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I am here with Wendy Keeling, Creative Director of Orlando International Film Festival. Wendy is a director, a writer, an actress, a producer, and the list goes on. It was so great meeting Wendy Keeling at the Toronto Indie Film Festival (TOIFF) and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). When I saw Wendy Keeling’s work at TOIFF, my gut told me that I was watching something special. I have great news. Wendy and her crew won Best Horror Short Past Partum (2019). Bravo!
- When did you know you wanted to get into film?
“Believe it or not, getting involved in the film was never a goal of mine. I wanted to be an actor from a young age but to me, that meant the theatre. It never occurred to me that a normal person could be on TV or in movies. That was only for “Famous People”!
It happened quite by accident. I was asked to do a couple commercials while I was living in the Florida Keys. I somehow found myself helping the director with the documentary “Key West City of Colors” It was sponsored by “Absolut Vodka” and I soon found myself travelling around the country representing the film. My very first film festival experience was “The Sundance Film Festival”. We premiered the film with “The L Word” in the Showtime room. There were ice sculptures and great company. The entire experience was a blur and I was in awe of the festival and all the films.
When I moved to Nashville, I found myself working on both sides of the camera. My goal was still to be an actor and I found that I was not booking work. I decided, that since I knew how to do most of the jobs on set, I could probably write and direct my own work. This meant giving myself a role that suited me better than the soccer moms and faith-based roles I was being pitched. Allowing myself to be seen as a character actor was the best decision I could have made. It also spurred me on the path of directing more content.”
- What type of films are you passionate about creating?
“I do seem to have a type of films I am known for. My calling is for dark comedic stories. I do tend to lean a bit to the horror side as well. It gives my brain a chance to play with ideas that are not necessarily politically correct (PC) or mainstream. I think it may also be a great form of therapy! Letting the demons in my head have a place to play seems to keep me out of trouble.”
- Tell us about your experience in the business thus far. What should we expect in the future?
“As an actor, I can typically be seen in commercials and independent films. I have been getting more auditions for mainstream film and TV work lately. I would absolutely LOVE to get on a cool TV show like “Stranger Things” or “Ozark”!! But honestly, I just want more opportunities to try characters. It doesn’t really matter what the format is or the storyline. I just want to work!
As for the filmmaking side, we are in development for 3 feature-length scripts and are tossing around a couple short scripts. Two of the features could be done on a low budget contract but you are still talking about at least 200k. That is just a number that makes me shake in my shoes.
We have two shorts just starting on the festival circuit. “Clown College” a dark comedy horror and “Past Partum” a family thriller. We also have a short film that was the winner for the Marriot’s 48 Hour Film Contest that we are polishing up to send on the circuit. “My Dear Max” is a bit of a different project than what some would expect from me. It is a touching LGBTQ drama about two women in love. I am excited to have the Marriot on board to help us with the festival circuit on this one and excited to see where it will go.”
- What would be your long-term goals in the film business?
“Well, that is a loaded question!! I guess I would like to actually make a living at it! Just kidding. Ummmm well sorta! I do have a goal to direct at least one feature film before I get totally burnt out and retire to an island. Honestly, though, I feel I need to prove to myself that I can produce a feature and get it out there. It truly is a feat.
You can’t just call your friends up and say: “Hey, let’s spend the next 4 weeks working together for no pay”. You have to have some serious funding to get a feature in the works. Even on a low budget you can’t just throw $5k at a feature and get things done professionally. That said, if I could just find a cool acting gig on a series or 2 I would love that!! Let someone else do the heavy lifting of production! Basically, whatever the Universe wants to throw my way I am up for the challenge!
- Just for fun. Tell us about a hobby that you really enjoy.
“So my hobby actually was supposed to be my main job. In addition to being an actor and a filmmaker, I am also a visual artist. I started working in clay and stone while I lived the in the Keys. I truly thought that would be my full-time gig. Basically, I play with rocks, mud, and whatever else gets in the mix! I get a thrill from playing with power tools and setting things on fire. Nowadays it has become more of a secondary gig but you can still buy my ceramic and stonework when I get the chance to work.
My other gig is actually screening and programming for film festivals. I was recently hired as the creative director for the Orlando International Film Festival. I truly enjoy watching films and find I learn a great deal as a filmmaker as well. FYI we are taking submissions so submit submit submit!!!
Thank you, Wendy, for the interview. I am hoping to have the opportunity to meet more people in the entertainment industry. They are so creative and inspirational. Wendy and I continue to talk on social media. I could be wrong here, but I think we both realized that we are quite similar. We are trying to provide positive content to viewers that they can get excited about. It probably helps that we both like talking about dark comedy, horror and film/movies in general. Hope to see you again Wendy. Keep in touch.
Orlando International Film Festival