Carolyn B. Kennedy is a Canadian actress, director, writer, and producer who’s ready to take the world by storm. Inspired to pursue an acting career back in 2011, her first original project was a one-woman web series titled The Bridget Linden Show. Last year, she created Danger Pay, a separate web series where she stars as a paralegal working for an eccentric lawyer. Danger Pay‘s premiere episode was recently nominated for 2016 Best Pilot at WebFest Montreal. Carolyn’s other creative efforts include sketch comedy series WBFTV, which she produces and stars in with Saleste Mele, and short film Super Speed Dates. When she’s not diving headfirst into her latest artistic endeavor, Carolyn continues her education with multiple apprenticeships related to the entertainment industry. She recently took the time to chat with Talk Nerdy about where she’s been, and where she plans on going next.
You’ve talked before about how you got interested in the film/TV industry because of an acting workshop. What drew you to comedy as a genre specifically?
I really enjoy comedy. I suppose that is applicable to most people, but creatively it resonates with me. As a viewer, I have always enjoyed watching comedy TV series such as The Office, 30 Rock, Seinfeld and Friends. My top all-time favorite films are also comedies: Meet the Parents and Austin Powers are just a few of the popular franchises that are among my personal favorites. When I set my mind to writing for the first time, it just came out as comedy. It’s not as though I sat down to try to write something funny. It’s just that whenever I am inspired to write, that’s the genre that comes out most easily. I can’t explain it any better than that.
When you decided to create “The Bridget Linden Show,” how did the process of designing the character and writing early episodes go? What about figuring out production needs?
After an acting workshop in late 2011, I was inspired to create my own character and web series. Over New Years that year, I traveled alone to Hawaii for vacation. I used my time there to contemplate ideas for what I could do on my own, with the equipment and knowledge that I had.
My intention was to motivate people to improve their own lives in one aspect or another, all while keeping it light and fun. I thought about how I could put a twist in the episodes to convey a message that was helpful or inspirational, while at the same time keeping it interesting. The message was what was important to me. The ideas for the first episodes were what I created first. After that, I started to work on the character.
I thought of ways I could create a watchable and likable character. I wanted her to be relatable to people and yet not come across as “preachy”. I also wanted her to be playful, fun, spontaneous, outgoing and adventurous. I wanted to encourage others to step outside of the box of their own lives and encourage them to think positively, explore new things, and be independent. I wanted the character to do the unexpected and have people wondering what she might be up to next. “Bridget”, I think, turned out to be a wish list of characteristics that I hoped for myself. In many ways, I was using this creative outlet to influence me in my own life as well.
When I returned to Calgary, I looked into what was already out there on the Internet with respect to YouTube channels, other web series, and what vloggers were creating on their own. I also researched the technical aspects of website creation, creating my own YouTube channel, how to shoot and light videos, and how to edit them and publish them online.
In the beginning, I shot my videos with my phone. Over time I learned how to shoot them using my Canon camera, a tripod, and a remote. Eventually, I purchase video lighting to help improve the quality. I used my Apple computer and the free video editing software that came with it -“iMovie”. I learned to edit and upload my videos to YouTube on a channel I created. It was an organic evolution over time. I learned by doing. I also built a website and opened social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter to help me engage and interact with the followers I was beginning to attract.
In “Danger Pay,” you play Michelle Scott, a paralegal with a weird boss. How much of the show is inspired by your previous work in that profession?
Woodrow, the lawyer, is a completely fictitious character. He is from my ridiculous imagination and bears no resemblance to anybody I have ever worked with or known. I used to work for law firms or companies and never worked in a home office environment like in the show. My previous work has only provided me with the backbone and the framework for everything else. There can be strong personalities in the legal profession. When writing the episodes, I tried to think of the most ridiculous way of expressing and amplifying those types of strong personalities.
The nature of a paralegal’s job is to do what the lawyer asks, with little question or hesitation. That is similar to Michelle who is prepared to tolerate working for a bizarre lawyer whom no one else can bear.
You developed “Women Being Funny TV” with Saleste Mele — how does co-creating a sketch comedy series compare to a completely solo project like “Bridget Linden”?
There are two aspects to co-creation. There is the creation of the skit or script. This, with the right writing partner, is a cooperative effort with each person providing their own ideas and those ideas inspiring the other to new ideas themselves.
On the production side, it allows for the distribution of the work of actually getting the episode produced. It is not all on one person’s shoulders. This is a great improvement, as being the sole person responsible for getting things done can be quite a burden.
Having a partner makes you accountable to someone other than yourself. This helps one keep the project moving forward and not letting it get stalled when one’s own motivation and creativity might wane. It’s kind of like having a workout partner for going to the gym.
