The wizardry of Kimberly
Writer/director/author/producer Kimberly Conner is the founder of Predestined Arts & Entertainment
An honors graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Kimberly Conner has been a finalist in several screenwriting competitions, including the Hollywood Black Film Festival, the Urban Media Makers Film Festival in Atlanta, and the Screenwriting Program at the University of Southern California.
Her directorial debut, “This Life Ain’t Pretty,” was based on a true story. The socially-conscious short film challenges stereotypical beliefs associated with HIV/AIDS in young, black, heterosexual America.
Conner’s first full-length feature, “Jump In,” revolved around a law school graduate/single-mom’s quest to pass the bar exam. En route, she is blindsided by the unthinkable, family ties are pushed to the limit, and astounding revelations unfold.
Here, she talks about her new film, “Before ‘I Do,’” an ensemble drama which is set to premiere in her hometown of Springfield, Illinois, on April 30 at the Hoogland Center For the Arts.
What inspired you to write “Before ‘I Do’”?
Kimberly Connors: My desire is for everyone to discover their passion. Life is short. It is my hope that people will watch this film and vow to follow it. So often, we do not do that. Fear holds us back. We listen to the opinions of others instead of listening to that voice inside of us. Film is the vehicle that I use to convey what I feel is a very important message.
Why did you pick a firefighter for your protagonist?
KC: I love firefighters. I respect what they do. It takes a special person to run into a burning house to save someone that they don’t even know. I admire that. As a kid, the fire chief lived right across the street from us. At the time, it seemed like an easy job. I never really saw the dangers, just the glamour of it all. He’s retired now, but he still lives in the same house, across the street from my Dad. I found it intriguing. I wanted to show what it’s like to be a firefighter, so I spent time with several different departments, talking with and observing firefighters to give the story credibility and to shed elements of truth throughout the film.
How would you describe your main character, Caleb?
KC: Caleb is complicated. Beneath it all, he’s a good guy. But, he’s jaded. He wants to move on after being ditched at the altar, but he’s stuck there. Life suddenly forces him down a narrow path, but he comes out wiser, ultimately.
The film is rich with characters and subplots. Would you consider it fair to describe it as similar to a soap opera or romance novel?
KC: It’s fair to say that the film plays out somewhat like a romance novel. If it’s compared to a soap opera, it would have to be an urban soap opera. It has a lot of twists and turns, just like in real life.
What’s your target audience?
KC: My target audiences are women and men, age 24-45, African-American, Latino, and white, and middle age and older adults, age 50-70, white, African-American, and Latino.
What message do you want people to take away from “Before ‘I Do’”?
KC: Pursue your passion, despite what others think. It may not be popular. It may not make sense. Life can change in the blink of an eye. Seize every opportunity. Take the risk.
This is your third film. How would you describe your evolution as a writer/director?
KC: With each film, I’m learning, growing stronger, as a writer and as a businesswoman. Each film should be better than the last. I see evidence of that in my work. I’m building a team, not just producers and crew, but with repeat investors that believe in my work and my message. It’s a process. After I complete each film, I make a list of the lessons that I learned on that production, things that I could improve upon. I ask myself questions like, “What can I do smarter? What can I do better? What do I need in order to be a successful?” Then, I apply those lessons to the next production.
You’re already in pre-production on your next two movies, “Lipstick” and “Macabre.” What are they about?
KC: “Lipstick” is a suspense thriller about a serial killer that targets male victims, spinning investigators through a myriad of twists and turns. “Macabre” is a psychological joy ride.
With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to make?
KC: Yes, absolutely. I’d love to do a modern day “Out of Darkness.” The film starred Diana Ross, and came out years ago. Mental illness is a topic that deserves more attention and that I’d like to take on through film.