While taking the Digital Filmmaking course at Austin School of Film, local Austin filmmaker Jamie K. Kennedy began brainstorming an emotionally driven character study that would later became the short film Voice for the Lonely. After a long journey, the film is finally finished and making the rounds on the film festival circuit. We got a chance to sit down and chat with him about the film, his experience as a student at ASoF, and what’s in store for the future!
For those not familiar with this particular short film, give us a brief summary of the story.
Jamie: My new film Voice for the Lonely is about a radio DJ that finds out he is terminally ill and accepts an odd job at a local funeral home in exchange for his own funeral. The job he accepts he gives eulogies for the homeless in Austin.
How/when did you come up with the concept for this story and what made you decide to tell it through filmmaking?
J: I had written a few scripts, but 3 years ago, I lost my mom in a car accident and I had the honor of speaking at her funeral. All the emotions I was feeling I wanted to use as inspiration for a character, and use everything I was going through in a way that I could share to make people smile. Writing this script was very emotional and therapeutic for me at the same time.
The cinematography of this film stands out big time. Not just in these extravagantly colorful evening shots of Austin, but in the quiet close up moments (the opening extreme close up shot of Ricky’s mouth is very striking). How did you and your DP approach the look for this film?
J: I think because of the story content being so heavy, we still wanted our film to feel happy in a sense. Our choice of shots and use of color saturation definitely helped with that. We didn’t want it to feel like a sad downhill ride, although we flirted with it.
In the film, you have this wonderfully intimate performance from Laughlin McElyea, who I understand actually passed away after principle photography. Tell us what it was like working with him, and seeing him perform.
J: I met Laughlin “Ric” in a class at ASoF. From the moment we met, I felt he just fit the vision I had for the character so much, so I named the character Ricky. It was very impressive to see his preparation for the film. He took it very serious. Not only did we create and collaborate together, we were also friends. I learned a lot from him. Every time I see the film, I’m reminded of the magic we captured on set and how brilliant he was.
As a student of Carrie’s Digital Filmmaking class, how much did the film change/grow through the process of the class?
J: In class, I pitched a few ideas with Voice for the Lonely being one of them, but I quickly realized it wasn’t ready. It was gonna be a bigger project, and it just wasn’t time for it yet. I needed to learn more first. So I made a short titled Dear Mr. Jones, and because of everything I learned from it, I became more confident in myself to make Voice for the Lonely.
Has the film been in any festivals? Talk to me about how audiences have responded to the film.
J: Yes, we screened at the San Antonio Film Festival a few weeks ago. It was a great experience! After our film credits, there were multiple people with tears in their eyes, and after the Q and A was over, some of them told me how much they enjoyed the film. It’s really great to see the ripple effect your film can have on people emotionally, and how it can maybe make them think about some things within their own life.
What is your advice for someone making their first film? What is something small that you have learned that you think is important to let them know as they begin pursuing storytelling through film?
J: Believe in your idea and stop at nothing to see it completed. Take chances, and with every mistake you have, learn and grow from it.
Is there anything exciting project wise that you have coming up that you can talk about? What’s next for you?
J: I’ve been writing a new short based on a great uncle of mine that’s set in modern day. I’m also waiting to hear back from other film festivals so that I can attend and share our film. For me, it’s to just continue to grow as a filmmaker and storyteller. I’m always in constant pursuit of my dreams.
Follow Voice for the Lonely on Facebook for updates on future screenings!