Insights & Highlights from the Kyle Hester Interview
First of all, Kyle is one of the nicest guys you are going to meet in the indie film world. He's got a wealth of knowledge from the extensive resume he's built up over the years with 20 acting credits to his name including films like The Book of Daniel. His popularity on Twitter is what made us take notice due to his involvement with the crowd funded independent horror film Zombie With A Shotgun. We even had a laugh discussing his first gig where he played Phipps in Rock and Roll Fantasy during the panty raid. Yup we said panty raid.
All kidding aside, he knows what it takes to get a film crowd funded and why independent films are so important to keeping creative control. We learned a lot and know you will too. Check it out and let us know if you have any additional questions for Kyle in the comments below. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to answer them. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @kyledhester.
You can help #SupportIndieFilm by donating to Kyle's projects below:
- Zombie With a Shotgun on IndieGoGo
- The Chair - Now in festival
- Preacher Six - Crowd funding starts October 2016
The Imperfect Podcast with Kyle Hester - Download, Watch & Stream:
Podcast Preview: Interview with Actor Kyle Hester
Here's the transcript:
We interview actor Kyle Hester, who was born in New Orleans to a professional football player. His father is Ray Hester of the New Orleans Saints which is pretty cool. Kyle is an actor and producer and has been in some notable independent films like Zombie With a Shotgun that's coming out soon, as well as Preacher Six which is in production right now.
Well thank you very much and I'm glad that we can all be imperfect together, I'm very comfortable now.
HKC: Yeah, we are as imperfect as it gets and we love it that way. It takes the pressure off.
Absolutely. It's like apologizing at the beginning of a party so then whatever happens you know you're covered already. I love it. That's fantastic. It's like all bets are off after that point. Absolutely.
What happens on the podcast stays on the podcast (until we distribute it.)
So let's get to know you a little bit.
Q1: Where did you grow up? Reading your bio on IMDB we know you were born in New Orleans. Did you spend your youth there? Where did you land for most of your childhood?
Kyle Hester: Why yes, I was born in New Orleans. That's where most of my family is and then I grew up in Houston. So pretty much from the fourth grade all the way through High School I was in Houston, so I definitely have the southern experience. Yeah, it was cool.
Q2: How long did it take before you got out to LA?
Kyle Hester: Basically I got in my Mustang when I graduated High School and I drove to California.
HKC: What year was the Mustang?
Kyle Hester: It was a 69 Fastback. It was so nice. It's one of those things, like if I knew now I would have kept it and lived in that.
Q3: What was the first project that you got involved with? Was it before you you got to LA or was it after you got to LA?
Kyle Hester: Okay, since you don't know how my life weaved through the country, it wasn't as linear as that. So I came out to LA and then I ended up going to school at USIU in San Diego for a semester doing musical theater. Then I was like, you know I think I probably don't want to make a career out of musical theater so then I ended up going to Cal Arts, which is up here and now I’m in Valencia. And then after that, I moved to New York, then Atlanta and then ended up back here in the early nineties. It was a trip around the country
Q4: Are you a musician also? Growing up in New Orleans you got good music, good food and I saw on your reel, in a film you were playing guitar and singing. Do you do that in real life as well?
Kyle Hester: Well I do sing but I'm not a musician. Basically, the guy who wrote that song that's in the clip on my acting reel, it was his guitar. He's like, here are these three chords, get to know those and that's what you'll be doing. I said alright, I can do that.
HKC: We know a lot of musicians that can only play three chords so it's not a big deal. A lot of bands made it famous just playing three chords a matter of fact. I can't play anything more than three chords! It's like Ralph Macchio in Crossroads. He didn't play guitar either.
Kyle Hester: You know what, between all of us, we could have like a really bitchin kind of guitar situation. I'll just jam out. You take the A and the C, and I'll get the G.
HKC: Kyle when you actually see this podcast if you look behind us and those who follow the podcast regularly we have a a wall of guitars hanging behind us. That's kind of our thing. It's not just for show either. We do play actually.
