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SXSW: Kelley Kali and Deon Taylor talk about their new film I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)!

During this year’s SXSW Film Festival, there is a particular film that will inspire you more than you thought, with its relevant portrayal of a struggling mother raising a daughter in the middle of a pandemic and providing the minimum conditions for their survival. A story that touches the heart and ultimately feels real and illustrates how more people are facing poverty due to the consequences of the spread of COVID-19. We had the chance of speaking to the I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) star Kelley Kali and executive producer and actor on the film Deon Cole. Here’s what we knew about the process of creating a story that feels too close to us right now.

CineAddiction: When did you came up with the idea of making this film?

KK: It was during the summer of 2020 after we’ve been shut down for so long, I had this pressing me and so I called my friends, Angelique, Roma, Deon and Capella and I let them know that we need to do something now. We wanted to tell a story that reflected the issues that we going on around us due to the pandemic. One of the issues that we have in Los Angeles is homelessness and what we were seeing was a lot more women on the streets and then the bigger issue of houselessness where a lot of us were greatly affected. We are living from paycheck to paycheck and you may wind up on a friend’s couch or a family member’s couch or in your car, or living in a tent temporarily. We just wanted to address these issues, and what’s impacting more people now due to these circumstances.

CineAddiction: Do you think Los Angeles is still in that position right now?

KK: Oh, even more so! And it gets worse and worse. We are not out of it yet and there’s more and more people who can’t pay rent. Los Angeles has a moratorium that has made it so you can’t evict and they just renewed it, but there are some landlords abiding by it that are forcing people to pay and who are forcing people out and a lot of those people don’t know their rights or they can’t afford a lawyer. The answer is yes! It’s still a very big problem here in Los Angeles and it’s stimming from the pandemic.

CineAddiction: Kelley, you were wonderful in the role, so thank you so much for your representation. How did you prepare for it?

KK: It was kind of built out of a necessity. We had to keep the crew small and safe, because we were chosing to shoot during the height of the pandemic in the summer, and we had to keep it to 10 people or less, so when I talked to everyone, I said: “You guys we’re all gonna have to act in this!”, and this was the only way that we can keep a small set, you know, we can’t cast outside, so we all just stepped up to the plate and did whatever it is out of necessity. The little girl Wesley (Wesley Woods) is a friend of the family so people always joked that she just looked more like my daughter than their daughter, and when I said “let’s just bring Wesley on”, it wasn’t that hard to have to act protective of her, because I am protective of her. She is like my little girl!

CineAddiction: And how were your feet after so many hours of roller skating?

KK: Honestly? My feet were great! I keep saying this: “look, I’m gonna tell you what type of skates those are and I hope that they support our film and they step up in sponsor us or something, but they are Moxi roller skates!” And I was in those skates for the course of a day minimum and there’s a part of the movie where I take off my skates and I say that my feet hurt, but honestly, my feet weren’t hurting at all! Like, those skates are fantastic, so Moxie, if you’re listening… we’re here!

CineAddiction: Deon, you have a small role in the film. I think your role has a huge significance right now, because you play Chad, a dangerous person who keeps feeding on the desperation of other people, showing the money around. What is your message for the people who watch the film about these dangerous people?

DC: Obstacle. That was basically what it was, an obstacle that I play. It means to show others that there are going to be opportunities that might come your way, but that’s when morals kick in and what’s important, what’s not and so just letting people know that there’s another side to this that can happen, and it’s just up to you, depending on how far you will go in order to make your situation better or whatever, so basically all I was was just an obstacle.

CineAddiction: If your character was to become some sort of a lead character, how do you think he would end up in the story?

DC: He would probably would be spending money on dum stuff and not hanging around with them no more, looking for some more women.

