Following Up with Richard Kenyon a Director known from Calgary who is making it in LA!
I’m Here With recently sat down with Richard Kenyon, a former Calgarian now living in Los Angeles, to catch up. We first featured Richard in this magazine last year and a lot has happened for the director and producer since then. “It has been a huge learning curve, but the last year has been a incredibly creative time for me”. That creative time included projects as varied as shooting promotional videos at the Drone Expo and for the Homeless Rockstars fundraiser, to public service announcements and short films. “I think I am most excited about the short I just finished directing and producing”, Richard enthused, ” A Girl’s Guide to Drowning” is inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet and stars an incredible young actress named Alexis Rosinsky”. The short will begin making its debut at film festivals this fall and Richard is clearly proud of the piece. ” I got to combine working with a great DP, MaynRad Brenes, who I met here in LA with my long time friends and collaborators Mike Shields and Frank Laratta of Calgary for music and sound, and the script was based on Shakespeare – which is my passion – I could not think of a better combination!” So how do you follow such a project? Richard has lots of plans including two new features in development and another short on the near horizon as well as some episodic TV in his future. I asked Richard what advice he would give other Canadians about going to LA to pursue their careers, and in addition to being prepared to persevere and get out of your comfort zone his advice is to find groups to connect with other people in the industry. Richard credits his Raindance LA, membership and the many programs the international group offers for being a constant inspiration, a place to learn and to meet and connect with other film makers. With so many projects on his plate the next year seems to be shaping up to be another creative one.
Q and A
Where were you born?
I was born in Liverpool England, Sept, 1968.
How old were you when you. Moved to Canada?
I was six years old when my family moved to Canada. I remember it being very cold when we landed in Calgary. To an small English boy it was an exciting but scary time.
What was early life like in Calgary?
It was good. I remember the winters being very long and the summers being far too short but maybe that’s every kids memory of childhood.
- What was your favorite film growing up? How did it influence you?
I really consider Star Wars the most powerful movie I saw when I was a kid. It influenced my entire childhood and I would have to say that my imagination was turned on when I first saw it. It really did change my life.
2. How old were you when you were first bitten by the acting bug?
I was very young when I first started performing. We would always do magic shows and skits for the parents at Christmas or Thanksgiving. My first performance on stage (11 years old) in HMS PINAFORE by Gilbert and Sullivan I played the rogue sailor Dick Deadeye. It was thrilling. I’m sure it was peppered with all sorts of Darth Vader moments-my favorite Star Wars character. All the kids loved Han or Luke I loved Darth. I even went as Vader for Halloween one year. My mom made the costume and we couldn’t afford the helmet that Vader wears so I went without and acted the part. I remember getting a lot of compliments on my costume albeit no mask.
2a. What was your first film experience like?
As an extra I did all sorts of films that came through Calgary. The most fun I had was on set as a Samurai warrior in Haruki Kadokawa’s masterpiece film Heaven and Earth. That was a strange experience. Dressing up as a Samurai for a month was a wonderful thing- along with every other wannabe actor in Calgary.
3. Did you have any idols growing up?
I was a big soccer fan so Pele was one of my heroes. Apart from that I didn’t really know many people who dreamed of going to Hollywood or making movies. All I knew was what we read in Starlog magazine each month. I do remember reading a small article in Starlog that said they had started pre-production on The sequel to Star Wars- The empire strikes back. That was amazing.
4. Where were you trained?acting training?
I was trained at Niagara College and the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School. Three of the best years of my life.
5. What was theater school like? Was it helpful
It was very helpful. It focused me as an actor and ultimately as a director. I met some amazing people and had some wonderful teachers but also some crazy nut cases.
6. When did you decide to start The Shakespeare Company in Calgary?
I decided to start The Shakespeare Company July 25 1995. I stated it so that I could work and get paid as an actor and director. I’m proud to say that it is still around to this day. Almost 22 years later. Everyone said it wouldn’t work or last and it’s the top theater company in Calgary.
7. What was the take away from working at The Shakespeare Company ?
Enjoy the journey. And take a break every once and awhile.
8. Favorite Shakespeare play and why?
This is a tricky one. I usually say King Lear but Macbeth is creeping back into my mind these days. Lear because it’s as close to perfection that you can get in literature. Macbeth because the brilliant plot and storyline is so easily accessible to every audience. Plus I credit this play for saving my scholastic life.
9. Why is Shakespeare so important in your life?
I was going through a difficult time in my high school life and I was really not interested in school. I remember being introduced to Macbeth by this passionate and amazing tiny Italian woman Donna Mangione. I blame her for my love and passion for Shakespeare. She started it all.