Kyle Hester: That is awesome and I'm glad that I got you to psychically talk about guitars.
Q5: musical theater that wasn't your thing huh?
Kyle Hester: Well, no I love doing it but it was one of those things where the choice was what do I want to do in life. That was the thing and I always wanted to do film so it was a matter of what's going to get me to doing film as opposed to touring the country and doing Broadway and all that kind of stuff. I know some friends of mine who are in New York and have been doing Broadway forever. They went to the same high school that I did. It's just the choices we make.
HKC: And sometimes you get locked into doing something, it's hard to break out once you do that, so you're right, you have to choose wisely.
Q6: You obviously have the performance bug but what actually drew you to film and acting and drew you away from the musical theater? What appealed to you about acting?
Kyle Hester: Okay let's cut to the seventh grade and I'm watching Fame, the TV show. Remember that show fame? So I'm watching this guy Leroy and he's on stage and he's dancing and singing and jumping over mannequins and stuff like that. Everybody was having a great time and I'm like holy shit, I gotta do this! That looks awesome. I didn't know what I was getting into, but that was it. I saw fame and Leroy dancing and I was like that looks like a blast let's do that.
HKC: That's great and I love Leroy's line, "I"ll speaks how I likes." That always stuck in my mind for some reason. That was Leroy. But you're right, it looked so fun. You say, hey man if I could do that for a living, man look at these guys, they're having a ball. I felt the same way. That's awesome.
Kyle Hester: That's fantastic, it's like once it gets in there something resonates. Whatever it is, you get that one thing and you say alright let's do that and hopefully you know we can do something with it or it becomes an awesome hobby, but you always gotta do what you love doing.
Q7: I'm looking at your IMDb and it shows here your first credited roll was "Rock and Roll Fantasy" and you played Phipps during the panty raid. I want to hear more about that.
Kyle Hester: That’s funny. That was the very first film that the guys from the "Asylum" did. That was the guys who did Sharknado and all those kind of films throughout the years. I think I didn't get paid anything, you know it's like my manager was like hey here's an opportunity to be in a movie. I'm like alright, let's do this! I don't need to eat. I don't need money. This is cool.
HKC: I'm all about the art man.
Kyle Hester: So I was a frat guy doing the panty raid and you know it was pretty simple but it was fun as the first thing to do when I was out here.
HKC: Well it's always fun doing a panty raid regardless of whether you are acting or in real life.
Kyle Hester: Oh yeah right, that's like a bucket list thing. Okay, panty raid, okay done.
HKC: I did that, we're finished, moving on. Now I think I'm gonna visit Andersonville instead. What the hell, what's gonna happen in Andersonville after a panty raid. I started with the panty raid I don't know where to go from there. You can't get any better than that.
Kyle Hester: There was a segue into Andersonville. I don't know how you go from panty raid to Andersonville, but we can get do it, we have the technology.
Q8: How long was it until you got your first paying gig in LA? What was your private life like? Were you waiting tables? Were you that guy? Were you the typical stereotypical starving artist?
Kyle Hester: I managed a coffee shop here. I was slinging cappuccinos. So it is kind of the same thing but not really. You know, food and beverage. You do what you got to do. I had a blast and that's actually where I met my wife. It was at that coffee shop.
Q9: Your wife is a writer. Is that correct?
Kyle Hester: Yeah, She is. She's writing Preacher Six. Very awesome, I'm totally excited about it.
Q10: Is that the first project you guys are going to work on together or have you done other stuff together?
Kyle Hester: No, this will be the first project that we've done together. We've done ton of stuffs not together and basically the way that it happened, there was this other project that I was working on which shall not be named. I was working on it for five years and then the writer kind of lost his mind. As soon as you start talking about money with people now you're like if things become real or has potential like, "Hey You Could Be a Millionaire", which of course hardly ever happens.