Of course, one has to give up some autonomy and full control over the creative aspects of the project compared to working alone. But, both methods of creating have their pros and cons. I enjoy both.
Are you interested in making more short films like “Super Speed Dates”? Is writing/producing a short film at all different from creating a web series?
Yes, I would love to create more short films, and eventually, feature films. I already have several ideas in mind that I am developing.
When creating a web series, there are certain things that need to be considered that do not apply when making a short film. A web series requires you to consider not only the storyline of each individual episode, but also the development of the characters throughout the series and the overall story arc of the show. Depending on the length of the short, there can be sub-plots. But this is not the same as in a web series where you have to bring a specific episode to conclusion each time, while preserving a longer story arc.
When producing a web series, you need to have actors who are willing to play recurring characters and who are committed to participating for the duration of the series. This challenge does not exist for a short film, which in essence is a stand-alone story, and does not require consistency unless there is a sequel.
For a short film, you are creating a one-off story. You have the freedom to create something that stands on its own and does not have to be reused. You don’t have to create another storyline using the same framework or setting over and over again. For a web series, you have to be careful about selecting the framework and the setting for the show. There has to be creative room for taking the characters and the setting down different storylines each time.
You’ve taken courses about different film/TV-related professions and you work with an acting coach. How have those experiences changed or expanded your creative process?
In addition to working with an acting coach and taking an apprenticeship in filmmaking, I have taken introductory courses relating to many of the jobs performed on set as I feel that it is important as a director and a producer (and even as an actor) to have some knowledge of these roles. Understanding these roles expands my abilities in the others. As an actor, being aware that an entire team of people are contributing to the entire enterprise allows me to focus all my energy on my one particular part in the larger whole. As a producer, being an actor and a story-teller helps guide me in a creative way to make the production choices that center around budget and other concerns.
A lot of actors think up an entire backstory for characters they play even if most of it won’t show up in a story at all. Do you like developing individual roles’ inner lives to that degree, or do you prefer working outward from a central character goal or mindset?
A great book I would recommend reading with respect to discovering and creating watchable interesting characters is “How to Stop Acting” by Harold Guskin. He explains how you can achieve a lot of freedom in your acting and how you can create fresh and exciting characters. I study and explore the text of the script intensively and allow it to inform me about the character.
I have to ask: how do you deal with writer’s block?
Writing has always been a natural outlet for me. There have been times when I wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea that I just have to write down. I haven’t personally suffered from writer’s block yet. I expect my strategy for overcoming it will be perseverance and working with whatever ideas flow into my head at the time, regardless of whether or not they have any connection to the specific project at hand.
Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
My first short comedy film “Super Speed Dates” is in post-production and may be released in the next few weeks, depending upon film festival restrictions. A teaser trailer for this has been released on my personal YouTube channel.
As well, five new episodes of “Danger Pay” are also in post-production and I hope to release them in the next few weeks. A teaser trailer is available on YouTube. You can subscribe to Danger Pay on YouTube to receive notification of when the new episodes are available.
I also play Canadian Immigration Officer “Julie Denton” in the Bollywood romantic comedy film, “Jindua”. This is my first time acting in a Canadian/Bollywood production. I enjoyed my scenes with superstars Sakhawat Naz, Jimmy Shergill and Neeru Bajwa.
As for what is next to come, stay tuned on social media to find out what I will be working on next. I have many ideas for tv series and films and plan to develop concepts for another short film and a feature film.
What advice do you have for those of us who want to make a career transition into a creative/artistic field?
My advice is to go for it. If you have a creative calling, it is very important that you follow it and explore it. Focus on your art and the craft, and do not concern yourself with the negative opinions of others. Don’t censor your art or “tone it down” or try to change it to please everyone – you will never do that, and in the end, your work will be boring and bland. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you in your creative endeavors. And remember to also believe in yourself.
Be prepared for an industry that rarely provides you with any validation. By its very nature, there is a tremendous amount of rejection that one has to endure. Realize this and accept it. Celebrate each victory and success, no matter how small. Have faith that whatever you are doing is moving you forward, even if there is no objective indication that it is. Don’t give yourself a time limit. This is a lifelong commitment with no finish line in sight.
Since our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us, what do you like getting nerdy about?
I love playing board games and card games. Some of my favorites are Canasta, Catan and Tile Rummy. I also love playing Texas Hold’em Poker. Each day, I “try” to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.
WEBSITES & SOCIAL MEDIA…
Carolyn Bridget Kennedy:
The Bridget Linden Show:
Super Speed Dates:
Demure Duchess Pictures: