Emily Kathleen, a filmmaker and actress embodies all the qualities needed for success. She has overcome more than many do in a lifetime. Through her filmmaking and acting she hopes to shed light on an issue that many tend to turn a blind eye to. All of her work including the feature film currently underway aim to inspire children being abused and educate others. Emily is a voice for all the unheard children who can’t speak out against their abusers.
LA Fashion Magazine had a long conversation with her regarding life experiences, plans, desires and most importantly- lessons.
Growing up how did you feel about being abused as a kid?
“I was always told what was happening to me was normal. When I asked my Mom or Dad why other kids had things or experiences I didn’t have, they told me it’s because all families are different. They said we are our own kind of normal. While it is true all families are different there was nothing normal about my childhood. I had a job at the age of 6. We were dirt ass poor. My Dad was very sick with constant mental and blood sugar issues. My Mom was lazy and crazy. She thought that my Dad should bring home all the money and she should be taken care of. Instead of her getting a job and taking care of my two sisters and I, she made me get a job. I worked in the store with my Grandma. I also cleaned houses and babysat. The stress of going to school, working as a child, cleaning up after my Mom/Dad, helping my sisters with their schoolwork, doing my own school work and working on my career as an actress and film maker was affecting my health. No one in my home town ever noticed what was happening to me. There were bruises on my body from being hit by my Mom or being raped by my Dad. People always assumed I was just clumsy. The abuse affected me mentally but people assumed I had low self-esteem. I had a few learning disorders growing up. My Mom would yell at me all the time about why I was not smart. It took years of therapy to see that I am smart and beautiful. My Mom said it was okay to do drugs on a daily basis which lead me to being addicted to drugs at the age of 12 up until I was about 20 years old. It just happened. I began to have an eating disorder around 12 until I turned 23 years old. This really affected my body and mind. I was kicked out of my parents house at 16 and also got my GED as well, to make it easier to work and take care of myself. I also suffered from blood sugar issues which was amplified by my bad diet. It is fine now due to the grace of God and my constant work on my mental and physical health. I find healing in my acting and filmmaking. My childhood seems like one big horror story it’s very hard to talk about.
Growing up was hard because I only had myself to depend on. The fear of not knowing if anyone would care if you died was hard.
I have been away from my abusers for 7 years now clean and sober. My body is healed from the eating disorders. I am truly happy. I look forward to my future and am honored to use my acting and filmmaking to help others who may be victims of child abuse. I always say use the pain in your art, don’t let it kill you but let it make you into who you were met to be.
You can either stay a victim or call yourself a survivor like I am. The choice is yourself. I say focus on the good and use the bad to help others. Create goodness from the bad.”
How has God played a role in your personal life and career? Was it different growing up to now?
“Growing up I was always told that God hated me. My family always made me feel ashamed of being an actress/storyteller. I grew up in a small town where Christian religion was huge, not the one on one faith in God that I now know. I was told by my Mom that God did not approve of me acting, that if he wanted to bless me he would and I should never try to be an actress. She told me that God hated me for being different. The pain I felt from being told God hate me fed my addictions. It fed the emptiness I felt inside. This made my eating disorder worse and the power of doing drugs more necessary. I knew that God loved me as a child. I knew since I was 3 years old that God had great plans for me in the film and theater industry. Even if you know that God is guiding you to your destiny verbal abuse will affect the way in which you feel. Moving away from the terrible town I lived in allowed me to get clean and get my diet under control. I then moved to LA and found a new faith with God. I saw he saved me from being killed by my family, and that he is on my side helping with acting and filmmaking. As an adult I see God is for me. He has blessed my life for the better. He guided me in life and my career. It’s God that gets me through my day.”
What is it like to be a Dyslexic and having an overactive brain as an actress/filmmaker?
“On a negative note it’s hard. You have to work a lot harder to be great. I have to read the sides before I go into an audition room or I begin to stutter during my performances. I cannot do a cold read for auditions. During the writing process of filmmaking I have to proofread my work multiple times. I then get three people to proofread my work. If I don’t there will be grammatical errors and It will take away from a great story!
