Noah Kinsey grew up in Michigan, went to college in Indiana and stayed there for about 10 years working in tv advertising sales before finding a job that would finally move him to Los Angeles. He directed the short Lullaby, a dark story about love, Police officers show up at the house of a panicked mother to what they think is a typical domestic dispute between divorced parents. But what the officers uncover reveals something darker.
Noah, when did you discover this was your career path?
I always knew this is what I was meant to do, honestly. But growing up in the MidWest where the "thing to do" is find a safe 8-5 job, I chose to ignore my heart until I did what everybody said I was supposed to do and realized I was still miserable. At that point, I knew I had to find my way out here to Los Angeles to pursue my calling. It hasn't exactly been easy since arriving out here - far from it - but nothing that really matter is ever easy, is it?
Lullaby is such a personal and engaging short, what inspired this project?
Thank you! For me, I tend to be fascinated by how people react to situations far more than I am with the actual event. I believe it was Charles R. Swindoll who said "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." And lately, the concept of co-parenting has been a huge topic of discussion and debate. So I wanted to combine the two and use an all-too-common situation to explore what it means to love a child and hopefully start a conversation over what someone would do if they were in the same situation as either of the parents.
You choose a real-life father and daughter to portray this duo, Gabriel Ellis and Chloe Elise Ellis was that part of the process?
Not of writing the story, no. I wrote this 3-4 years ago. But when it came to casting, I attached Gabriel first and he mentioned his daughter was an actress as well. She was the perfect age for the character, and with how phenomenal an actor he was I hoped he had passed that talent down in his genetics and luckily I was right!
Congratulations also to them because they gave us an unforgettable performance,
how was for them playing this difficult role?
Weren't they incredible? I'm so grateful for that. As for the difficulty, I think that would be a question for them. Part of the pre-production process was me having conversations with Gabriel and discussing the psychology behind the character of "Daddy" and where his head was at before the events of the film. With Chloe, we had a small talk before we started shooting on the pier and she just got it. They're such talented actors that they were able to take my direction on their characters' thought process and just craft this tragic and beautiful performance from it.
What was your directing approach to this project? It's very intense and also shot in iconic locations such as the Santa Monica Pier.
It was an absolute dream from start to finish. And I was so grateful we got all the amazing footage we needed on the Santa Monica Pier. We had a few elements working against us - the crowded space and storm clouds heading our way, for example - but it seemed like the stars aligned and we were able to get everything we needed and then some.
The end of your project is devastating, what made you think of such a surprising ending?
I like layers in storytelling, and wanted to take audiences on a journey that they don't expect but leave little clues along the way that all adds up at the end. And I'm not quite sure the theme of a parent's love for a child would have hit as hard with any other ending.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
Editing, definitely. Luckily, I had a genius editor with Gary Allen and the two of us sat down and really worked together to make this work. Don't get me wrong, all of the footage my amazing DP Jay Ruggieri shot were breathtaking and perfect, but the pacing is key and that happens in the edit.
You direct, write and act, which role do you prefer and why?
I moved out here to Los Angeles thinking I was going to be an actor. And I did that for a bit and have been in SAG-AFTRA for about 10 years. But as I explored the industry more and had meetings, I realized that with my business background along with my creative one, I had a skill set that really made me stand out by being able to successfully merge the commerce and art aspects. So really for me, while I still love acting, I find it much more fulfilling to create the worlds and bring them to life.
Are there filmmakers that inspire you? And why?
Oh man, there are so many that inspire me and we do not have enough time to list them all! A big one for me is Steven Spielberg, for sure. His films informed my childhood all the way until now. While it might not be obvious, there are aspects of his storytelling devices in Jaws that I used in Lullaby!
Your first mentor was John Semper, show-runner and lead writer of the Spider-Man cartoon from the 90’s, how was working with him? What did you take from your time with him?
John is one of my favorite human beings on the planet, and not only is he absolutely my mentor but I am fortunate enough to also consider him a dear friend. He gave me my first acting credit on IMDb as both live action and voiceover characters, and recently I helped him with a children's show pilot. Both experiences were great, and I would gladly work with him again on anything he wanted me to. Since I moved out here, we've had lunches about once or twice a year and keep each other up-to-date on what we have going on. He's been an amazing resource for advice and encouragement. He believed in me even during times where I didn't believe in myself. I can't even think of one lesson I've learned from him, as there are too many to choose from. All pure gold.
A fun fact about your short.
When my producing partner Spencer Rich and I were considering the houses to use for the shoot, it didn't occur to us that since it was December there would be Christmas lights. We debated taking them down for the shoot, but then changed our mind when we both agreed setting it around Christmas time made the film feel more tragic.
You now work and live in LA, what's your opinion on the filmmaking industry and what would you change about it?