- Theatre or film? Which do you prefer? Why?
I prefer film but I love the theater.
2. What inspired you to write and shoot your first film Insomniac?
I was looking for other challenges and this opportunity presented itself and I ran with it.
3. Did you enjoy shooting Insomniac?
I did. It was thrilling and a wonderful experience. I worked with a fine crew and the best DP in Canada- Craig Wrobleski. He guided me in ways that I never knew he could. He was kind and patient. But working with him changed how I viewed the film industry. It became very possible to make movies. It hadn’t before and I thank Craig for showing me the way.
4. How did you get to White Iron?
I shared my award winning short film Insomniac with the General Manager and he hired me on the spot.
5. Most important thing you learned from White Iron?
That a company must evolve with the times. Stagnation is the death of at.
6. After White Iron -how does your career change?
Well basically after White Iron I was unemployable. Calgary is a small market and there was not enough of the kind of work that I do to go around.
7. How did you get to the USA? Choice or circumstances?
Well basically I had a friend who recommended me to a fantastic attorney and she helped guide me in the process.
8. Do you still do theater in the USA.?
I do I have a company called Critical Path Theater and we are set to do our first show in the Fall of 2017.
Girls Guide to Drowning
Director Richard Kenyon & Alexis Rosinsky on set of “A Girls Guide to Drowning” photo by Maynrad Brenes.
What kind of movies would you love to direct?
I would love to have directed Arrival or TheAge of Adeline. I think that style of film is where my sensibility lies.
Are short films helpful to a director?
Yes they are. They allow you to practice and make mistakes without costing a fortune.Thats a really good thing nowadays. Fuck up and no one rely cares.
- How did you come to write and direct The girls guide to drowning?
I was at a fundraiser and I saw this young actress performing a Shakespeare monologue. I was blown away and I rushed home and wrote it specifically for Alexis. Alexis Rosinsky is her name. She’ll be a big star in the future. Mark my words.
2. What was the reason to do Girls guide?
I love Shakespeare and I wanted to explore the final moments that Ophelia has in Hamlet. But we did it in an unusual way. I can’t say anymore because the film hasn’t been released yet.
3. What can you tell us about Girls guide?
It’s inspired by Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet.
4. Where can we see it?
Hopefully at TIFF or at a film festival close by.
How you work
1. What are the most important criteria about a project that will make you want to do it?
Is it a good story. If it’s a good story I’m there, if it doesn’t have a good story then I wouldn’t even consider it. Story is everything.
2. How do you work? Take us through your process.
Well as a director I read the script and start my dramaturgy from there. The script is the center of everything. Then I usually consider casting very early on but in the cases of Girls guide and Insomniac I wrote those films for specific people. That makes it really easy. Then you can tailor make the film to the actor. That’s a great thing.
3. Are you excited about where cinema is heading?
I am not sure. I think tv is where it’s at nowadays. Better stories and longer character arcs are really exciting to make and to watch.
4. Scorsese says There is no such thing as simple. Simple is hard. From a directors perspective would you agree?
Oh hell yes. Simple is what I try to find in all my work. It’s super easy to be complicated and then convulted but simple is the holy grail.
5.Are we finished with Super Hero movies? Or are they here to stay?
I think they are here to stay but I have hope that Wonder Woman will shift the conscioucsness.
6. Your listeners want to know Why do you hate the suicide squad so much?
I do. It’s hard to be simple that film is a hot mess of complicated ideas and a very bad story.
7. How important is a good script?
What is upcoming for you?
I have a short film that I’m hoping to shoot in Spain in the late summer or early Fall. I also have a hockey short which I’m developing and a web series about a very interesting love triangle. Plus a feature and a music video. I’m busy and I love it.
10 rapid fire questions
1. Favorite movie?
The Godfather Pt 2
2. Favorite director?
3. Who would you really like to work with?
Blake Lively and Roger Deakins
4. Best career advice you’ve received?
An old teacher of mine,Leofwin Luke, RIP said to me once “where does it say that in the text.”
5. Is there such a thing as a bad experience?
Yes. Kidney stones.
6. Last book you read?
I retread The Tao of Pooh.
7.Who is your movie crush?
8. If you weren’t a director what would you be?
9. Favorite place in LA?
Sunset Blvd just outside the DGA. I want to get invited in.
10. How do you replenish your creative spirit?
I love photography and playing hockey.
We’ll be seeing Rich on one of our covers soon!
www.richardjkenyon.com or directorich on Instagram