I wish someone had told me is to take serious time to take a break. I have worked and worked all of my life, even to this day that’s all I do — work. It’s a spiral at this point I cannot get out of no matter how hard I try.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Randy Kent.
Throughout his 30 year career, Randy has garnered multiple awards as a producer, director and editor in the commercial and film arena. With his keen ability to make a little go a long way and look like it was made for a lot, Randy has earned a reputation for the work he has created across every genre and in many different countries — from his beginnings in the Atlanta comedy world, to directing heavy dramas in India, shooting tight thrillers in the streets of Holland, making straight-up horror in Buffalo and England, and then smaller, more experimental work he has done in his hometown of Los Angeles.
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 the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia and was enthralled by show business of every kind since around 9 or 10 years old. I sit alone in my room and create Top 40 radio shows using a tape recorder and a record player (showing my age!) or I would practice magic tricks to show to the family or write little stories and scripts, study actors and comedians and just movies in general. I experimented with everything because it was all I ever wanted to be a part of in some kind of way. I just had the bug from early on, worked hard for it and never looked back.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started out as an actor and also did a lot of improvisational theater and dabbled in stand-up comedy for bit. As soon as I graduated high school (literally 3 months after) I took a trip to Los Angeles to give it a shot. It was tougher than I imagined because I was 18 and had no real experience doing anything but I did it. I did the standards you do as a young actor — headshots, classes, acting in local theater, student films, commercials, did a lot of background work, things like that but, the more I did it, the more I realized I liked being behind the scenes and creating the projects. When I acted on a project, I would watch what the directors were doing and shadow them because I was more fascinated by that aspect of things. So I started writing more and wrote several shorts and a feature and finally got up the nerve to produce my first project. I just kept going and have been doing it ever since. I still act from time to time and I do like it but my creative energy is focused on directing at this stage of my career.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
On one my earlier short films, we were shooting really late into the night at a friend’s apartment he let us take over. It was a very minor fight scene in the bedroom where 3 male actors are struggling and roughing around but the thing we did not take into account was a) it was around 2am when we decided to do that scene, and b) we hadn’t informed the neighbors we were shooting a movie in the apartment. So after doing several takes we hear a loud pounding at the front door and when we open it, several unhappy LAPD officers were standing on the other side wondering what was going on because the neighbors called and thought someone was being killed inside the apartment. Then right on cue, one of the actors walks out of the bedroom holding the prop gun his character had and that made the cops very nervous for a beat. The actor froze like a deer in headlights, dropped the gun on the ground and we had to quickly explain what we were doing before it got really bad. We apologized profusely to officers and to their credit, they understood and were oddly cool about the whole thing. They just told us to stop for the night and to not walk around with guns in front of the police. It was scary as heck at the time but in hindsight, it could have gone so much worse for us.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have met and interacted with so many people over the years and I can’t say there is any one person to mention specifically. I really enjoy talking to other filmmakers that I meet in my travels to festivals and various countries to work. The more we converse, the more you realize we all have the same experiences, the same ups and downs and hardships in this business. So for me that is slightly comforting in a way knowing that a filmmaker in Amsterdam, for instance, goes through the same thing I do here in the States.
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?
There are multiple people but one in particular is Jamee Natella who runs Blueyed Pictures and Hazel Films here in LA. She gave me my first real shot as an in-house videographer and editor for the corporate division of her company a little over 13 years ago. I learned to hone my skills as not only an editor but as an on-site video shooter and just generally getting comfortable working directly with people in the industry, some really big people too. On a technical level, she also taught me the value of proper organization of an editorial project because if your files or footage are all over the place, on a hard drive it slows you down when you are on a deadline or working with a client sitting over your shoulder. To this day I still do projects for her from time to time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I was editing a small project for a sort-of known director years ago and we were burning the midnight oil trying to fix a particular problem in the edit of this piece. He didn’t particularly like this project (being vague for anonymity reasons here…) and was only doing it for the paycheck which is another life lesson for me that no matter how much you think they have, they are always in the struggle just like you are but, I digress. Now this director is the hard-a**, perfectionist type and one night it was getting really late, a little heated and quite frankly, I was very annoyed because it was the middle of the weekend and I wanted to go home. I turned to him and said, “Man, you hate this thing, why do you care? Can we just move on?”. He looked at me and said, “Bro, this is my work, this what I do for a living and it will live under my name for the rest of my life so despite the fact I think it sucks, I want to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be for me so I can say I gave it my all on it”. For some reason that hit me like a ton of bricks and has stayed with me all these years. That’s why, to this day, I give my all into every single thing I work on because he was absolutely right! It is my work. It is my job. Otherwise, what is the point? No matter what job you do, whether you love or hate it, give it your all. The side note is, and anyone I’ve worked with will tell you this, I am just as much a perfectionist as he is but I go about it a different way (not the hard-a** way). And also over the years I’ve had to learned you have to “let go” as well. I can’t and will never be “perfect”.
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 a storyteller, I believe you need all kinds of voices and everyone will agree with that I’m sure. Giving opportunities to people who may not otherwise have the advantage is an extremely worthwhile path to follow and, as producers, we have the chance to make that happen. This world is vast and no matter the race, religion or age, everyone should have that chance to make their voices heard and have a seat at the table. That appears to be changing rather rapidly in the entertainment landscape so it’s a good thing. Let’s open the world to everyone, so to speak.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have the films I am doing in England with Black Coppice Films, including the just released “Demons at Dawn”. In January of 2023 I travel back to the UK to shoot the next one called “Bring Me A Skin For Dancing In”.
