#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions with Kiwi Callahan

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Kiwi Callahan
1. Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Kiwi Callahan, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. Right now, my work tends to be focused on minority rights, labor, and immigration, but I’m interested in literally everything.
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2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?
For me, the concept of creating my own work is a relatively new addition to my life. I was an actress for a long time, and people were constantly telling me that I needed to be producing my own content, but I had no idea what to do about it. I was primarily a musical theater performer, and since I didn’t compose, write lyrics, or write dialogue, I had no idea where to start. It wasn’t until I started to venture behind the camera and focus on telling unscripted stories that were happening in real time that I began to understand what kind of work I wanted to create. When I started producing documentary shorts, I felt a deep sense of ownership in my projects that I had never felt as an actress. I realized that, as actors, we tend to come in to the creative process when so many of the storytelling decisions have already been made, and while I felt ownership of my character and acting choices, it wasn’t enough for me anymore. That shift happened about 5 years ago, and to be honest, I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to focus on. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the satisfaction of finally knowing what kind of storyteller I’m supposed to be.
 
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
My favorite part about creating my own work thus far has been all of the new skills I’ve learned. In needing to support my documentary habit, I’ve also learned how to field produce, shoot, edit, create motion graphics, and interview people for other projects I’ve collaborated on or been hired to create. Every single client has taught me something new, and I know that this will be a life-long learning process. I think the biggest challenge that I’ve faced has been building my network up pretty much from scratch. My first performance as an actress was when I was 8 years old in a community theater in my hometown, and since then, I’d spent over 20 years building up a very wide network of industry connections. I’ve now gone in an almost completely different direction, and have had to start getting to know an entirely different group of people, which can seem overwhelming at times. It feels a little like I’ve lost my tribe. However, I’m very fortunate to have met some incredibly supportive people at the beginning of this journey, and they are really helping to kickstart this networking process for me–hopefully I can build a decent network in less than 2 decades this time. 🙂
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4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
The ability to always keep a “beginner’s mind” when approaching each new project. Always assume that there’s going to be a challenge you’ve never faced before, embrace the opportunity to learn something new, and dive into it head-on.
 
5. Which project of yours are you proudest of?
 
Right now, it’s the latest episode of my web series, Where I Don’t Belong. My friend Oscar Collazos (www.oscarcollazos.com) and I went undercover in North Carolina to pick tobacco for a day with field workers there, and it was an eye-opening experience. We met some great people and we learned a lot, and we’re pretty sure I got nicotine poisoning, so, there’s that. I’m also excited to say that Part 1 has over 3,000 views, which is pretty great for an 11 minute video, I think. 🙂
Official Website: www.whereidontbelong.com

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