Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Kimberly Townes?
Kim: Though I’m out here in California, I’m a country girl at heart. I say this because I grew up in a town with only one traffic light, which isn’t even a stoplight; it’s a yielding light. Charles City, VA is where I’m actually from, and I feel like I’m reminded of my “small towness” because in LA there’s so much going on. It’s like I’m a little fish swimming in a big pond. Regardless, I totally believe in myself, and my work, while trying to figure out my angle in the business. I am a graduate of UCLA film school, and I am equal parts, visual artist and storyteller.
QFTD: When did you decide you wanted to get behind the film lens, and what would you say is a big part of being a filmmaker?
Kim: Funny thing… I learned how to tell time from The Facts of Life, so you can imagine how much watching television sparked my intrigue as a child. Growing up, I knew television was something I always wanted to be a part of in some way. The filmmaking journey became serious as I was working in graphic arts. I became enamored with the filmmaking process after taking community college classes in film. Eventually, I applied to the American Film Institute and New York Film School. In the end, I decided on UCLA.
A big part of filmmaking is about understanding people. To be honest, when I started out, I really wanted to learn about people as much as possible. After reading some of Alice Walker’s work, I gained interest in anthropology. When you think about it, creating films is like being an anthropologist. Writing scripts on the development of culture is a powerful tool to help teach future generations; a thousand years from now, people are going to look back on our movies to know our history.
QFTD: What was it like when you saw your short film, Zero, on cable for the first time?
Kim: Here’s what’s ironic: I really didn't get a chance to celebrate my accomplishment until recently. There were months between the festival and the film’s airing, as contracts got sorted out. I’m ecstatic because it’s still running. It was so cool watching it on television, as I kicked back with friends and drank Mimosas. I’m extremely proud because so many fathers have come up to me saying, “Can I show this to my daughter? She could get a lot out of this.”
QFTD: Would you say that this film is like a tribute to your dad?
Kim: Yes. My dad passed away the year I graduated from film school. Even though he was sick, he encouraged me to follow my dream. I was sad he didn’t get to see my film, but a lot of my dad’s energy is in this project. The setting of Zero is in a school, and since he was a superintendent, his presence occupied my inspiration as we shot each scene.
QFTD: I understand your short film was originally your thesis film at UCLA before HBO got their hands on it. How did HBO get their hands on it?
Kim: While at UCLA, I completed a film that was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. They gave me $30,000 to make a film that promoted math or science. Then, when I found out about a film festival that offered national exposure and a nice financial reward, I took the opportunity to submit my work. Out of several hundred short films sent into the festival, only five would make the final cut. As fate would have it, my film, Zero, was chosen as one of the top five. Though I wasn’t the winner, I won $5,000 and had my film aired on HBO.
QFTD: Let’s talk inspiration. What film have you seen that you would consider a “genius piece of work?” Why?
Kim: Hmmm. I’d have to say Inception.
QFTD: Did you say Inception? I am obsessed with that movie.
Kim: How I heard about it is sooo funny. I was talking to my aunt one day a few years ago, and she was so excited about a movie she had just seen. She was beside herself. Then, she proceeded to retell the entire movie in screams. Inception was such a ride…a cerebral ride. Thinking about it, that movie was an action journey that made you think. Anytime you can make someone excited and think, as a director, you’ve succeeded. The acting was really solid, too. I am a huge fan of Leonardo, who also did a fabulous job in Catch Me If You Can.
QFTD: If you could pick the brain of any movie director, who would you like to sit down with for a conversation?
Kim: Christopher Nolan, of course. I would ask him, “What is your creative process?” If I could, I would ask him how he made the executive decision to deviate from the original script of Momento? As a director and producer, I would want to know, “When do you realize that a script is right for you?” I can’t forget about Scorsese, though. He is someone who really impresses me in the filmmaking industry.
QFTD: Are you working on any new projects?
Kim: I’ve been writing a lot lately. I’m working on a feature-length script, while getting ready to raise funds for it. Also, I’m working on two documentaries, as I’m pushing forward. Most recently, I finished up working as a post-production assistant on True Blood. It was brutal, but I love being around creative people.
To see more from Kim Townes, click below.