Interview with Kalyn Elizabeth Wood

Kalyn is an American - Irish actress based in London and Los Angeles. Wood was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a mother of Irish and French descent and a Father of Italian heritage. When she was five her family moved to Palm Beach, Florida where she spent most of her childhood before moving to Atlanta, Georgia for her teenage and college years. She became interested in acting at a young age and began training when she was twelve years old. At the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Wood received a perfect study score in a Shakespeare Intensive Course. Wood was also the recipient of the 2016 Dina Merrill Scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles. In 2020, she received a BA in History from the University of Mississippi. In 2023, Wood received an MA in Text & Performance from Birkbeck University.

Could you briefly describe your project for our audience?
In the hauntingly enigmatic and dialogue-free short film, 'Screaming Silence', Elizabeth, a young woman in the aftermath of a traumatic event, navigates her world through a haunting soundscape of everyday noises, which 'peoples' her world and forces her to face her reality of circumstances
and her fear of reaching out for help. As the audience intimately experiences her journey, Elizabeth's silence becomes a bittersweet force, echoing the profound emotional depth that empowers her to move forward in an altruistic twist of an ending.

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What were your main aspirations or goals when creating this project?
This film first started out as my dissertation project for my masters program in London. I was the only one in my class who was doing a digital piece. I knew when beginning to write my piece that I wanted to examine women’s relationships, mainly womens relationship to trauma, sexual assault, loss, isolation and also to dive a little into the mother-daughter relationship dynamic. Yes, I know that sounds like a lot, but that is what drives me. The complexity is women. My complexity and hidden spaces within myself. The film's first iteration was completely different from its final iteration that it is today and to be quite honest I am glad I went the route that the film is now rather than what it was ‘supposed’ to be. It challenged me and pushed me to places I had never been before as a performer intrinsically, technically, and emotionally. What started out as a quest to fulfill or rather rewrite my story as a gift to my mom and it then became something in singularity. From women, to women. A singular and multifaceted relationship with trauma, the aftermath, loss, isolation and more importantly silence. I investigated the notion of: the power of female silence in films through the lens of trauma. I want anyone who watches this film to feel as though they are allowed in Elizabeth’s world to experience and observe her life in that present moment. I want people to be inspired by the lack of Elizabeth’s voice to find their own voice. To open up and out and maybe even scream.

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Share some memorable moments from the shooting process or any pleasant surprises.
I think one of the biggest ones that sticks out the most is that Hal Waghorn and I shot this in 2 and half days. We used minimal lighting effects to capture the rawness of the homes we were in and better set the tone for the visuals of the film. Another memorable moment or rather funny moment from shooting, is when we went to a beach in Bristol where we shot the opening and ending shot. What we thought was solid sand and or secure rocks we could walk on ended up being thick and loose mud that when I stepped on I immediately sank to my knees and we all busted out laughing. Lastly, a moment that made my heart truly sing, was in the editing room with Hal. We were getting to the end of the film and were putting the song ‘Just for Now’ by Michael Crean in the ending scene. On the first try we had the placement perfect. We let the film roll from the first note of the piano and we both let out a huge emotional sigh that turned into tears because we knew right then and there that we were finished, but also that we made something that mattered. That had a voice of its own. Something that we were both proud of.

Who is the primary target audience for your film, and what do you hope they will take away from it?
At the beginning of my process and discussions with fellow peers, and when hearing the idea of the film, one of the lenses suggested that my film was and could be at its core, a feminist film. When I would think of feminist films, I would think of something quite hard, harsh, and in your face and also have a woman at the center of the film. While yes, as I say this I understand that my film has all these qualities, but just because a woman is at the center of it doesn’t mean it is a feminist film, just because it’s about trauma doesn’t mean it solely a feminist film. But it is a feminist film. I challenged all those notions myself and still came back to that answer. But the film, I think it is for everyone. We have all known someone who has isolated themselves, those who have been through trauma and for some that is their own personal story. While the actions/ incidents in the film some may have experienced, it speaks to a larger problem. The voiceless, those who feel silenced, and those who have only ever known silence. I began to understand that my thinking was one sided and jaded. It challenges the notion that for decades there has been a long standing myth within film that movies made by women for women are not as appealing to the masses. In my opinion films made by women are some of the best films of this generation because they are hard, and in your face and truthful, because that is what life is. I made this film for myself, but I realize now I made it for everyone. I ask that you ask yourself: is our world truly silent, is your world silent? What does silence mean to you? The power of silence is that it will eventually be released. The power of female silence is that the rarity of its release is not just haunting, but also beautiful. We may never see it or hear it, but you know that it has been done. So scream.

