a culture are very important.
(PJ): Can you take us through the process of selecting actors for their specific roles?
(KK): All of the men were from the Landrum Agency except for Terry Nelson (Mr. Right). James Palmer who plays the preacher/missionary guy was in a David Mamet play called American Buffalo at Shreveport Little Theatre about six months before we held auditions. He had been nominated for Best Actor at the Louisiana Film Prize in a previous year. Not only did he do a great job in my film, he won $50,000 because he made a film last minute that won the grand prize of the festival. He is truly the humblest person you would ever meet but the man has soul and because of his theatre background he can get memorized and then just kinda let go so that he’s free to be someone else.
We get a tremendous amount of feedback about Spy Boy played by Danny Zanelotti. Judges have told me that his date (Date #3) is the best one because our editor had the bright idea of “punching in” in post production. Also, Tommy Granville did a sound effect that was pretty funny in which the music dies down in a foreboding way. Danny nailed the audition. There was no need to change anything.
I do think there is a certain amount of kismet or synchronicity when it comes to actors getting roles. We had a casting director, but Tanya for example (Caroline) was unrepresented and found a post on Facebook. She was a our lead actress and she was right in our back yard. Dr. Karen (Katherine) spoke at an event years ago and I remembered her and asked if she wanted to read for me. She complied. She’s an Aries and so she doesn’t mind strutting herself. Both of those women are in amazing shape and look so healthy and beautiful. They work very hard to take care of their instruments and they have inspired me to take better care of myself in a way that doesn’t feel like vanity.