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Charles Kennedy Jr.: "I Am Going To Create My Own Way"

Positioning your toy cars and action figures like they are acting out scenarios may just seem like child’s play to some people. But when you are Pontiac, Michigan native, Charles Kennedy Jr., you might as well call it prepping for a career as a director. It’s one of the most memorable ways he expressed his creativity as a child. When you speak to Kennedy, you can almost visualize the dots connecting in his career. He describes events in his life like he is breaking down the fourth wall and letting you in scene by scene. He is indeed a captivating storyteller. After a conversation with him, you’ll learn that filmmaking is not an easy road, but it can be worth it when you have the passion and drive.

It was Kennedy’s senior year in high school. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to focus on in college. But at the end of the school year, Kennedy received encouragement from one of the elders at his church to go to school for broadcasting. It made sense, because Kennedy was already working at his local church as a sound technician, dabbling in camera work, and technical directing. While the work he was doing at his church came natural to him, he decided to attend Lawrence Technological University and study to become a sound engineer. While there, the president of his program advised him to add as many skills to his repertoire as he could, because “the more skills you have, the more marketable you will become”.

These are words that Kennedy took to heart. So when a friend asked him to join his production team for a 48 Hour Film Challenge as a boom operator, the future director took the opportunity to learn more about filmmaking.

At the time my focus was audio. I wanted to be an audio engineer, so while doing the 48 Hour Film Challenge, that was my first real experience with film. That opened my eyes to the filmmaking process. {Before that}, filmmaking didn’t feel possible, it felt like it was Hollywood. So you had to go to Hollywood to make movies” {I realized}, this is real, I actually can do this.

-Charles Kennedy Jr.

The film challenge allowed the future owner of CK JR Productions to conquer his shyness and social anxiety. Since the challenge, he makes it a point to reach out to more people and expand his team. Kennedy not only enjoyed the creative side of filmmaking, but he wanted to tap into the leadership skills that were instilled in him since childhood. By the end of college, he started his own business. He attributes that to his father constantly telling him to “be a leader and not a follower”.

“When I got older, I realized that I was always that person that did his own thing. I’m not going to follow what anyone else is doing, I’m going to create my own way. That was really the motivator for me, on the business side. I want to try to be an example for other people, like hey, if someone’s not giving you a way or an opportunity, you can create one yourself”.

-Charles Kennedy Jr.

The short film Affliction is an extension of Kennedy creating opportunities for himself. This is Kennedy's first short film since coming out of college, but the fifth film he has directed. Affliction takes us inside the life and mind of a writer who is in constant battle with not only the people in his life, but also the voices in his head. Kennedy is not only the director, but he is also a producer and writer of the film. The idea for the film was sparked by one line from the movie Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.

“I wrote the first draft {of Affliction} back in 2015 after watching the movie Her. {In the film Amy Adams character} says “love is a socially acceptable form of insanity”. That {movie} stayed with me for a long time, longer than most, and I came back to that line, and for whatever reason my mind was like “being a writer is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” How I put the two together was as a creative, you’re constantly hearing ideas, you’re hearing voices, you see things that {other} people don’t see, and to other people you may seem weird or crazy”.

-Charles Kennedy Jr.

You can check out the trailer for Affliction below:

Kennedy didn’t take this project lightly. The script went through at least eleven revisions, and although the story came from a place of imagination at first, Kennedy found himself drawing from his own personal life experiences and he also studied how the mind works. One fascinating thing about this project is how it touches on so many different areas that can be seen as taboo. One of those areas being mental illness in the African American community.

“I know I’m not the first one to the party, but I do feel like there’s not a lot of people talking about mental illness among the African American community, I wanted to be a positive contributor to that. I just wanted to be a voice. {I wanted to} shine a light on why it’s important to speak about these things and why it’s important to seek help and talk to someone about it.”

-Charles Kennedy Jr.

Film can be an amazing vessel to reach many people on different subject matters including mental health. We also have multiple avenues for film to reach different target markets. However, with all the avenues that filmmakers have these days, including social media, some might feel the world of filmmaking can be too saturated with content. However, Kennedy understands that everyone has their own path in the realm of independent filmmaking.

“You just have to focus on your craft and how you’re using your platform. You’ll get appreciated much more if you continue to create, grow, evolve, and use your platform properly. It’s a perseverance game. People will fall off and they won’t continue, if they don’t have the love and the passion for it. But those who do, will continue to go and do it, and they’ll blossom. I think that’s the beauty of independent filmmaking today”.

-Charles Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy started in college wanting to focus on audio engineering, now he wears the hats of a writer, director, producer, editor, photographer, and owner. He literally has his hands on the pulse of his films from inception to completion. For those that are looking to become future filmmakers, Kennedy says they should stay with it.

“Don’t abandon your vision, your dream. It will get hard, it’s not easy; nothing that’s worth it is easy, so just stick with it. And really push yourself to that final product, Because when you look back on all the things that you have gone through, and see that finished product and know what it took to make it, that is the biggest sense of pride and accomplishment as an artist, at least for me.”

Currently, Kennedy is in pre-production for the feature film version of Affliction. He is also Director of Photography on an upcoming Thriller/Action film.

Charles Kennedy Jr.’s short film Affliction is up for consideration at the Third Annual I See You Awards®, which will begin on Thursday, August 22, 2019 and conclude on Sunday, August 25, 2019. All events will be held at the Emagine Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.

I See You Awards® complete lineup is as follows:

Thursday, August 22

Full day of film screenings

(Screening Schedule TBA)

Friday, August 23

Film industry seminar and networking

12 – 2 p.m.

Saturday, August 24

Free Day to explore Metro Detroit

Sunday, August 25

Black Tie, Blue Carpet Awards Ceremony

Tickets to all events are available via Eventbrite and FilmFreeway. Filmmakers whose projects are official selections will receive two complimentary tickets to Thursday’s film screenings and to Sunday’s Black Tie, Blue Carpet Awards ceremony.

The 3rd Annual I See You Awards® are sponsored by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Emagine Entertainment, Final Draft, Paramount, Limo World and WWJ Newsradio 950, with additional partners Randazzo Formal Wear, The Lee Group and ES Communications Agency.

Filmmakers interested in submitting their projects for consideration are invited to visit our Submission Guidelines page and/or our FAQ Page for all the details. Short films, feature films, documentaries and screenplays are eligible.

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