Once people start thinking like that they lose their freakin mind and it's like all of a sudden it's about them. They say, it's my project and I'm going to control this and all that kind of stuff and it's like you see ego completely destroy the whole situation which is what happened. And after five years of nurturing a project this guy loses his mind and we don't do the project so I'm talking to my wife and we said alright let's do something that we control so that this never happens again.
HKC: Sometimes that's what it really comes down to especially with independent film. You start to think, hey to get this thing going we have to do it ourselves. When you put it in the hands of studios sometimes you're waiting on a lot of different things but the one way to do it is to make it yourself then you can be as artistic as you want and the more control the better. Of course then there is more responsibility, which makes it tough but you have to make it happen.
Kyle Hester: Yeah, you said it all. I think, without repeating what you said, I mean there is two ways to go. You are either in the system and have been working at the studios, working your way up and you all of that happens the way that happens. Or the nepotism of Hollywood and you're the son of somebody famous and here's your shot with a five-million-dollar project, good luck. Or you're like us, you just kick and scratch and figure out how we are going to do this. What are we going to do? Let's go kick some ass and see what happens.
HKC: It's funny these days the technology is there for regular people to do these type of things not in a studio. I remember when I was younger watching the movie magic and they said one day there will be a Spielberg just sitting in his bedroom or his basement and look what he could put together. So technology is there which is nice. When I was younger, I wish I had this technology. I had one of those old camcorders and you know it didn't have the same editing power it does today so we gotta keep moving forward.
Kyle Hester: Yeah well I think you know with a ten-thousand-dollar camera you can shoot the same kind of quality that you could for the hundred-thousand-dollar cameras. It's definitely a lot more accessible to people that are just trying to do something.
HKC: Right and then it becomes up to you what you do with that technology.
Kyle Hester: Yeah, the big thing there is once you have the technology is don't suck! You bought all this stuff, you got the surround sound and the 3d modeling with the goggles and stuff and you suck. You got to be good at it.
HKC: Sucking is all subjective. Right, it's subjective. I don't know sometimes it just sucks.
Q11: What exactly is your approach to acting? Method acting? How do you tackle a certain role that you are taking on?
Kyle Hester: To me it's pretty simple. Whatever the character is, you basically get out of his way for whatever is going to happen. It's like in the chair, which is the horror film that's about to come out. It was Roddy Piper's last film. We, as the prison guards were all unique horrible people. So am I going to walk around being this like maniacal horrible person at home to my wife because I'm a method actor and I gotta get into the character. It's like no, go fuck yourself.
So I I'm not about that and basically you just get out of the characters way. We all know how to feel and laugh and cry and get pissed off and get angry and run and jump over things. Whatever is called for. You do that and so it's really just getting out of characters way. Don't let me over simplify, because this is after going to the Performing Arts High school and I went to Cal Art. I've taken all the different kinds of methods and all that stuff. I can say this because I know what works for me. That doesn't mean it won't work for somebody else.
HKC: I think you're being a little humble too. I'll be frank about it. You have a great career in terms of your acting roles and what you've done. I mean you have the resume. You've built up chops so you're able to do that. I think you've become more comfortable with your acting abilities so I think that probably speaks volumes. If we were having this same conversation back in 1992 before your panty raid, I'm sure you had a very different mindset going into that for your first role. And all of you who just turned in, yes he said panty raid. And method acting for something like that might not be the best idea either. You could end up in jail.
Q12: What else influenced you growing up? Actors or movies? Did you have a favorite childhood movie growing up? I know you mentioned "Fame" earlier, but what about movies?
Kyle Hester: I think the thing that influenced me the most as an actor was "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson and I think with his captivating presence throughout the whole film, you just wanna watch to see what he's doing. That right there is something special, you know. And I think what is that? What is it that makes that magic to make people talk about this guy? And you can repeat the lines and you can hear him in your head the way that he says them. What is it that does that?
