FMA Alum Kandis Hutchenson went from learning about and appreciating the world of animation to working with Dreamworks in just a few years.
"I remember our MFA colloquium class where we had to introduce ourselves, and I had just discovered the animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender and spoke about it." Says Kandis, Now, 10 years later she works under Margie Cohn, CEO of Dreamworks, who was the executive that greenlit the series. When she had a one on one coffee with her, it felt "like a dream come true."
At the same time, Kandis has been crafting her own films and is putting together a short film, EDIBLE, despite the current covid crisis. Consider supporting her film at the Go Fund me: https://www.gofundme.com/
We were happy to be able catch up with her and learn a few things about this dynamic alum!
Tell us a little about your film Edible -- what was your inspiration for the project and what do you hope it will show audiences?
EDIBLE is based on true events that transpired when I moved to LA. I was in a relationship with a middle eastern muslim girl, and it takes place the night we tried an edible marijuana cookie. My hope is that this film can spark a dialogue around arab's women's rights and sexuality. Because all of these subjects are still taboo, in Arab and even American culture, I'm hoping to increase representation of the Black and Arab LGBTQ community. I hope that my film can highlight how important it is for people to be empowered to be their authentic selves, and additionally tell their stories. Someone who hasn't lived this experience wouldn't be able to fully relate it to an audience.
Can you fill us in on some of your biggest achievements -- can you tell us what it has been like to work on so many amazing animated films at Dreamworks and how you ended up there?
I think my biggest achievements are still yet to come, making a film during a pandemic is certainly one of them! As far as working at Dreamworks, it's been an unexpected delight. When I first moved to LA, I was working as a personal assistant, but wanted a little more stability in terms of income and benefits, so I started applying to various studios. My trajectory has been a bit uncommon, as I was hired "off the street" as a production coordinator. Typically people advance through internships. I've been at Dreamworks a little over 4 years now, and I've had the chance to work on some really incredible projects like Trolls, Captain Underpants, Trolls World Tour and currently the Boss Baby sequel, which again is not typical. Most projects last for about 1-2 years, and during my first year at Dreamworks, I had already worked on three projects, and the company was bought by NBC!
What is your fondest Temple classroom memory?
I really enjoyed taking the directing class with Rodney Evans. It felt like the closest thing to what I wanted to do, and how I saw myself. He always brought in amazing guests, I learned so much!
Tell us a little about your certificates in Higher Education and Entrepreneurship -- what was it like to invest in that education and what do you think you got out of adding these certificates to your FMA workload?
We were expected to teach during our MFA but weren't given any real training or guidance when it came down to it. When I heard about the Teaching in Higher Education Certificate, I was immediately intrigued, because I have a natural passion for learning and interest in education. My mentor Jan Fernback gave us so many tools to develop our skills practically, and I was fortunate to be able to apply them in my classroom. Those skills still come in handy today, at work and on set. Once you understand the type of learner you are, and how others learn, I feel like you can teach others and yourself to do anything! Same for the entrepreneurship classes. The MFA program focused a lot on the artistic elements, but at the end of the day, filmmaking costs money, and you need to understand the risks and returns. We had to develop and pitch our business plans which gave me a deeper awareness of how financial decisions are made. I remember our professor (blanking on his name) introduced us to Shark Tank, and its canadian predecessor, Dragon's Den, before it became popular. We had to pretend that we were the sharks, I learned so much about investing.
All of this knowledge helps me in career and life in general. I'm able to make more informed decisions and help others as well. While again, it was not the traditional path, I think it worked out better for me than taking some of the other FMA classes that didn't align with where I saw myself in the future, to that extent I feel like I didn't come out of the program with a piece I was ready to display, but rather, having learned a great deal, that I'm able to apply to my career as a writer and director.
What advice would you give to incoming or current Temple students?
My advice is always the same, don't be like me! Haha. But seriously, go in with a mission, versus just to learn. If you're entering school, figure out what you really want to come away with at the end of it all. The more specific you can be, the better, at the same time, remain open to the possibilities. Flexibility is a major key. Also don't compare yourself to others, I got caught up in that a lot, because my background was writing, not filmmaking, so I always felt so behind. Looking back I realize, I was always right on time. The best life advice I ever received, that I'm always sure to pass along is "make it work for you."
What are you hoping to accomplish next?
While I'm making this short, I'm also working on a feature script. I have a bunch of writing projects that I want to finish, so I can move to directing them.
Anything else you want to add?
I so appreciate the TFMA Alumni Association for giving me this opportunity and platform to share my work. Thank you so much. I hope everyone stays healthy and safe during these unprecedented and rapidly evolving times.