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Meet Kelly Kula

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Kula.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was an extremely shy individual since I can remember, so to be drawn to acting seemed to be the antithesis of what one would expect from a quiet book smart young girl. But I remember watching a Hallmark movie – and I’ll never forget this – called “A Step Toward Tomorrow” and was overwhelmed by how much the performances affected me.

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to move people in the same way that film touched me, and I even went so far as to try to act out the same scenes in my room to see if “I had it”. I didn’t start acting until I was in high school; in fact, I found the most confidence in myself while playing sports. As the youngest of three daughters, I was the natural tomboy, always playing outdoors, getting dirty, and doing whatever I thought my dad was good at. I wasn’t a naturally gifted athlete, but I was the hardest working person in the room. Since I knew that it would take hard work and repetition to get to be on the starting five of our basketball team, I worked round the clock, in the off season, outdoors even in the wintertime, to make sure that I was doing everything in my power to reach my goals.

Despite finding my rhythm in athletics, I still hadn’t answered the call to act. My sophomore year of high school, they were holding auditions for “The Wizard of Oz” and I knew that I had to audition. I couldn’t quelch the desire any longer! Naturally, a musical would require a singing audition, and I had zero formal education in that arena. I sure sounded great in the shower, but as I went on stage and faced a crowd of my peers, I froze in the sheer terror that arose like wildfire. What if they hated me? What if I sounded horrible and they all laughed? I was a people pleaser and cared more about what others thought about me than myself, so in that moment, I was inanimate with fear. I asked for a few minutes and went back down to the seats and just waited for the onslaught of laughter, finger-pointing, and general teasing.

What I got is one of the reasons I have stuck with acting today: I was surrounded by loving, accepting people who encouraged me, told me that it happens to everyone, and were kind enough to share their stories of failure. I knew right then that these were the type of people I wanted to work with the rest of my life.

Years and years later, and thousands of miles away from home, I still hold that principle in my heart: I want to work with the individuals who build one another up and champion each other, for a foundation built on support is truly one where all talents can flourish. Not to say that it hasn’t been easy; Los Angeles is a town filled with many types and tropes, so to find that team has taken me a long time. But throughout it all, I have remained true to my love of performing and that has only grown throughout the years.

As athletics has always been my area of comfort, it was naturally a great parallel with my acting journey. I’ve trained stage combat and martial arts for over 15 years, and truly enjoy the moments when I perform my own fights and get to be the tough chick on film. For all those years of being shy and timid, it’s nice to be able to play characters who embody how I feel now: confident, strong, and fiercely goal-oriented.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the largest obstacle for my journey was my inability to say “no”. Raised a “people pleaser”, I was more focused on making others happy and didn’t realize that it was actually stunting my growth not only as an actor but also as a human being. There really isn’t a success timeline when it comes to acting – like, after three years, doing this that and that, you’ll have made it! – so it is difficult to say if anything has detracted from my overall journey. I have no regrets building up to where I am now, but I do remember moments of bottled up resentment and anger, and not really knowing why. If I really didn’t want to do some free extra work, I couldn’t say no! I would think of how I would potentially hurt the other person and would just let my fear of letting them down dictate my decision. So no wonder there was resentment building up when I was on set for that free work, working over 12 hours with no food….in the rain….with nowhere to sit.

There may be some exaggeration there, but I was really emptying my well for others and not filling it up with things that truly made me happy. Plus, the first time I said “no” politely, it was no big deal! The dramatic scenario I had built up in my head didn’t exist; people were quite respectful of my decision and never held a grudge. It was liberating, but certainly not an easy lesson to learn.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an actor, first and foremost, and although I love action/comedy it’s not the only thing that I specialize in. With my husband, I have been producing my own content and we are really proud of our sci-fi horror “NOVA” that is starting to hit festivals. As it is currently in the festival circuit, it isn’t for public viewing, but it was really an exciting challenge for all parties involved. I had originally asked my writer friend to draft me an action comedy, and instead he presented me with a sci-fi horror. Instead of sticking to what was comfortable and known, I challenged myself to really dive into this character. It was a lot of work but I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Paralleled with the innovative cinematography that went into it, as well as the detailed SFX and VFX, I am blown away by the production quality as a whole. Our first production is definitely one I am proud of and will always hold fond memories of.

As an actor, I dive into my work much like I have all my goals since the beginning: hard work, focus, and a humble attitude. I understand the importance of all aspects of production, and I like to treat everyone on set as if we’re all in this together, which we are! No entitlement, no egos, just a bunch of humble humans combining their talents to make amazing work. I really aim to make it that simple. I feel that my easy going attitude coupled with my self deprecating humor is a valuable asset to have on set. The fact that I love what I do and am willing to try most anything to accomplish the collective’s goal sets me apart from others.

One of my parallel goals is to create an encouraging environment for women. It’s a generalization for sure, but I’ve found that competitive women can be extremely churlish. I’ve experienced it myself and always wondered where that spirit came from; instead of championing one another, it seems more normal for women to tear one another down. Whether it’s in the acting field or on the gym floor, I make it a point to support other women, even if I can feel the competitive spirit. When I see another woman with amazing arms, and I feel that mine are inferior, you will not see me shooting her a nasty glance – oh no! – I like to go against the grain and tell her to her face just how awesome she looks. I’ve given compliments to a few women at the gym, and they were sincerely surprised. It’s as if they’re expecting cattyness, and that fact to me is really sad. I want that to change. It’s a choice to push away those negative competitive stereotypes we’ve picked up along the way, but I find it a choice worth making as the end result is definitely more happiness and positivity.

So you’re good friend got the audition instead of you? Congratulate her, don’t get all in your head about all the possible scenarios of WHY. Success isn’t a pie, there isn’t a limited amount of it. Give the women in your life the genuine support they need instead of projecting your jealousy and doubt onto them. It’s a much healthier  perspective.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We plan to continue to produce our own content, as well as pursuing opportunities on network television and feature films. There are many “greats” that I would love to chance to collaborate with, so I will put it out there that it will happen soon!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Miguel Amodio, John Cole

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