HKC: "Wendy, I'm home," sorry I couldn't resist.
Kyle Hester: Exactly, yes its in there. It's definitely in there.
HKC: We keep Wayne at the end of the table for that reason alone.
Absolutely, in my career I hope to have some moments like that where that ear warmers are in there from something that I get to say. These are the goals.
HKC: You're involved in some really high profile independent films right now, The Chair, which a lot of people are aware of, Zombie With a Shotgun, which is currently in post and Preacher Six that you're working on with your wife. With all those films you're obviously gonna get the opportunity to shine. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Q13: How did that process go in terms of funding for Zombie With a Shotgun? Was it a good time being part of that project? Were you just acting or are you also a producer on that?
Okay, Zombie With a Shotgun, here's how that happened. Hilton Ruiz, the creator ad director had basically contacted me on Twitter because of “The Chair” He knew I did “The Chair” and we're Tweeting back and forth. I said call me. So we get on the phone and basically one thing led to another. So I asked what are you doing with this with this project, you have like a bazillion followers and you've done the web series and stuff and now you're trying to do a film but where is it going? What's happening?
So out of that kind of short conversation we're like let's do it. So we so we put the crowdfunding thing together which of course without crowdfunding these films would not be made. Like The Chair, was done through kickstarter and Zombie With a Shotgun through IndieGoGo. Will these things ever see a nickel, you don't know. They're really fan-driven entities.
HKC: That's the beauty of it, you already have a built-in fan base for the release right? I mean that's kind of the beauty of doing something like that and knowing that there's some justification in making the movie now because you did get a fan base to back it and I think they all exceeded their goals too. It wasn't like you guys couldn't meet your budgets. You guys met and exceeded them I believe.
Kyle Hester: Yeah, one of the things that gave Hilton the confidence is that we do have a big following like each of us individually. And you know crowd funding is not easy. I see so many people, they say, "I have four thousand followers," and then you watch kickstarter and then you just see it sit there because it takes a lot more prep work and getting people interested way before you your launch a project like that. You just don't know. I wouldn't know unless I had the experience of watching Peter Simetti with The Chair.
Q14: Can you give some examples of some of the steps that you have to actually go through besides just launching the the Kickstarter.
Kyle Hester: Yeah I would say get a following however you can do that. Whether you spend like 90 hours a day on Twitter getting people to know who the hell you are, that's part of it. If no one knows who you are no one's going to care so that becomes a big part of it, is just putting what you have done out in front of people and the people that are gonna like it will follow you and the others that don't you know who cares about them anyway.
I kid, I kid. You get the audience, you get the people who you know are going to be interested before the project launches so that you have your people that are fans. They are like "Alright let's do this and we can all make an impact in the beginning." Because in the beginning, that's when a lot of judgments are going to be made about the project. You know if you're sitting there a week in and you have two hundred dollars you know that doesn't give the rest of the whole project or Kickstarter the strength it doesn't give confidence. People are going to say they only have two hundred bucks.
Even if it's like, "Hey mom can you just throw in a grand just to make it look like there's something going on.” It's all an illusion. You have to build that illusion that makes people confident in what you're doing.
HKC: It's like putting money into the tip jar yourself and hoping everyone else puts in as well. Sometimes you have to build that confidence.
I saw one of the perks that was pretty cool. I think it was for $1000 or $5000 that you get to die a zombie death and be one of the zombies that actually get killed in a cool way. Did you have anyone for that?
Kyle Hester: Not the $5,000 but there was a $1500 I think where you can be a zombie, come in and do that. Yeah we did have somebody do that. A guy named Sam. He was a super cool. He came in and kicked ass. It was great, so it's like everybody wins in a situation like that.
HKC: Obviously this story was launched from the original book and then was made into a web series and now there's an innate following with that immediately because you've already, there's already footwork that's there. You weren't part of that original series but the original actors that were in that series are also in this correct?
