At first, Kelly Otto was only interested in meeting Channing Tatum. Otto and a friend happened to be in downtown Chicago during the filming of the Wachowski siblings’ Jupiter Ascending, a film in which Tatum held a lead role. While on set, she struck up a conversation with an assistant director. Within a week she received an email from him with just two words: You’re in!
Otto, 18 at the time, worked as a production assistant for the rest of the filming in Chicago. She’s now in her third year of Webster’s film program.
The Ampersand: What is it like being a female in a male-dominated industry?
Kelly Otto: It’s great and stressful and awful. I don’t care what anybody else is saying or doing or not doing. I know it’s different at Webster than it would be in the real world. It’s never been, “Oh you’re a girl, you do this job on the film set.” I’m here and I’m here to learn how to do it. I may not be as strong as some of the guys lifting equipment but people are always there to help.
Amp: What films have you worked on?
KO: At Webster, I have worked on my friends’ films and I’m working on my own film. I started as a freshman working on senior overviews, which was really cool. I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth from the Chicago suburbs freshman year [to work on films]. Jupiter Ascending was the first thing I ever did. I was fresh out of high school and I didn’t know really what was going on. I wasn’t even declared a film major.
Amp: What do you want your films to say?
KO: I think sometimes they don’t need to say anything. Sometimes I just make them for fun and to practice the art of making film. I want people to question themselves, their actions and their behaviors. I’d like to reach a wider audience and make real changes in the world. Equality, inclusion, diversity and being open-minded are very important to me. I always tease about how I want to make a movie about how lazy people are and how it’s so easy to recycle your water bottles but no one does.
Amp: How did you get interested in film?
KO: [My family] loved celebrities and movies — that is what we bond over. My mom was a big influence in that sense, because after we would go see a movie, she would ask what our favorite part was and what we didn’t like. She would make everybody answer the questions and she still does. Now I make my friends do that same thing.
Amp: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
KO: Hopefully not a production assistant, but I know people who are production assistants that could be my parents. I think after school I will go back to Chicago and work as much as I can, just dig my fingers into anything I can. There’s a lot of issues with it though — money, buying the equipment, finding space to do things in. It costs lots and lots of money. I could also see myself traveling around the world documenting things.
Story: Melissa Buelt
Photos: Julia Peschel