Please introduce yourself, where you are from, and what you do
Hi! I’m Owen Kent. I’m 25 years old and I love to make movies! I currently live in Berkeley, California where I operate a production space for filmmakers, photographers and other types of artists. I grew up in Colorado and moved to Berkeley when I was 16 to go to UC Berkeley. I studied film at Berkeley and loved it so much out here that I decided to stay after graduation. I originally was planning on studying math, but after a few years, I wasn’t too happy being alone with my math book breaking computer codes, so I decided to follow my passion for film and focus on that full time.
How long have you been a filmmaker?
I made my first film when I was in middle school. I think it was a swordfight between me and a friend wearing alien masks. I know, pretty sweet. After that I had a great teacher that taught me how to edit videos and I really took to it. It was a great way for me to make some money editing vacation videos for family friends. After that, me and a bunch of friends all pitched in to buy a camera that we could use. It was like a timeshare camera. Once we had the camera I made my first horror film for a final project in a high school film class. It was a slasher about a bunch of rednecks that get cut up in the woods by a serial killer that finds a copy of American Psycho and a Hillary Clinton mask. I grew up in post Columbine Colorado and I got questioned by the teacher after I screened the film because everyone was hyper sensitive about violence. For example, my classmates’ films were mostly used to ask girls to prom, so yeah, my film stood out.
What is it about horror that attracts you to the genre?
The way I see it, horror is one of the most equal places on Earth, it doesn’t matter who you are or what background you have, you’re in for a ride! I also think that it accesses the part of our brains that stores our deepest held assumptions about the world, so by tapping into that, filmmakers are able to communicate with the subconscious on an intimate level. Also, BLOOD!!!!!!! :)
Can you tell me about your feature film “Angels of Mercy”?
Angels of Mercy is a film that I cowrote with my friend Andrew Balcof who directed the film. It’s a home invasion movie where a cult breaks into a quad’s house with the intent to kill, but there are a few surprises in store. I play the main character Zach, who is a computer hacker grappling with what it would mean to be “cured” of his disability. Later in the film, it’s revealed that the cult is a group of eugenicists that are trying to “cure” disability by killing the disabled. It’s one of the first movies to star someone with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
What was your inspiration of the film?
Throughout my life, I’ve been identified by my disability in both the medical profession and the general public. Angels of Mercy is a counter point to that and a reminder that the disability is not the whole person. Plus, I never liked going to the doctor, so there’s some scary doctor scenes!
What is your disability? How long have you been disabled?
I was born with a genetic mutation that results in a deficiency of a protein need to activate muscular movement. It’s called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Although I’ve technically had it my whole life, I was diagnosed at 18 months.
What are some of the challenges you face(d) as a disabled person in this field?
I think we could have an entire interview on that alone! First of all, making movies is hard no matter who you are. There’s never enough money, never enough time, something is always broken and there’s always something to catch up on. And on top of that, I have a serious medical condition to tend to. As far as the industry, I actually think that my condition has been an asset because it’s so novel. Hollywood is running out of stories and doing something that hasn’t been done before is worth its weight in gold. But that’s a two-sided coin because new stories don’t have a commercial track record and a lot of financiers are reluctant at best to fund something that doesn’t follow a trend. All and all though, I think that my disability has opened more doors than it’s closed.
What has been your most rewarding moments thus far?
Wow, there have been so many! I think that the most rewarding though was watching playback on set of a certain scene between me and my doctor and looking around being surrounded by my friends and looking at set that we built and thinking to myself, “Wow, where there’s a will, there’s a way. We did this!” That was really special.
Can you share some of your future projects or goals?
Right now, I’m working on starting a podcast called The Owen Kent Show where I will interview the amalgamation of interesting people in my life and share stories. It’s going to a have a focus on disability history. There’s a lot of people in the Bay Area that were around in the 70s during the sit ins and the 504 marches and I want to get an oral tradition down before they pass. I also run a photography studio/art space so there’s tons of creative people going in and out of my life. I also have a couple of film ideas in various stages of development.
What advice or message you have for your viewers or creators that face similar challenges?
I would say just keep focused on your truth. There’s a lot of people that will naysay and poopoo until the cows come home, but it’s up to you to follow your heart and keep creating.
What is your definition of horror?
That’s a hard one! I would say horror is anything that provokes a reflection of the underworld. I’m really into Greek mythology and I like how Hades rules what’s below while Zeus above. It’s not really a matter of morality, it’s a matter of having a counter point to compare to. So, for me horror is a counter point to everyday life.
If there was a horror character you can say that you identify with most, which character would you be?
I feel like I could get into trouble with this one! Well, besides Zach in Angels of Mercy who I relate a lot to because I help write him, I would say I relate a lot to Joseph Merrick.
What’s your favorite horror movie?
Another hard one! I love anything by Rob Zombie, House of 1000 Corpses is classic. I also love old 80’s flicks like The Thing and The Fly. And big shout out to the old school Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and M. Also always down for Japanese horror like Ichi the Killer, Ringu and Death Note. I like anything Avant Garde and weird.
Thank you for your time in joining us today on the Horror Tour Guide.