Heaven Is A Female-Run Set
In honor of Spooky Season, I wanted to reflect on my first foray into the horror genre and easily one of my favorite projects to date, Kickstart My Heart, directed by Kelsey Bollig.
I will forever be a broken record, but I love working for and with female filmmakers. I have zero shame in admitting that the overall process is almost always more efficient with female-led projects. A lady-dominated set creates a set of unclenched buttholes, and that's a productive set. Why? Because no one is cognitively tunneling as someone is screaming at them while they try to wrack their brain of their expertise for a solution but instead end up making more mistakes because that's what cognitive tunneling does. *Why can't you little darlings figure that out?!* That's the end of my Ted Talk, BUT I am so happy to finally sing the praises of another lady creative I had the pleasure of working for by some stroke of social media kismet.
Kelsey's project came to me by the grace of Instagram when I was so starved for creativity, I was quickly becoming a menace to society. The project hit my radar through the stories of one of the producers, Tienlyn Pan, who also happened to live in Palm Springs at the time, and who I happen to follow because her style is fire. She was not only producing the project but acting as the Costume Designer as well. So, to say she had her hands full was an understatement. She was seeking a last-minute wardrobe assistant, and I jumped at the chance to be back on a set in any capacity. Also, she assured me that I would get to play with lots of fake blood and that piqued my interest. The project is near and dear to her heart since the director is also her family and she was there for the major life event that this film chronicles.
Kelsey's short, Kickstart My Heart, is based on her personal experience of being hit by a car, that fully ran her over and DRAGGED HER 30 FEET. I know...she lived to tell the tale. She's a powerful witch. The film follows our main character after she has been hit and has entered into a realm where she must not only fight for her life but face all of her demons in the process. She battles it out with a fish monster, zombie ski bros, and a masked stranger that all serve one epic ass whooping after another, BUT as Kelsey is living proof, she prevails.
Both of the producers were women (one very pregnant) and such damn pros. The Director of Photography, Allie Schultz, had an incredible eye, was an absolute pleasure to watch work, and is making waves herself as an emerging cinematographer. The star, Emma Pasarow, just made her Netflix debut on another project in which she is also the leading lady, and ohmygosh the one and only Cooper Alexander stole all of our hearts with not only his performance but his wit and adorable personality. That kid is going places. These two are pure magic on screen together and captured a deeply meaningful relationship in Kelsey's life. We were all holding back tears in most of their scenes together.
Of course, none of this action-packed storyline would have been possible without the most badass stunt women I have ever seen. My GOD those gals can take a hit. Don't get me wrong, the boys were impressive too, but I was truly in awe of Emma's stunt double, Ilyana Eberhardt, and the incredibly talented fish monster/masked stranger played by Kyla Hymas. They spent a solid three days getting their asses kicked, sitting in the makeup chair for hours, and letting me obsessively apply fake blood to their clothes (continuity matters!). I have never seen stunt actors in action before, and it was such a treat.
The whole experience was pretty surreal, given that it all seemed to go off without a single hitch. I can't help but wonder...Hollywood, have we figured out the real secret sauce?! It's the LADIES. Kelsey's directing style is one I am quite fond of, which is hiring incredible people and letting them do their jobs. She was cool as a cucumber for all of production, and the personal nature of the story had us all super invested in making her vision a reality.
A year later, Kelsey is killing it on the horror festival circuit and has already had this short optioned for a feature-length film. I am delighted for her and beyond grateful that we all got to get together and play for three days after being stuck in the house for a year. The finished product is gorgeous (shout out to Allie) and had me holding my breath for almost a solid twenty minutes. The premier had a packed house with the entire cast and crew, and the pride in the room was palpable. It's not every day you get to work on a project as personal as this one, and I'm so glad it is getting the recognition it deserves.