Kelly Needleman is a Director, Actor, Producer, Photographer, and Entrepreneur. Kelly is a true creative and a natural filmmaker. From a young age, Kelly had an artistic eye. Growing up, his parents encouraged him to pick up a camera. He gravitated towards the beauty of nature and started taking images and time-lapses of landscapes. His photos are truly stunning. Kelly's intense ambition to create resulted in his work being published in various media, such as National Geographic.
Kelly's passion for landscape photography was a natural progression into the film industry. He created his own company called Needleman Productions, where he showcases his movies. Kelly has been recognized as an award-winning film director with over 40 awards. Kelly's ambition is to make beautiful movies by utilizing the natural elements of nature, fog, sea, and sunlight as tools in an outdoor studio. Recently, he released the short film "A Player's Game."
Kelly also works in front of the camera as an actor. At 21, Kelly attends Pepperdine University, majoring in film production and minoring in business entertainment.
Between the remainder of October and December, Kelly will release three more films. He is a focused artist who loves to create. This article will focus on A Player's Game (a short film). It is beautifully shot and consists of a chess game that turns into many metaphors for life. Kelly has always loved the complexity and symbolism associated with chess. At the same time, he finds the dynamic of a prodigy and mentor to be highly compelling. As a result, he wanted to combine both concepts into a short scene that depicts the essence of the game of chess and life. When Kelly had a moment, he took the time to talk with Gemma Magazine about A Player's Game.
How did you balance writing, directing, and producing? It's a lot to do. The #1 thing I value is preparation when working on a film project. Having a solid vision, rehearsing with your actors, revising the script constantly, scouting locations, and creating storyboards/shot lists is essential. Doing all this in pre-production makes directing and producing a smoother process on set. I also value having a great crew and cast to work with. Your film is only as good as the people behind the scenes. I strive to create an inclusive and welcoming environment that helps stimulate creativity. Each person on the crew and cast is valued for their work equally, and I wouldn't have been able to make any of my movies if it weren't for the amazing people on set.
Is chess used as a metaphor for "life" in this film? Each person will interpret the chess metaphor differently, with no correct answer. But when writing the script, I envisioned chess as a game of dedication, discipline, and the pursuit of excellence. Chess, in many ways, is a metaphor for life; it's complex and unpredictable, but if you trust the process, you will reach your goal. The mentor's lesson is that we shouldn't worry about the opponent in life because there will always be obstacles, but if we believe in ourselves, we can do anything. It's not about the game's results but instead being present in the process. Through discipline and practice, we can achieve mastery in our craft.
The film emphasizes that your real opponent in life is life and your decisions. It's not about other people. In other words, if people make the right decisions and stick by them. Is this on point? Yes, this is a very compelling way to interpret the message of the film. People must confront life's challenges by making decisions true to themselves and their values. This theme can be both reflective and thought-provoking, as it encourages viewers to reflect on their own life choices and their impact on their paths and personal development.
Your dad is in the film, correct? What was it like to direct your dad? Yes, it was amazing! It's interesting because most people always tell you to avoid combining business with family, but working with my dad and directing him on set was a special moment. It felt so natural for us to collaborate and share ideas while maintaining a sense of professionalism. Though he is just getting into acting, he has so much potential and is very talented. I would be honored to work with him again on any future projects.
Is there a unique feeling/emotion that you wanted the audience to take from A Player's Game? After watching the movie, I hope the audience is inspired to believe in the process and work towards their goals through discipline. Everyone is capable of brilliance; it just takes time and hard work.
The #1 thing I value is preparation when working on a film project. Having a solid vision, rehearsing with your actors, revising the script constantly, scouting locations, and creating storyboards/shot lists is essential. Doing all this in pre-production makes directing and producing a smoother process on set. I also value having a great crew and cast to work with. Your film is only as good as the people behind the scenes. I strive to create an inclusive and welcoming environment that helps stimulate creativity. Each person on the crew and cast is valued for their work equally, and I wouldn't have been able to make any of my movies if it weren't for the amazing people on set. (Kelly Needleman)
I'm sure you had a strong vision about this film. What was it like to see it on screen and come to life?
It was surreal. This was a very visually ambitious project. The concept of a light ray illuminating a chessboard on a table is very complex. I would explain the visual image I had in my head to everyone on set, but nobody thought it would come to life, even myself at points. We experimented with multiple lighting effects for various hours, and it seemed like I would have to sacrifice my vision for something more realistic, but eventually, we figured it out. Through teamwork, we achieved a beautiful and compelling lighting effect. When I first saw the wide shot on my monitor, I shouted excitedly when the chessboard dramatically cast onto the table surface through the light instead of the actual board.
How do you balance attending school and making films?
Since I am a film production major, various projects overlap with curriculum. I also value the importance of organization and I believe it is the main reason I am able to work on various projects while taking classes.
Who are some directors that you admire? I admire Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, and earlier directors like Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone.
What are some of your favorite films? Some of my favorite films are Good Will Hunting,
The Social Network, and Avatar. I find them all interesting in unique ways.
If someone asked your advice about getting into the film industry, what would you say? Pick up a camera and make films. Tell stories you are passionate about. Constantly be seeking new knowledge and be a student of life. Make connections and maintain them. Most importantly if you are a good person and passionate about filmmaking you will get far, just believe.
To watch the "A Player's Game," the link is https://vimeo.com/801722112?share=copy
To keep up with Kelly Needleman and his films/creative endeavors, follow him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellyneedleman/
Or his website: https://www.kellyneedleman.com