What makes your project an appealing choice for potential distributors?
Because it’s different. It’s a risk having a film with little to no dialogue. Trusting the audience so much to keep with the character and the story, but I think that's the hook. Because of the set up, the tone, the sound design, and visuals of the film that audience does hold with the film and goes
on the short lived and dynamic rollercoaster that the character goes on. Its a different approach to bringing light to the subject of sexual assault and mental health, but it also lends itself to a cathartic release for an audience.

How would you define your unique filmmaking style, and what distinct qualities characterize your film?
With this being my first film I have made, I don’t know if I have an approach. Even when it comes to my acting. With every project and character I do my approach and style is different because each project and character are uniquely different. Thanks for what makes it challenging and exciting for me. It’s why I love acting and films so much. The escapism and the art, the world that we create and the mirror that we hold up to the world when we tell human stories truthfully. In short, I think my filmmaking style is simple, I make it for myself and allow everything else to fall into place. I try to tell a story with truth and empathy and then leave it to allow it to have a life of its own. The distinct qualities of my film is that it's hard. It's hard to watch, but you can’t take your eyes off Elizabeth because you want to know more about what is going on in her head. You may feel like you are right there next her experiencing the silence with her and then the next pushed out to simply be an observer. For a film with no dialoge you are taken on quite a rollercoaster of a ride.

What inspired you to pursue a career in filmmaking?
What drew me to acting was the realization that it provided a profound understanding of people and how we, as humans, operate. I’ve always been fascinated by the intricacies of human emotions, relationships, and the diverse range of experience that make each person unique. Acting, for me, is a way to delve into the complexities of the human psyche and explore the various facets of life through the lens of different characters and also (like the inner child in me… pretend and play dress up). One of the main aspects that truly resonates with me is the process of building and discovering a character. It’s akin to bringing someone who is stuck on a page to life. I sort of see actors as the conduit through which the character can express itself. The challenge and joy lie in immersing myself in the characters’ mindset, understanding their motivations, and portraying them authentically. It’s a transformative experience that allows me to
step into someone else’s shoes and communicate their story to the audience. In acting we are able to make people feel. We help people to heal, escape and fantasize about another world. This is what movies did for me and that is what motivates me too. The idea that someone can sit in a
theater and on some level relate to something my character is going through. If that person smiles for the first time that day, or finally cries about something or maybe they just feel seen then I feel that I have done my job. In essence, my love for movies, coupled with my own understanding of my craft, has fueled my passion. Acting is the love of my life. The ability to connect with people on a profound level and the joy of creating and embodying characters are the driving forces behind my choice to pursue a career in acting and filmmaking.

Do you have a filmmaker or source of inspiration who has influenced your work?
Oh goodness there are so many. I think as a filmmaker I would say Sofia Coppola is a big one. I’ve seen every film she has made and she is just simply incredible. I am also a huge fan of Erica Tremblay, the director of ‘Fancy Dance’. Her storytelling is incredibly poignant, beautiful, and leaves me breathless. I would love to be directed by both of them one day. Both of these women are incredibly truthful in their storytelling and I think that is one of the biggest inspirations for me. They speak and work from a place of truth to tell human stories that resonate with all audiences. When it comes to acting inspiration…. Well I think there are too many to list, but my top three right now would probably be: Bette Davis, Kate Winlset, and Lily Gladstone. I don’t think I need to go into great detail about those three women because we all know that they are simply brilliant.

Share a couple of your favorite films and what resonates with you about them.
Another tough question… I think my top three would be ‘All About Eve’ (1950) because it's just an absolute classic film. Next would be ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). This film taught me so much about what you can do with story and range in character and it’s just a magnificent piece of cinema. Lastly, my most recent favorite film is ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ (2023) simply because Lily Gladstone is truly magnificent in her choice of silence and stoic nature to the character and also the heart behind the film itself I find truly inspiring.

Where do you typically find inspiration for your film projects?
I typically find inspiration in life to put it simply. I love to tell stories about humans for humans. I am obsessed with the human brain and emotions. Understanding what makes people do or say the things that they say and do. But nothing truly compares to going to the best place on earth… the cinemas.