KK: Deon’s character, is very significant to view what we are facing as women. This character wasn’t on the original story. Deon was reviewing the original story and he was like “so you’re telling that she is skating around town all day long in these biker shorts and she has nobody trying to holler at her?” It was great having coming in and bringing the male perspective. Me, my partners and my co-director didn’t see it, so that character really represented truth. He brought more reality into the film, because it is true that as women, if you’re on hard times you could go out there and find a man, and even Brooklynn’s character says that: “Like girl, you got everything! All you need to do is find yourself a rich man!” So that is what Deon said: “what are the moral standards when you’re having a hard time and trying to raise a young lady? What are you trying to show her even though it would be easy? There’s ample opportunities for this character to do that, but she had to make some challenging choices.

CineAddiction: How was it to work with Angelique [Molina]?

KK: It was great! Angelique and I go way back since the university here in southern California. We had our Master’s together in cinema, but that’s not to say that there weren’t challenges. It’s interesting making films with friends because you may have differences of opinions. Because this movie was primarily improved, and we had outlined it, but sometimes we would write the scenes the night before to help whatever actors were acting the next day, and we weren’t getting much of any sleep, one night we were so tired and stressed and we were yelling at each other in the middle of the street in LA and I was like: “I’m gonna go home and write this and you just go to sleep!” and she said “I’m not going to sleep, we’re going home and we’re gonna write this!” and I’m like: “FINE!” and she’s like: “FINE!” It’s not always cookies and creams, but when you’re able to understand each other enough to keep things going and to perservere, you can make something great happen, so it’s interesting in working with friends, but we’re still friends!

CineAddiction: I know you have been busy the two of you, not only promoting the film, but with other upcoming projects. Can you talk a little about them?

DC: Upcoming projects we have… hum… a film with Macro that we’re doing right now, as well as still black-ish and grown-ish and that is was happening right now. And we are still making promotion on this film.

CineAddiction: How about you, Kelley?

KK: Our main priority right now is the film with Macro, so we’re doing some switcheroo! He’s supporting me and now I’m supporting him, and we are writing other features and we are developing those. Really, that’s our day-to-day. We work non-stop… I mean, this movie wasn’t even done and we were working other things.

DC: I wanted to remind people to go on our Instagram page and it’s called thanksforaskingmovie and if you could follow the page, it would be great, thank you!

CineAddiction: You’ve already have a fan here! I already did! So this is a question I usually ask while interviewing someone. What do you think about streaming services and platforms dominating now how people consume film productions?

DC: I think it’s great! There’s so many mainstream platforms right now and all this means to me is many more opportunities for actors and crew members. There’s definitely more opportunity now than and not dealing with just NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS. We’re dealing with all kinds of platforms and that is just more opportunity. I think it’s great, and people are watching content more than ever now in theirs homes so that’s another great plus two, so I think it’s great!

CineAddiction: Do you think it’s “killing the movies”?

DC: No, no, no! Once everybody gets vaccinated, the movie theater is going to boom out of this world! Please believe it: everybody’s going to be out in a movie theater all the time, because you just can’t replace that feel. But at the same token, streaming at home is going to be amazing as well, so it’s going to be the best of both worlds, I believe!

CineAddiction: And you Kelley, do you share the same opinion as Deon?

KK: I do share the same opinion with Deon on that, and if all of that turns out to be true, I know as filmmakers we spend all of our time doing the finest of details on sound design and we want everybody to hear everything in 5.1 sound, and not just on your speakers in our computer or on your phone; we spend so much time in color that is calibrated to these theater projectors and every cell phone and laptop and TV is calibrated differently, so it could personally be cringe sometimes beause the color is off and you wanted them in that scene for a reason, so I know as filmmakers we really want theaters to survive and for people to go out to it. Now, on the other end, I also know we have to be adaptable because times do change and when they do, you just adjust. If the next generation just likes watching things on the internet in their cell phone, we just need to be able to make our art for that. So it’s adapting to the times and as the times changes, but I’m in with Deon, I really do pray that everyone’s going to the theater, because it’s just the best experience.

CineAddiction: Would mind having Netflix buying the film?

KK: No way, I don’t! Please come on down, Netflix! That would be a great home for it!

DC: No, not at all!

CineAddiction: Thank you so much guys, the best of luck to I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)!

KK & DC: Thank you!

THIS INTERVIEW IS EXCLUSIVE FOR COVERAGE OF THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL!

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