Kyle Hester: One of them, the lead, Brady. He is in the film, but I believe that's only cast member that transferred because some people are doing other things and some were unavailable and so that's how that happened.
Q15: What about the cinematographer or the composer? Are they the same people who were doing the web series? Is the music the same?
Kyle Hester: I think he's talking to the music people right now and composers so the crew is different. Hilton being the director, he just kind of put together the crew that he wanted to use. He knows a lot of people so I think it was just like who was available and who best fits the project.
Q16: Did you guys do a lot of filming in New York?
Kyle Hester: We did all of it right in Chinatown.
HKC: Yeah bummer we didn't get to hook up while you were here in New York. We'll have to hit up Hilton and see if we can get a hold of him at some point. I'm sure he'd be glad to talk.
Kyle Hester: He'd definitely makes himself available.
Q17: Cool, let's talk about your other project that just released as well, The Chair. I think that just went to festival right? I saw that just got picked up or entered into festival.
Kyle Hester: Yeah, actually it just now getting accepted into festivals as we speak and there is one that Peter announced today but I'm not in front of a computer so I don't remember but yes so the first one has been announced. It's a festival in Wisconsin. I do know that and I know he's applied to several others so I think we're going to be hearing in the next couple of weeks about that and there's going to be a theatrical limited kind of release. If you sell enough tickets to the project per theater when the event happens and you get to see it so that's going to be happening around the country. It's like a slow roll out and then it's going to end up on all the platforms that you can rent or buy the DVD.
Q18: Yeah, I saw your Twitter post or Twitter poll today about where do people watch movies. Are you doing a bit of research on your own to see where you're going to release stuff?
I'm just curious what's the landscape? What do people do now? You know, is it cable? Is it Amazon? I love DVD's. The whole streaming thing, I mean I understand it, I'm not an idiot, but I don't get it. You know it's because I love the physical stuff you know I love having my own DVD that I can stick in a machine whenever I want. Where with the downloads if your computer crashes, now you're out.
HKC: I think Wayne's got a box of 8 tracks for you if you want them. You're talking to the right guy over there with Wayne. There really is nothing like having your stuff. With iTunes and everything else. It's different digital. When you actually hold the CD's in your hands as well and these are mine, but the only problem is it causes clutter. I think that’s why they invented computers. One thing is it saves on clutter, especially when you move, believe me that's a problem.
Kyle Hester: Believe me, it all works. It all facilitates watching something, so it doesn't really matter exactly how you watch it if you are you interested in seeing something you're going to see it. I'm just trying to get the landscape so you know what's really happening and how to push as far as distribution goes. And the funny thing is it if you look on that list, half of the people are interested in DVD's and Blu Rays. Like they would rather do that then stream, which was surprising. You know everybody's talking about, yeah it's all going streaming now. But if you ask people, 800 people have responded to that poll as it were. I think it's about 50% or something like that, that prefer DVD's and Blu Ray.
HKC:The group of guys you're talking to right now would all prefer DVD's. Yeah I got it right here actually. It was 37% percent Netflix, 30% DVD & Blu-ray, 26% in the theater and then you had a bunch of others Amazon, Hulu and iTunes lumped together and that was really low. I'd be curious to see if Amazon streaming was broken out on its own but regardless I think Netflix wins the war at nighttime viewing in TV. They have way more TV series than movies though.
Kyle Hester: Netflix is like the big kid in the room. The problem for filmmakers is, yes it does give you a lot of exposure, but when you watch it, the filmmakers are not getting money from how many times people watch it on Netflix. It's like a buyout. You're gonna sell your project for however much, $2000 for a two-year contract to Netflix? I'm not gonna do that.
HKC: Most of the money actually comes from DVD sales. A lot of times, especially smaller movies, the movie proceeds are one thing in the theater and usually the DVD's when you look back and see the gross income, it's definitely more with the DVD's, so where kind of hoping that does remain still. Like you said you're not getting a credit each time someone watches Netflix. So from a business standpoint, you definitely still want the DVD's around something physical that people could buy themselves.
