From "Daydream" To Reality...
An interview with Kathy Kolla and Shari Belafonte
-By M & J Shepherd
When award winning director, Kathy Kolla and legendary actress Shari Belafonte team up together, really cool things start to happen!
Up and coming filmmaker, Kathy Kolla's latest release "Plastic Daydream" is a dramatic short film that tackles some of life's uphill battles of self-image and aging. The film is admirable in a current time era when "plastic"
Being fortunate enough to screen this short work of art, it's opening scene strikes you immediately with such gorgeously vast cinematography, accompanied by a beautiful, but somewhat haunting score. Instantly, you, the viewer, are apart of this moment, bound for an exciting journey of story-telling ahead - and all because Kathy Kolla has brought you here.
Photos: Johnny Jones
Plastic Daydream triumphs emotionally, thanks to the sublime ensemble put together here. Kolla herself makes a cameo, as well as rising actor Kash Hovey who plays James, the likeable medical receptionist, who noticeably adds spirit and innocence to the role, while the film's central star, who is none other than the outstanding Shari Belafonte, smacks this one right out of the park.
Belafonte plays Hazel, a troubled woman desperate to turn back the clock with cosmetic procedures, but ends up undergoing a life-altering incident instead.
Belafonte is an absolute treat to watch! Her realism exudes from her in a way that not many others can compete. You feel as if you have known Hazel your whole life and you ache for her reminiscent stories of lost youth and past achievements.
Kolla has a very unique and bold way of filming that fuses real-life with a dream-like quality. Her style seems to hint towards a Tim Burton-esque feel in his more human-based projects such as Big Eyes and Big Fish.
Kolla has been quite familiar with the entertainment industry over the years. She has a background in acting, has directed numerous film shorts, worked side by side with the renowned singing giant, Johnny Mathis, as well as Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt on one of the coolest rockumentaries about the infamous Billy Bones, singer of the legendary punk rock band The Skulls.
In a stand-out scene, after receiving devastating news from her doctor, Belafonte delivers such an emotional punch, with the dialogue "You know at 65, you can be too old for plastic surgery...and apparently you can be so ill that your doctors won't help you." Her performance makes you want to have a long, hard cry right along with her.
Shari Belafonte is, and has always been a star. She has graced many of our decades with noticeably eye-catching film and television appearances throughout her lasting career (who can ever forget her role as Julie Gilette from the classic hit series of the 80's "Hotel") She has modeled on the covers of iconic magazines, including Vogue, Vanity Fair and Jet - and, of course, she is a singer, just like her celebrated father, the great Mr. Harry Belafonte.
Shari is one of those people you can't help but fall in love with. Her 'tell it like it is' personality is downright refreshing! And her stark confidence and independence is rightly commendable.
She - is - cool. As simple as that.
Kathy Kolla and Shari Belafonte are a delight to interview!
And getting to know them more was very special for us at Cool Magazine!
We hope you enjoy this exclusive double interview! One for each cool lady!
So, kick back and read on!
Interview With Kathy Kolla
Was there a particular event or time when you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would become your career path in life?
"I never necessarily thought of filmmaking as a hobby, I’ve always taken it seriously, but a notable moment in time was when my first real attempt at writing and directing – a short comedy called “Another Day, Another Dime” – got picked up by the Shorts TV cable network and got nationwide television distribution. That was a boost of confidence, for sure."
Your new film Plastic Daydream tackles many issues of today's woman and her ongoing battle with age and vanity. What message particularly were you trying to covey with this film?
"The message we were trying to convey is that we need to accept ourselves in the stage of life we’re in. That there’s beauty in every stage. We wanted to start a conversation about what it means to be beautiful and why one would go to extremes in the pursuit of so-called perfection."
What was it like working with the amazingly talented Shari Belafonte?