On a positive note it is a huge blessing. Your brain works really fast so you think more as a creator than a person. Creative flow is very easy for me. I can be sitting in a coffee shop or at home and the right side of my brain turns on and out of nowhere I have a vision of my next script. I’ll drop everything I’m doing and start writing at that point. I can finish a full feature story script without proofreads in a day.
I just let my right brain take over. It is the same for acting I can honestly go in and out of any character without even thinking about it. My biggest note in casting sessions is that I over think my acting. I have been told “Emily you are so naturally talented stop thinking about it and get out of your head.” Once I forget I am reading lines and let my natural talent breath I do a good job. Being dyslexic and having an overactive mind allows magic to happen.”
What made you start using your child abuse to help others through filmmaking and acting?
“I know that God has given me acting and filmmaking talents for a reason. I feel that I have to make short films and develop feature films. The story of my life, being abused as a kid is not going to kill me. I will use the talents God gave me to heal from my pain. Through this process of healing God has told me to use it. I know that there were other people in this world who will never get away from their abuser like I did. They will not be able to heal from the pain of being abused as a child. They at least need to know there are not alone. When we speak out about child abuse it raises awareness in our world. If I can use my career to be a voice to help raise awareness to stop child abuse from happening then why not? As a nation we need to stand up against this crime. We can’t just hide our heads and pretend it is not happening. Hello? How does that solve anything. In order to see light we must go through the darkness. That is why all of my films drama, comedy or horror shed light on child abuse in some way. All the features I write are character driven. The characters symbolize someone unlike you or me, someone who is suffering from abuse.
As an actress I like to play characters that show a deep understanding of life.
On a lighter note I also love to make people laugh with my comedy. My comedies show characters who have been abused as kids but are able to move on from the pain. The joy they show is the joy that I feel. I hope others can see that joy comes from pain.”
You can’t truly be thankful for laughing if it was never taken away from you.
How much of an uphill battle has it been trying to get your story to the world through your filmmaking work?
“It has been very hard. Most people in Hollywood do not want to hear about child abuse. People refuse to hear the truth. I have met with major companies in the industry and unfortunately most of them don’t want to deal with the subject matter such as child abuse.
As a filmmaker I want to speak for the children who are being abused or who were abused and are fighting for a good life like I am. Money seems to be the main thing that is holding me back from getting the film made. But I really believe this story needs to be told to help people.
I have big distribution companies waiting to see the final film. I have the business package, a great script, and a pre-approval letter from New Mexico saying we will get 30 percent back on our tax credits for the film. I have letters of intent from: Adam LaVorgna who dated and acted with Jessica Biel on 7th heaven in the 90’s, and an award winning DP from the feature film Masterless. I am have an amazing lawyer, William Vu, who is helping me on production. There are also two big production companies reviewing the film. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get the film out there. I usually work 18 hour days. I want to say that getting a letter of intent from Adam LaVorgna was fate. I grew up watching his work. I sent the script to his manager, who sent it to Adam and within two weeks of him reading the first half of the script he signed the letter of intent. Months later I ran into him at my gym. Without asking he gave me his email and has been a good friend to me in process of getting the film off the ground. He is very encouraging. I always wanted to work with him ever since I was a kid watching him on 7th heaven. The little things people do for you in this industry really make a big difference.”
What can people do to get involved in these films?
“If people want to help with the film I would say please invest or be a sponsor. While talent in the production will be needed we can do nothing until there is money in the film. I am doing my best to do this alone. While I have a great actor and lawyer who love my work they have their own things they are doing, so therefor it is me trying my best to make this film and get investors behind it. So if anyone wants to invest or sponsor the film to help raise awareness to child abuse please do so. If you do not have money then please share share share this article, so the right person who has the power to help these films can see it.
We have to take a stand against child abuse. I know that with your help the right person will read this and fund the film. We must let people know about child abuse. Through my film features I plan to be the first production company in Hollywood history who takes a stand in all there films to stop this crime.
Awareness brings joy and we all deserve to be happy. So I need to make the world a better place for myself and others.
Let’s join together to make these feature films known. We must be the change we want to see in the world. Will you help me?”
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