The longer I've been out here, the more I realize that this industry is really what you make of it. Maybe it's because of the changing technology or how social media has been able to call out bad behavior quickly, but I believe that there are fundamental shifts happening that will be beneficial to those who are able to adapt to change. As for what I would change? That's hard to answer. Probably one I would change is reviving residuals. Since streaming has emerged and no viewership data sharing happens, residuals have all but dried up and made it increasingly difficult for actors, writers, director, etc to work in the industry full-time. And while I get why the streamers don't want to share data that might impact their stock prices, I think they are also hurt by this new normal. Because, in order to get top talent, they end up paying more upfront as if to factor residuals in. But how often does that cause them to overspend for something that might not end up profitable? Also, with a flat fee, how much are you inspiring artists to go above and beyond? With residuals, you reward people for achieving milestones while ensuring the studio makes their money too. It's a literal win-win. Right now, at least to me, it seems we're in a lose-lose.
What's your take on the strike happening now?
I'm not in WGA, so I won't speak on that but I am in SAG-AFTRA so I will say I support what we're asking for. With me also being on the producer side, I'm looking at things from both points of view and I'm not entirely sure what the hold up is. It seems like the actors aren't asking for too much. And the AI aspect worries me a lot with studios wanting to be able to scan, let's say, a background actor who is paid one single day rate only for their likeness to be used in any film and tv show forever without the actor getting additional pay or any say in where it's used? Does that seem fair? In general, the technology isn't there for what studios seem to hope to want to do with AI, so I'm not sure why they can't just kick that can down the road, agree to these terms for however many years the contract is good for, and discuss these things when the tech gets to where they can use it AND THEN have those discussions with the guilds.
What's the best part of your job, what's your favorite step in the process?
Oh that's an easy one. The best part AND my favorite part of the job is seeing and hearing the reaction of the audience. Easily the most rewarding aspect by far is when people want to talk to me about what they watched and ask questions.
What would you say to someone that wants to start this path as you did?
Make sure you cannot think of doing anything else with your life. Because if you can see yourself doing anything thing, do THAT thing. That may sound harsh or negative, but this career path is incredibly hard and not for the faint of heart. If you come into this with no industry connections same as me, you will probably experience more rejections, dead ends, emotional rollercoasters, financial hardships, and have to make more sacrifices than you could even prepare for. The highs are incredibly high, but the lows are about as low as you can go. So if you're planning on doing this - and I mean really doing this - do as Samuel L Jackson says in Jurassic Park and "Hold onto your butts" as you push through.
What do you regret and what would you have wanted to know earlier?
I have a lot of regrets, but I'm not sure I'd be where I am now had those things not happened. But perhaps what I would've wanted to know earlier is the concept of a "safe" job is a myth. I possibly would be farther along had I realized that and moved to Los Angeles 10 years earlier.
Who would you suggest this short to, and why?
Maybe I should ask you that question since I'm too close to it. Personally, I believe this is for anyone teenage or older but especially those who are close to their families. I personally believe the themes are relatable to almost everybody.
We believe so too, everyone is a son or a daughter we also got the message of: "A loving parent is willing to do anything for their children, even the worst thing in the world".
In this case scenario he took the most difficult decision ever, but it was for the best, because he didn't see a positive outcome from what was happening to his daughter, We also agree is for everybody who felt that kind of love in lifw.
You also gave a podcast, tell us more about it!
You've done your research! My podcast is called "The #CoffeeTime Podcast with Noah Kinsey" and its tagline is "The podcast that humanizes people." Most shows have a guest, while there are solo shows where I discuss a specific topic - usually historical. But the point of the show is to get past the half-truths and soundbites that seem to dominate public discord and discuss things with a critical, honest perspective.
What do you expect from the future? What do you hope it will bring you on a professional level?
I'm hoping this shows studios and producers what I'm capable of as a filmmaker and what quality my production company with Spencer Rich can produce. Already this has gotten us some notice and we're about to have some promising meetings in the very near future to discuss projects.
What's your dream role/ project?
I'm a huge Marvel Studios fan, so it would be fun to play in their sandbox at some point. But mostly, my dream is to continue telling stories in film and television working with professionals I admire.
Your short won different awards with us, and earned nominations, we truly enjoyed this work, how is it going with festivals so far?
You did choose our film for a handful of awards! We were so excited and honored with that, so thank you! So far, it's been going incredible. The responses have been positive and it's very rewarding to be acknowledged for something that meant a lot to us to work on.
Are there any upcoming projects for you?
There are some promising things that could be happening soon, but nothing I can talk about quite yet. All I'll say is stay tuned!
And we agree!
Follow Noah's journey on his social media and links down below.
Thank you for your time, we wish you the best for your career and your future projects and we can't wait to see what's next for you! It was an honor having you.
Thank you so much for talking with me! I really appreciate you and your wonderful festival.
WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER OF NOAH KINSEY'S SHORT LULLABY:
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