"Shari is one of the best actresses I’ve ever had the pleasure of directing. She was one hundred percent involved in the character she was portraying. We had many meetings beforehand to discuss the backstory of the character, so when it was time to shoot, she made my job very easy. Even when the camera wasn’t on her, she was fully invested in her scenes with the other actors, especially the emotional scenes with Kash Hovey. And she’s also multi-talented – an amazing vocalist, singing the end-credits song of the film, “Time Stands Still.”
People have trouble naming female film directors these days. Can you name a few of your favorites that people need to pay more attention to?
"I love Ondi Timoner, who did the film “Dig!” as well as a Russell Brand documentary. There’s also Rebecca Asher who directed me when I was on “Arrested Development” which made a positive impact on me. There’s also a filmmaker named Agnieszka Holland who does a lot of TV as well as European films. She did “The Secret Garden” back in the early 90's."
As a woman working in a predominantly male profession, do you think the #MeToo movement is helping shape the entertainment industry in a more positive way, or has it possibly lost it's main focus somewhere down the line?
"I think it’s a positive thing. Accountability, fairness, transparency and basic human dignity are important in any industry. I’m an optimistic person so I believe things are always moving in a positive direction."
One of our favorite things about you is that you are a vegan. What's one of your top choice vegan restaurants here in Los Angeles?
"There are so many great vegan spots and places that have vegan options. One of my favorites is Sage Plant Based Bistro. It’s locally sourced, plant based and organic. They have homemade kombucha and their pierogies are delicious."
What's next for you? Any more projects or ideas in the works?
"I always like to have a lot of things in the planning stages. That way when you’re finished with one project there are already other ones with momentum that have been building in the background. The major project I’m focused on is a feature film based off the F. Scott Fitzgerald story “The Cut-Glass Bowl.”
What is your definition of "cool"?
"I’ve always thought musicians were cool. That’s one of the reasons music always plays an important role in my films. It’s one of the reasons I made the documentary “Who Is Billy Bones?” about early punk rockers, and why I wanted to have Shari sing an original song for “Plastic Daydream.” Music is cool."
Photo: Drew Milford
Photo: Sheri Determan
Interview With Shari Belafonte
What attracted you to this particular film project?
"The opportunity to work with young, up-and-coming talent in our business (Kash Hovey and Kathy Kolla), plus the chance to explore a character that had never been offered to me. I’ve never shied away from playing someone older, or not attractive, but the industry pretty much dictates what opportunities you’ll get when the studios are involved. Nothing like “Hazel” ever came my way. So, when Kash sent me the script, I jumped on it."
Having had a successful career as a model in the past, do you have any moral standards when it comes to cosmetic surgery and the way it seems to define this generation more than ever?
"First off, people need to know exactly what’s involved with cosmetic surgery, and why they feel compelled to do it. Many years ago I had mammoplasty / breast augmentation (you know, “tits” put in). The upshot was, I had great looking tits for 20 years, but then there were complications, leakage, removal, replacement…and I couldn’t wait to ultimately get them taken out. If I had known then what I know now, I would never have done it. But, back then, Victoria’s Secret didn’t exist and fancy, schmancy push-up bras weren’t on the market. That said, I understand why someone may feel uncomfortable in the skin they’re in and feel the need to rectify things that make them feel insecure in public. But, there should be numerous consultations and conversations that go down before going under the knife. As for my face? I don’t think I’ll ever do anything to it unless it becomes a health issue. I’ve seen the downside of continually getting “touch-ups,” and if you don’t have the perfect doctor doing it, often things can look worse than when you started. That’s why there’s Photoshop."
What was it like working with Kathy Kolla as a director?
"Kathy was great. She was very willing to hear my suggestions and slip them in where they worked. It’s fun to find a director that’s willing to collaborate as opposed to dictate. Don’t get me wrong. I like a director telling me what to do, but if I feel there’s a question or an option, I truly appreciate being heard. She did that. I’d work with her again, any day.”