Kyle Hester: That's why there wasn't a lot of stuff on Netflx. We find a lot of obscure stuff. A lot of super low budget or whatever for the people that just want the exposure of it but it's like if you're looking to actually make a living so that you can go and do another project that is not the answer.
HKC: You mean like Deathgasm? I don't know what else I've watched on Netflix recently but yeah Deathgasm was up there.
Kyle Hester” They probably got like $1500 or $2000 to have their film on there for two years. You put in so much time and effort and energy and stuff like that it's like that's why people wait on Netflix. It will come out in the DVD's and rentals and you know try to get in theaters like that then Netflix will be like down the line, basically when nobody cares anymore and you can just throw it on Netflix to see what they give you. At that point, you're not fighting the whole thing, but if you throw it up on Netflix first, you're done.
HKC: I was gonna say, it’s a smart move for you guys with the movie feature coming out. You could sell the web series potentially to Netflix as like an advertising preamble to the movie coming out if you can get that type of deal done. So selling the web series before the feature comes out that way you have kind of the build-up to the feature, that's not a bad thing. Sal is our marketing guy. He always comes up with good ideas.
Kyle Hester: I'll run that by Hilton. He’s got people already talking about it and are interested. I'm weary of everybody as far as distribution. You know because I've heard so many nightmares from friends of mine that made films. Yeah the sale figures show that I have $80,000 that came in but I only got $8k of it. So, how does that work? It's basically, they're papering, we had to fly to this place you know for that festival. We had to rent this amazing hotel room on your dime. Oh by the way you paid for the plane ticket too for us to go. They are trying to sell your movie. It's like you got to be smart these days because you're swimming with sharks and everyone wants to make money off of the creator's.
Q19: You are now moving on to a new project and we've already talked a little bit about it, Preacher Six, what can you tell us about it without spoiling anything?
Kyle Hester: Well I can tell you that Preacher Six is going to be a grindhouse type film with lots of action and blood and comedy and demons and all of that kind of stuff. It's about a small town preacher that comes to the big city and ends up fighting evil in a literal sense. So that's where you see the art work on the site, that I am holding the sword and the gun all this kind of stuff. The preacher ends up battling demons like the real ones. That's kind of the gist and there's some super cool characters that are with him helping him out. They become a bunch of super hero type people that are not superheroes. It's gonna be a lot of fun.
Q20: How far in the process are you with that one?
Kyle Hester: We are in development right now. We're actually launching the fundraiser next month, so we'll start that up in October on IndieGoGo. That’s gonna be another 24 hours a day on the computer you know trying to beg, borrow, you know, get a bumper sticker. All that stuff man but we’re definitely excited about it.
HKC: Nice, we'll put out some reminders at that time as well from us to remind people that's what's gonna happen in October. Fantastic.
Q21: When is Zombie with a Shotgun coming out? What is your estimate?
Kyle Hester: Well I can say definitely in 2017 but right now we're not quite done filming. My character is wrapped but there's other scenes that we have to get, so if you see the fundraiser now, I'm basically trying to raise money to finish post production. I don't know, maybe we'll be done in six months. Fingers crossed on it. You know I mean it's like The Chair, we shot over a year and a half ago and there was like lots of issues in post and stuff that had delayed it coming out, which is now why it looks like there's so much going on. There's The Chair, Zombie With a Shotgun, Preacher Six and it's like all this happens to be happening now in various forms. The timeline of it was, we shot The Chair a year and a half ago.
HKC: Yeah, you seem like a real busy guy.
Kyle Hester: We are the new wave, it's kind of the Wild West out there right now as far as filmmaking, so it's either you're one of the big guys or wer’e just all kinda in the same creative pool together trying to make something happen.
HKC: Kyle, thanks for doing this.
Kyle Hester: Absolutely, the way I look at this is we're all in it together as entertainment type folks so it's all good.