Writer/director/author/producer Kimberly Conner is the founder of Predestined Arts & Entertainment. An honors graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Kim 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.
Kim’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, 2016 at the Hoogland Center For the Arts.
Kam Williams: Hi Kim, thanks for the interview.
Kimberly Conner: Thank you, Kam. I’m honored.
KW: What inspired you to write Before ‘I Do’?
KC: 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.
KW: Why did you pick a firefighter for your protagonist? I ask because my father had a long career in the NYFD, eventually rising to the rank of Captain, and my uncle, Gus Beekman, was appointed Fire Commissioner in 1978 by Mayor Ed Koch.
KC: Wow. That’s interesting..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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: Before ‘I Do’ is about secrets. Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?
KC: Not by accident.
KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
KC: I’m wiser, more selective, as a result. I’m careful about whom I get close to, whom I allow in my circle, in my heart.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: 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.
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
KC: The multi-colored, shag carpet in our house on Bradley Avenue. I had to be about 3 or 4 years old, but I remember that house and the layout very well.
KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
KC: Yes, you could say so. As it relates to the film, Caleb was named after Caleb in the Bible because he was courageous. Naming the lead Caleb was definitely intentional. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always known about God. From birth, my parents taught us about God.
KW: What motivates you?
KC: I’m motivated to succeed, to get my work out there, to get better and better, to expand in film and television. I’m motivated by a competitive streak. I refuse to be shut out of this industry, predominantly made up of white males. I deserve to be heard. My stories deserve to be told, just the same.
KW: Teri Emerson asks: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
KC: Today. My sister sent me a video of a lady beating up her boyfriend. It was hilarious. He thought he could take her. He quickly found out otherwise, learning a valuable lesson. That was the laugh of the day.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
KC: I see a fighter, a driven, young woman. I see victory. And success.
KW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
KC: I got married in Las Vegas.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
KC: World peace.
KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
KC: Life excites me. I love to travel. Visiting new countries. Seeing God’s awesome power and authority on Earth. Testing God’s promises. Stepping out in faith. Putting my faith to work. These things excite me. Being on set is like Heaven on Earth to me. Nothing excites me like film. It’s my favorite place to be.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
KC: I have to have something sweet, at least once a day, on most days, be it cookies or ice cream. I don’t deny myself.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
KC: The question no one asks is, “Are you single?” I think they assume I’m married or in a relationship. The answer is “Yes.”
KW: Mike Pittman asks: What was your best career decision?
KC: Moving to Springfield, Illinois. It opened the door to a wealth of opportunities in state government, as well as film.
KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
KC: Drive. Ambition. Perseverance. Patience. Organizational skills. And time management.
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
KW: Thanks again for the time, Kim, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
KC: Thank you, Kam! And I’m looking forward to your review of my next film!
To see the trailer for Before “I Do,”click here.