Was there ever a "dream role" for you? Something you always wanted to play, or maybe a role you actually turned down, but looking back now, wished you would have given it a shot?
"I never have turned down anything that I look back at now and say “WTF was I thinking???” There have been plenty of roles that I’ve seen other actors do that I’ve thought “What will it take for them to invite ME to play a character like that?” And, there were a handful of parts that had “ME-TOO” complications written all over them, and I very willingly told those folks to “Fuck-Off” (if you can print that). And, while I might have missed an opportunity to have a stronger presence in the industry because of passing on those parts, I have no problem with having maintained my integrity -- that is first and foremost my self-imposed mission. On another note, I’ve always wanted to be the comic “sidekick” in a major motion picture, or even a great TV show. Or, to play the “wisecracking” housekeeper. Hopefully, now that I’m getting older, someone will think of me for those types of parts. Cloris Leachman type of roles. Frau Blucher from Young Frankenstein."
Who are some of the most memorable people you have worked with?
"I was very fortunate to have worked on a show called “Hotel” back in the 80's and we had mega-stars guest star on that show. Ginger Rogers, Liz Taylor, Roddy McDowell, Shelly Winters, Rock Hudson, Diahann Carroll were just a few names that came to the St. Gregory Hotel. But, I have to admit, the show I’m currently recurring on that we’re shooting right now for APPLETV’s new format, has the most delightful cast. THE MORNING SHOW. Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and especially Jennifer Aniston are three dreamboats that I’m very excited to be seen in the same frames as, and the additional cast is fabulous too. There are plenty of other talented folks I’d crawl in mud to work with. Spielberg, Lucas, Roskam and Besson are the film directors of choice. My “Hollywood” Godson (Jonah Hill) is such a talent. I’m still waiting for him to write me a killer part. He tempts me, then gives the parts to bigger names. Go figure. Ahhh The BIZ."
Speaking of "The Morning Show", We are really so excited about this new project of yours! Your new TV series The Morning Show is set to air this year. The series casting is phenomenal, as you mentioned; Carell, Aniston, Witherspoon and of course yourself! - just to name a few. What can you tell us about the role you play in this highly anticipated series?
"All I can tell you is, I’m number 31 on the call sheet (laughs) There are 30 much more talented folks ahead of me, and each is fantastic in their roles. Mark Duplass, Bel Powley, Nestor Carbonell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and of course, Aniston, Witherspoon and Carell etc… I’m Julia, the “Stage Manager” on The Morning Show. It’s a marvel how fantastic this cast and crew is. And, multi-Emmy winner Mimi Leder is our fearless leader, director and EP. She’s brilliant. ER, WEST WING, THE LEFTOVERS, not to mention her features, DEEP IMPACT, and ON THE BASIS OF SEX, just to name a few, puts her right up there as one of, if not THE leading female director(s). I’m thrilled to be a part of this ensemble. THRILLED!"
You are such a gifted woman! Not many people can say that they have modeled successfully, cut two full length albums, acted in countless films and television shows (the list just goes on and on) - but out of all these super-creative things that you do, which is the one special talent you hold closest to your heart? The one that is truly you?
"Shooting. I love being behind the camera as much as in front. Probably even more so. There’s something about capturing that moment, that “thousand word” moment. If you take any Hitchcock or Kurosawa film, you can freeze-frame any particular moment, and it tells a story. It captures your imagination. I’d love to be a storyteller like THAT.”
And finally - What is your definition of "cool"?
"Anyone who loves and puts dogs first!"
Photo: Sheri Determan
Photo: Johnny Jones
Kolla and Belafonte work wonderfully together and we look forward to see what exciting things are ahead for them!
Make sure to follow @KathyKolla and @PlasticDaydream on Instagram to stay up to date with film screenings, as well as Kathy's latest work projects! And, of course, don't forget to tune in to Apple TV to see Shari's hot, new series
The Morning Show coming this fall!
-M & J Shepherd