Fit for Films; In The Spotlight: Kelley Kali

Career choice plays a significant role in a person’s life. It defines the vision and dreams of the person and also their personality. The human mind from a very young age is trained to choose a professional career – a field that interests them and benefits others. Many have to be trained and educated in order to make a choice, while some are born with it. One such example is Kelley Kali, a versatile American actress, director, and content creator who has proven herself to be fit for films.

Kelley Kali has an innate talent and passion for films that is evident from her work and projects. Be it a small role or the main lead; films excited her from a young age which is why she decided to step into this field. She was aware of the hard work and years of struggle that lay before her, but she was determined to make a mark, and so did she!

Passionate about films and Hollywood itself, Kali began participating in various activities. As she was a bright student, she became an NCAA Division 1 lacrosse team captain and scholar at Howard University. She was awarded a scholarship for a Masters Degree in Film to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. As soon as she joined USC, Kelley was elected president of the School of Cinematic Arts Graduate Council for three consecutive years. This was her time to shine, and so she won scholarships for her writing and directing work, such as the Jack Oakie Comedy Fellow, the Johnny Carson Scholarship, and the prestigious Annenberg Fellowship. 

Kali was professionally trained in acting at Ivana Chubbuck Studios and performed at many theaters around LA, including the Kirk Douglas Theater. She was also professionally trained in Directing and writing at The University of Southern California. Due to her excellent sense of filmmaking, she became one of four filmmakers who were awarded funding by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s New Form Digital for her fantasy web series pilot, “The Discovery of Dit Dodson.” Her achievements at such a young age indicated that she was truly born into the film industry.

As Kelley was a graduate of Archaeology from Howard University, she helped a film crew with some questions for his documentary, winning several awards later. After this experience, she considered combining her interests in anthropology and film. Due to this, Kelley began working at National Geographic Television and Films. She kickstarted her filmmaking career on this platform. This turned out to be a great learning experience for Kelley as she was introduced to several new factors and processes which she was unaware of. With pockets full of experience, knowledge, and eyes that could imagine a story in motion, Kelley made her directorial debut with a Belizean TV Series, “Noh Matta Wat.” The TV Series was exceptional and also won the Paul Robeson Award.

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Kelley Kali is a dynamic personality who wishes to diversify her portfolio with every film-related skill possible. For this reason, she did not restrict herself to just acting and joined the team of a PBS film, “Prince Among Slaves,” under actor/director Bill Duke as the behind-the-scenes documentary filmmaker. After gaining experience as a filmmaker, Kali joined Entertainment Tonight back in Los Angeles and learned from there too. Lalo’s House was Kelley’s master thesis film at the University of South California School of Cinematic Arts. This film gained a lot of limelight towards her. For this, she won multiple awards, including a Student Academy Award (Oscars) for directing Lalo’s House, the Directors Guild of America Award for directing Lalo’s House, and KCET Best Narrative Short Award for Lalo’s House. She premiered at many prestigious festivals around the world, such as Telluride Film Festival.     

After spending years learning and gaining experience, it was finally time for Kelley Kali to make herself known in the industry. During the 2020 pandemic, when the world was shut and the film industry making a shift towards OTT platforms, Kelley utilized her creativity to the maximum. As a socially conscious content creator, she aimed to address issues within marginalized communities by using the art of filmmaking to create and dialogue and action towards positive change. With this mindset, she gathered her filmmaking friends from USC and began penning a story that would change the course of her career. I’M FINE (Thanks for Asking), a feature film directed, written and produced by Kelley, was her big break! Not only was the story appreciated, but her acting in the film stood out too. Many critics commended her acting skills and her flawless expressions throughout the film.

The film was screened everywhere and garnered attention worldwide. The film won the Special Jury Prize for “Multi-Hyphenate Storyteller” award. It was presented, specifically to Kelley Kali for writing, directing, producing, and acting at South by Southwest Film Festival. It certainly peaked the charts of Kelley’s success graph and raised the benchmark for her. Her journey and career are proof that hard work and dedication can change a person’s fate.