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Kymberly Harris launches Hollywood Workshop - Hollywood's award winning director

Interview by: Ezzah Rafique | July 2, 2024

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in the entertainment industry. What inspired you to become a director?


KH: My dad was a cinephile, and introduced me to the great  70s movies of Cassavetes, Scorcese, Varda, Nicolas Roeg, when I was a little girl. In college, I studied the French New Wave, and did my junior year abroad in France. I was acting and writing all that time, which led me to directing theatre, and now film. Those early influences are still the films that I feel influenced my aesthetic the most. They are personal stories, relationship stories, stories that reflect society and peek in at a world with a specific point of view. And value exceptional acting, like I do. Once I directed my first film, I realized a place where I can apply my passion for creating a world while supporting the actors' most interesting work.

Were there any challenges you faced early in your career that taught you any memorable lessons? How did you overcome them? 

KH:  The challenge artists often face is trusting their own vision and inspiration. It’s a balance of having the humility to grow and learn, while also asserting and taking care of your unique perspective. It’s important to take the time to be in process, and not to forgo taking care of yourself in order to take care of someone else, if that is going to compromise your integrity.  I like the Rumi quote,  “The inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen.” I’ve learned to take the time to be silent and listen. Sometimes the answers aren’t outside of you, but inside of you. 

What draws you to directing a project and how do you stay inspired? 

KH: I'm always inspired. I’m not sure if that’s a curse or a blessing. But I'm on fire for the work. I live for story, it’s my favorite thing in the world. Once I feel committed to a story, I can’t let go of it until I see it through to its fruition. I think what draws me isn’t fully conscious. I feel a connection to something I feel is important to say, needs to be said, and try to be in service of that. I’m certainly drawn to social justice, and giving voice to the voiceless. I want to do my part to fix what’s broken, to give people a lift or a mirror to their own lives. 

What makes directing, writing, and teaching rewarding for you? 

KH: I love personal films.  I want to recognize the characters as truthful and mirroring back something to me that is provocative and moving. I want to see diverse women on screen who are part of a specific world. Flawed, human characters are sexy to me. And characters that live through obstacles that are somehow relatable to me. So far, my films have come to me through word of mouth from actors that I work with. I love actors, and understand their work. Great acting is paramount to any show. Because I acted for so long, I want to give actors a place to really grow, thrive, build their confidence, and do the best work they are capable of. I truly feel most proud when I can help another person grow in a way that is meaningful to them. If I can touch a life, help a life, help someone succeed in their goals, I’ve had a meaningful day. In my work, that is often helping an actor share themselves a little more. What’s beautiful about that is that the actors employ their own humanity, so the payoff is pretty exciting. Without naming names, I’ve had actors come to me who from the outside had all the success in the world. But it is in the craft that they find the fulfillment they are missing. When they find ways to give more personally to the work they love so much.

Who are some of the individuals who have significantly influenced your work and career?

KH: I’m inspired by kindness and boldness, and of course talent. My parents, David Foster Wallace, Susan Batson, Robert Allan Ackerman, Al Pacino, Matthew Halla,  Thomas Sadoski, Laverne Cox, and the great directors I can’t get enough of. My students -  the actors I work with. And my son is an endless source of inspiration for me. 

Let’s talk a bit about your workshop! Tell us a bit about it, what motivated you to create this workshop for emerging actors? 

KH: I truly love working with actors. For me, it’s an extension of my work as a director. I am inspired to guide actors to find their motivations. I love discovering new works, and mining the character relationships with the text. I dedicated so much of my life and education to learning and practicing the actors' craft. I love sharing this work, and helping actors reach their highest potential. 

What drew you to creating this workshop opportunity? 

KH: I’m developing projects now, so I have the time to do this. But more importantly, I’m interested in sharing the techniques I use on set and with my private clients, with more actors. I want to give actors opportunities where they can grow and also share their best work in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

Can you give us a glimpse into the structure of the workshop? How do you tailor your workshop when working with new actors compared to seasoned professionals? 

KH: My workshops are for professional actors. Some are more seasoned than others. The STARDUST scene studies focus on script analysis, personalizing characters, and creating the most riveting path, step by step. ‘The Big Picture” ends with a play, giving actors the chance to be directed and also learn the craft while creating an entire role. I give workshops I would want to be in. I don't take actors for granted.

What do you hope participants will take away from your workshop?

KH: I hope they will want to keep growing and learning, like great actors do. I hope they trust their instincts more, feel more empowered by their own choices, understand how to make personal and specific choices, and feel that they took risks and discovered more freedom in their work.

Lastly, what are some words of advice you can provide to those looking to get involved in either acting on screen or directing behind the screen?

KH: We are in a great time where you can find a way to create work for yourself. I love the periods of time like in the 70s or the 90s where independent voices were championed and encouraged by the industry. We all know that omes and goes. But what we have now is a real awareness around the need for representation of voices that aren’t often heard. My advice is to keep training, you are never done. Keep cpracticing your craft. Keep finding opportunities, and also collaborate to make your own opportunities.


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