Kathy Kolla is inspiring, strong, and talented. She knows what it takes to be a successful director in Hollywood and has applied these traits to her career. Kathy Kolla is an American director, screenwriter, and actress. Her films include "Plastic Daydream" starring Shari Belafonte, the feature documentary "Who Is Billy Bones? " and the comedy "Another Day, Another Dime." She was awarded Best Director for the drama "Plastic Daydream "at the Los Angeles Live Film Festival in 2018.
She has worked with diverse and talented creatives during her career and her star is rising. During a Women's Filmmakers Panel that Kathy hosted recently, Kira Reed Lorsch attended and spoke.
After speaking with Kira Reed Lorsch, actress, and Emmy winning producer, she said,
"Kathy is a fun, fearless filmmaker and supportive of other women in Hollywood. I enjoy collaborating with her as she lifts people up, rather than tear them down, on the way to the top." (Kira Reed Lorsch)
Last month, Film Fest L.A. Live at Regal Cinemas took place in downtown Los Angeles. The event was alive with energy as top talent took the stage for the speaking panel “Director’s Vision with Kathy Kolla," exploring what it means to be a woman persevering in 21st-century Hollywood. Influential female panelists during the hour-long program included actress Shari Belafonte ("The Morning Show"), model/actress Eugenia Kuzmina ("Bad Moms"), an Emmy-winning producer, and actress Kira Reed Lorsch ("NYPD Blue") as well as Brazilian director Bettina Hanna and author Karen L. Kaplan. The conversation touched on aspects of the entertainment industry, including the exciting and sometimes challenging world of becoming a powerful woman in Hollywood. Host Kathy Kolla ("Arrested Development") moderated the lively conversation, which inspired the audience with positivity and vital information about succeeding in Hollywood.
So, who is Kathy Kolla and what is her creative process like? When Kathy had a moment, she spoke with Gemma Magazine about being a successful director in Hollywood and a bit about what the endeavor entails. So, let's get into it!
Where did you grow up, and are you from an artistic family?
I grew up in Michigan as part of a family that certainly enjoyed music and film while not directly involved in the arts. So there was always a thread of interest in the film and television industry running through my family. I was just the first one to make a career of it.
Did someone inspire you to be a director?
There are a lot of amazing directors I’ve worked with as an actor, and many of them have inspired me. In particular, Rebecca Asher, who directed a sitcom I had the pleasure of being on. Seeing her in action as a leader made me want to hone my craft and explore the world of directing.
What do you love most about directing?
One thing I love about filmmaking, in general, is seeing something you’ve created in your imagination come to life. I also love working with people. There is an energy that is very exciting when working with a great team toward a mutual goal.
What would you name the top three characteristics of becoming a successful director in Hollywood?
To be a successful director in Hollywood, you need problem-solving skills, in addition to confidence and creativity.
1. Problem-Solving Skills
Directors need problem-solving skills because we constantly put out fires, like unplanned technical obstacles or budget problems. There are problems from pre-production through post-production, and if you do not solve them, they may not get fixed. So directors have to go to work every day to be ready to problem-solve.
It would be best if you had the confidence to lead a team. You have to believe in yourself, or at first pretend to believe in yourself, so that others will take your vision seriously. Also, a little confidence goes a long way when pitching your projects. When you suggest something like a new camera angle or an approach an actor should take with their lines, you have to put self-belief behind it.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, you need creativity. You have to have an active imagination if you want to bring what you see in your mind to life on screen. It may go without saying, but you need to have a creative eye for storytelling, work with creative people, and enjoy doing it simultaneously to be a successful director.
Congratulations on being awarded Best Director for "Plastic Daydream!"
Thank you so much. That was a unique project to write and create, and I feel very fortunate to have had the talented Shari Belafonte take on the lead role. She added her stamp to the character and brought the story to life.
Why is "Plastic Daydream" so crucial to our current culture?
It is essential to be comfortable in your skin. Many of our cultures send signals that we have to change ourselves to be accepted, but you have to try to stay true to yourself no matter how difficult it is. You have to try and remember who you are at the core.
You have directed some fantastic documentaries. Is one close to your heart?
Indeed, my film “Who Is Billy Bones?” is close to my heart. It is about perseverance, and even though it’s about someone else – the punk rock pioneer Billy Bones – there are a lot of themes about not giving up that hit close to home for me.
What was it like to make your feature film "Who Is Billy Bones?"
It was a blast to make that film. We shot in some fantastic rock clubs while he performed, and I even got to explore a long-lost punk rock venue in Hollywood called The Masque. It is a basement club that hasn’t been open since the 1970s, but at the time of filming was still mostly in one piece. There was a lot of history there. And the whole team on the film was perfect. It is a moment in time that I will always treasure.
How important is perseverance in Hollywood as a female director?
Perseverance is important for any director in Hollywood, perhaps more so for a female director, but when you love doing something like making films, perseverance is easier to come by. Because I would make movies no matter what, there’s no chance of any obstacle or someone closing a door to stop me. The easiest way to be persistent is to find something you love.
Also, you are an actress as well as a successful director. Do you have plans to act on a project soon?
Sure, I am always interested in acting, and I usually like to be involved in building characters in my films. It can be challenging to act and direct simultaneously, but there have been some great examples throughout film history of actor-directors making it work.
How exciting was it to moderate the Film Fest LA Live event "Director's Vision with Kathy Kolla" along with additional successful women?
It was extraordinary to share the stage with some of the most inspiring women I know. I probably learned as much as the audience did from the panelists' stories. We had a packed house in the theater, which is unusual for this day and age. We also had some beautiful companies supporting us, like Summer Sculpt and Mad Hippie.
Why do you feel "Women Supporting Women" is so important in Hollywood?
But I’ll take it one step further and say it should be “People Supporting People.” The concept of “Women Supporting Women” is essential because there is no reason for us to be competitive – we need to help lift each other. We should all support each other instead of trying to tear each other down. We need to all remember to bring respect to the entertainment industry.
What do you see for the future for Women in Hollywood?
We are heading toward a Renaissance for women in Hollywood, which has been a long time coming. The last time I checked, the number of women in leadership roles like directing grew. Hopefully, we will effect change in an authentic way that will impact Hollywood for generations to come.
Kathy Kolla is super talented who we will be seeing more of. We are excited to follow her career. If you want to keep up with Kathy Kolla, you can follow her on social media.