Charles A. Kennedy isn’t just a screenwriter, he’s also a storyteller. Most people don’t realize that a great storyteller is born from a person who truly loves people. The yearning to weave a fantastic tale and entertain others comes from the desire to give them joy or to provide a brief moment of escape. This is a special gift the storyteller delivers, and it comes from someone with a pure heart. That is who Charles is. How do I know this? Because he and I share the same qualities. When I look at Charles, I see a man cut from the same cloth as myself. It’s my honor to introduce you to him. This is Charles A. Kennedy Jr…
I first discovered film and media through volunteering in the audio/visual ministry department at my church in Pontiac, Michigan. I was encouraged to study broadcasting, so I enrolled at Lawrence Tech University where my sole focus was to become an audio engineer & live sound technician. My first film experience was in a 48-hour film challenge which gave me a crash course on the process, in an unbelievably short amount of time. After that, I was in love with filmmaking. I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed movies growing up but never knew that it was possible to make your own if you weren’t in Hollywood.
Now, my focus is writing, directing and producing. I’m wrapping up a short film I shot last year titled “Affliction” which focuses on a young writer who suffers from schizophrenia. I hope in my future work I can continue to explore the human condition and inspire people that anything is possible.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I wrote a 25-page short script for a class and my professor raved about the idea and my writing ability. The next semester I took a screenwriting class and learned the intricacies of the craft and the rest is history. It’s exciting for me because I’ve always been a storyteller growing up whether it was sharing fun memories, creating narratives with my toys as a child or making my own stories in comic strip form. It was always in there, it just took time for me to realize it.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
I think realizing that I could illustrate my big imagination in ways other than drawing and painting. Realizing that I could create actual characters and create a world for them to live in and give them a storyline to follow inspired me the most. I always found that there was some limitation to my ideas, whether it was me not knowing how to draw well or whatever, but with writing, there’s no limit to what I could come up with and that is exhilarating.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
The first person who truly believed in me was my Writing for Television professor Beth Swantek. I took the class as a sophomore at LTU and I always got good marks on my assignments and she used to tell me that I was a really good writer all the time. For our final project, we had to write a 20+ page short story, and I wrote a rom-com titled: “Love is no Paradise”. She loved the script and said it was something that she could see on HBO.
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
I think after finishing my first feature screenplay in my college screenwriting class was the moment for me. It was such a rush to type “FADE OUT" and "THE END” on the final page knowing that ten weeks of researching, outlining, and drafting had come full circle and all my ideas whether big or small were in that screenplay. Also, having actors come into our class and act out our scenes was a huge moment for me. It was like watching a flower bloom right before my eyes in real time.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I think success is an ever-evolving concept for me. Right now, I’d define success as making an impact through my craft. I’m the guy who likes to bring everyone together and the guy who likes to tell people ‘if I can do it, you can too’, and if I can encourage someone to pursue their own dreams through my stories then I’d call that a success.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?
I’m definitely a night owl. I’m not fully productive until afternoon. I take forever waking up in the morning and I’m not a pleasant human to be around while I’m still trying to wake up which is quite ironic because I want to be a filmmaker.
When do you get up?
These days it depends. I try to get up early (around 7-8) and be a normal functioning human being but depending on when I went to sleep and what’s on the agenda, I could sleep in until 11.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
I try to make sure I pray in the mornings but aside from that, the only routine thing I do in the morning is drink water and check my podcast feed for new episode updates.
What do you do midafternoon?
This is around the time where I’ll go out and handle things out of the house, go to meetings, go on a spontaneous photo-walk. My wife works nights so if I’m working at home I usually take a quick break from work at 5 and hang out with her until she leaves at 6.
What do you do at night?
This is usually prime time for me. I’m most productive after 6 so all of my work gets done at this time. Some nights I’m heading out to a networking event or some social gathering. If nothing is going on, I may just chill out, watch a movie, catch up on my podcasts or sleep. I kind of just do what I feel is right at that moment.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
It varies. I’ll read something, write or watch something on Netflix until I get sleepy.
How do you define a successful day?
A successful day is one where I get something done. At least one thing or if I intended on doing literally nothing, and I accomplish that, well that’s a win too.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
I’d say vulnerability has been the most important skill I’ve developed if I can call that a skill. I believe that every writer puts a piece of their soul in their work and in order to truly do so and to do it well, you have to learn to be vulnerable so that your characters feel authentic.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
The greatest challenge thus far has been learning all of the rules, so I can break them. I’m a free spirit and I don’t like rules, so I’ve always found creative ways to get around them. My biggest struggle is learning how to properly format, develop characters etc. and I get too caught up in doing things “the right way” rather than the way I feel is needed.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
That would be all of the amazing people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve been able to enjoy. Filmmaking has truly made me into the person I am today. It helped me break out of my shell and calm a lot of my social anxieties. In a way, choosing this path has given me great purpose.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
I simply want to learn the life experiences of my peers. I’m a lover of people and I have a great curiosity about what makes them who they are and how they differ from me. The particular way I learn in life is to observe others and pay attention to their mistakes and successes. I apply those lessons to my own life and to my writing.