I’m also awaiting the release of a film I did in Bangalore, India about 6 years ago called “Road King”. I directed the movie in language (Kannada) completely over Skype and it was one of the feature films to do that at the time. This was long before “Zoom” was even a thing and people thought we were nuts back then but now it’s such a normal way to work they don’t bat an eye. Unfortunately it’s taking us a long time to get it out there so the “uniqueness” of that aspect has worn off but I’m really proud of what we did and it has won dozens of awards at festivals throughout the world so I’m looking forward to people seeing what we created on 2 different continents.
And as of this writing I am in the process of completing post on a six episode mini-series with my longtime filmmaking partner, John Luksetich, called “Café In The Void”. It’s an urban “Alice In Wonderland” type fantasy set during the early COVID times (we shot it during the 2020 lockdowns) and it will surely to be very controversial once it’s released. We’ve had some really successful and encouraging screenings it recently and hope to complete and put it out there to the world in early 2023.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
The short answer is all aspects but the one aspect I can say, and this goes back to a previous answer, is that in each and every one, I have given it my all. That’s really all you can do. But to give a real answer, of everything we do in the process of making a film or video project, my favorite part is in the sound design. I love that process of really making the thing come to life audibly. You can really enhance or fix so many things in this stage of the game. Bring out things you never even thought of when you were writing or reading the script with a few simple clicks of a button. It’s an amazing thing to watch. On a feature I did about 12 years ago we were lucky enough to have the sound designer whose father worked on the original Star Wars so that was a cool thing to watch. To see this guy paint stuff with sound fx was eye opening.
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 — This may sound obvious but at the time, to me, it was not — I wish someone had told me how really really really difficult this business is to navigate. And it’s not just the standards of “work hard” or “meet the right people” or things like that. It’s that you have to be so many things to so many people at all times. Whether you are on set directing something or at a party or a film festival or just a general meeting, you have to dodge and weave a lot. And as an introvert and someone who has social anxiety, it can be a really tough game to play sometimes. I have to be the creative in one aspect, the mediator in another, the listener on the other, a businessman here, the good marketer there, and so on. But I’m always up for a challenge and I’ve learned how to balance it over the years but it has taken me a long time.
2 — I wish someone had told me to learn more about the “business” of show business early on. I really thought that I didn’t need to get into that side of things because I had the, “I’m the creative and there are people to do that for me” type of attitude. In some cases that is very true but in the independent filmmaking world that I and a lot of my friends live in, it’s extremely valuable to know the business and marketing side of your work. I can’t tell you the number of opportunities I have lost or had to give up on because I wasn’t up to speed on certain aspects of the distribution or marketing process. On the flip side, it does change all the time now since social media and streaming have become “the thing” so it’s hard to keep up with but I have been able to learn a lot as I go and stay “in the know”.
3 — I wish someone had told me that you will have to sacrifice a lot to be in this business. I’m honestly not sure that would have changed my path in any way but it may have helped to lesson some of the feelings from people in my life. The personal relationships that suffer because your entire life and being is devoted to this one thing. People outside of this business don’t quite understand that and it makes it twice as difficult but finding a good “work-life” balance is a skill and tool I personally never quite developed.
4 –I wish someone had told me to get more footage! When you are a beginning filmmaker and you have never edited or really done anything before, you don’t realize just how valuable the editing process can make or break your project (honestly a lot of veteran filmmakers still don’t realize that!). I’m not even talking about the obvious things like getting good visuals and making sure you get great sound. A lot of that can be fixed or tempered in the post side (the dreaded “fix it in post” thing) but if you have enough footage for the editor to work with, it makes things a lot easier in the end.
5 — I wish someone had told me is to take serious time to take a break. I have worked and worked all of my life, even to this day that’s all I do — work. It’s a spiral at this point I cannot get out of no matter how hard I try.
It has cost me relationships, friends and just my general health and well-being overall. I can’t stop because I feel if I do, I’m no longer relevant and will lose that “spark” that got me here in the first place. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but I think if I had learned early on how to pace myself, I could be in more “level” position now where I can just relax. I’m getting there though. No time like the present.
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?
I’ve been very lucky in my career that I have been able to maintain a good level of creative control over most of the work I do, especially in the film world. So I would have to say my own personal vision has the greatest impact. Along with the viewers of course because despite what some will say, the audience is not stupid. They are a good judge if it works or not.
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. 🙂
Not to be vague or avoid the question or overly hype a project but just wait until “Café In The Void” comes out. You will get the answer there 🙂
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. 🙂
Being that I am a filmmaker and a child of the 80s, I would have to say Steven Spielberg. And not for the obvious reasons. I would want to hear more about his creative obstacles more than anything. The times he couldn’t figure out how to shoot a particular scene and what was the answer or fix for that. His struggles with a particularly troubling edit that wasn’t working. I am sure he has many other stories aside from the ones already out there and has had roadblocks even to this day and that fascinates me. And not to mention having breakfast with the G.O.A.T. and telling him how much E.T. means to me so there is that!
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can see my work or reach out to me either on Facebook, or my Vimeo and YouTube pages, and my website: www.randykent.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Randy Kent of Bagboy Productions: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.