Interview with editor, photographer, director and filmmaker Kelly Teacher

taken by Kelly Teacher

I love art. I know that this is probably obvious already, but the reason may be less so. Love comes when I see a piece of art that tells me something; when it’s more than just the image my eyes see. That’s how I categorize pieces as “okay” to “good” to “amazing.” You know that feeling. There is depth. There is story. It feels familiar, nostalgic and enchanting. I came upon a few photographs that really caught the moments in time that are natural, spontaneous or unrehearsed; like laughing from a funny joke or admiring a beautiful landscape. I’m not sure how she does this, but I do know that Kelly Teacher is amazing at creating the feelings of humanity and reflects this through her photography, music videos and editing style. I am delighted to welcome Kelly to this interviewing series.

taken by Kelly Teacher

Connie: When and how did you decide that you wanted to do film and editing work?

Kelly: When I arrived at college, I started studying as a pre-med student, but all my friends and the people I surrounded myself with were cinema majors. Just being around them gave me the confidence to take the leap to be in a creative field. Editing is such a learned skill, I can’t imagine jumping into it and finding it fun, you really have to know the programs first and then it gets fun. It’s been really fun to work with so many musicians because I can work on multiple projects in a short amount of time and I’m building on top of their creative ideas. It’s always a fun experimental collaboration.

Do you have a set process when you are making a film or is it different each time?

I start by organizing, that’s always key, the prep you do before the creative stuff is probably the most important. But other than that it varies per project, sometimes a scene or a shot gets me really excited and I start there or other times if I’m not so inspired I organize more, until something clicks and I can see a bigger picture. I like talking to people and sharing ideas and getting second opinions, but sometimes I’m inspired enough to start going on my own. The best part about film, short, music videos, features, documentaries, is working with other people, getting feedback and discussing motivations behind the cuts or dialogue or whatever.

taken by Kelly Teacher

You directed the short film, Dinner, what was it like to direct while also being one of the stars of the film? Also, have readers missed their chance to see this?

I never want to direct and be in the same film! Dinner was really an experiment, something I could shoot for cheap at my parents house with friends. I used to act when I was a kid and really enjoy it, but trying to stay in the moment as your character and pay attention to the rest of the cast was almost impossible while directing. I’m sure it would get easier with more experience. But as a director you’re trying to think how each character’s lines and deliveries and actions and body language is going to fit into the story, the next shot, the overall scene. Definitely would love to work on more short narrative films, but maybe just as one or the other. It was a great learning experience for sure and I enjoyed every minute of it! I’ll post it on Vimeo eventually.

After watching the tour videos you directed, shot and edited for the bands, Bear’s Den and The Staves, I’ve become a new fan of their music and your work. How did you get involved with working with these bands?

I met The Staves and Bear’s Den on a tour in 2012. I was hired by my then boyfriend Marcus Haney to be the tour photographer, additional videographer and DIT while he directed a documentary about the tour. The doc is called Austin to Boston and it’s out on Netflix and most online distributors now! That tour was so much fun and I’m so lucky to have met so many amazing people both on screen and off screen from that experience.

taken by Kelly Teacher

What is it like touring with a band and what have you learned about yourself from this experience?

Touring is super fun but also really tiring and can be stressful. The days are really long, and you’re usually confined to the venue or a few block radius because there’s load in and sound check and then doors open. And you never know if the venue will have decent wifi. You have little privacy but it’s also easy to feel alone. But you make friends really quickly because you’re sandwiched in a car or bus with everyone. I’ve been lucky to see so many amazing places and get new friends in the process. I’m more confident of myself in strange places, being able to get from A to Z with less stress or just going for a stroll and not really knowing where I am. Being on tour you have to roll with the punches and not get stressed out if something gets canceled or pushed back or needs to be delivered in 1 hour. You realize you do the best you can and the rest is out of your control.

directed by Kelly Teacher

For those who are interested in studying film production, can you tell us a little bit about your background training and education?

I went to the University of Southern California for film and TV production. The School of Cinematic Arts there has amazing facilities and professors, but I think if you don’t know how to take advantage of that it doesn’t do you much good. Just because you sign up for a film education doesn’t mean you’re getting your money’s worth. You need to push yourself to take the classes you think you’ll enjoy and benefit from the most. I had to get a petition to take a graduate level editing class, but the silly thing was no such class was provided to undergrads. Learning how editing software works is without a doubt the most useful thing I learned in school. I think most of what you learn in school is confidence and practice and maybe friends and some connections. But as an undergrad in film production I was still figuring a lot of my life out and did not soak in everything I could have. Inside the classroom only really benefits you if you’re motivated to be working just as hard outside the classroom.

taken by Kelly Teacher
taken by Kelly Teacher

Your photographs are so beautiful and deep. They feel personal, casual and meaningful.  What does photography give you that filming and editing does not?

Thank you! Photography is closer to the heart for me, I feel you can’t get more personal with photography because it is literally what I’m seeing and choosing to show you. Motion picture and editing always has some form of deception to it, which is awesome and necessary because you need to convey a whole story. With photography, you’re only sharing a piece of the story, so it’s up to the viewer to make up the rest.

I think that’s why I tend towards analogue and documentary style photography over fashion or too much digital manipulation. When I look at other photographer’s work, sometimes it’s just a blend of the right colors and shapes and other times it moves me because of the person in the image or the subject matter. Photography feels innate, for some music is the easiest way to express themselves, for me it’s photography. It’s step one. Maybe someday I’ll feel as confident about films.

taken by Kelly Teacher

You currently live in New York.  Are you a native New Yorker? In your opinion, what’s the best thing about this state?

I am not a native New Yorker. I’m originally from Los Angeles, California and I moved to New York right after graduating college. I wanted a change and an opportunity to push myself and discover new things about myself by living far from home. It’s hard to see the best part about the state, but maybe it’s the seasons. Even when it’s disgustingly hot and humid, you know it’s summer so you take full advantage of summer things. You feel time more with the seasons and therefore you do more.

You recently worked on a documentary about musician Ron Pope. Why did you decide to make this documentary and what are your predictions for the music industry in the next five to ten years?

Ron’s story is incredible and inspiring and really relevant for anyone trying to make it as a creative but not sure where to start. For those who don’t know, Ron is a completely independent musician/artist/producer and has been successful touring worldwide; he’ll be putting out, I believe, his twelfth album next. He’s managed to make a name for himself and has a huge following without the help of a major label.

I have no idea where the music industry will be in the next five to ten years, but I hope we see a lot more new faces. I think there’s room at the top for more diversity and just more in general: different sounds, different kinds of artists and musicians. I don’t think the public understands how much power they have.

Streaming is here to stay, I think everyone has realized that. You hear a new song and want to share it with a friend, you’re probably going to do it through youtube or spotify – you didn’t have to pay for anything. But you’re spreading the word about great new artists faster than ever! I think the public will start to realize more that art and music especially needs to be paid for, even if it’s a small fee per month. What inspires us daily should be rewarded and supported.

taken by Kelly Teacher

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your valuable insights and genuine experiences in the fields of film and music. I’m excited to see your work go further and bring light to some cool and interesting artists. This was such a treat for me to learn about you and the individuals you work with; it inspires me and I’m sure other fans, as well.

Check out more of Kelly’s work on her website, here.

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