Filmmaker Kyndra Kennedy and the Ripple Effects of Rising to the Challenge

We talked to director Kyndra Kennedy about her advice for on-the-fence filmmakers: “Get creative, gather your resources, and just do it.”

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Musicbed Challenge exists to push filmmakers to powerful creative breakthrough experiences. Our annual short-film competition isn’t just a filmmaking challenge—what you create in 30 short days has the power to unlock opportunities and leave a lasting impact on your audience and your career. 

Musicbed Challenge winner Kyndra Kennedy can speak to this experience. Her visual protest film, Black.Matters, was the judges’ winning selection for Musicbed Challenge 2020. 

With a short production schedule and numerous other obstacles, the powerful short film was an exercise in impromptu filmmaking. “I keep being reminded of why I’m so glad I made this. I had so many reasons not to do it. There wasn’t enough time. I didn’t want to make a political statement,” Kyndra tells Musicbed. “But, I just kept being reminded that this is something that I needed to make.”

Since winning Musicbed Challenge 2020, Kennedy has a few documentaries in the works, and she’s in the process of expanding her production company, KYNA Media Films. She’s busier than ever, and she’s just getting started. 

Hear more from filmmaker and Musicbed Challenge winner Kyndra Kennedy: why she entered the competition, her advice to on-the-fence filmmakers, and the positive ripple effects of rising to the challenge.

Musicbed: Why did you enter Musicbed Challenge 2020?

Kyndra Kennedy: The film I submitted for Musicbed Challenge was quite personal. 2020 was an unprecedented and challenging year—so much uncertainty, heated emotions, and polarizing headlines. Musicbed Challenge came at a time I needed a creative outlet for what I was feeling and observing. This challenge allowed me to create a short piece where I was able to express myself without anyone interrupting me, attempting to silence me, or try to invalidate my perspective. 

The importance of the film’s message eclipsed any career ambitions I may have had at the time. I entered because I had something to say that could offer insight into how people in my community feel. Musicbed Challenge gave me an outlet and a reason to make a film that mattered to me.

What is the benefit of entering short film competitions?

I think it’s just good for your creative soul to make something and put it out there. 

Socially, I think it’s important to have your work shown on a platform with other creatives so that you can connect with a larger community of filmmakers. I’ve met and connected to so many people after submitting a film in Musicbed Challenge. 

Professionally, I think it’s good for your growth to have your film looked at critically. Getting feedback and encouragement is positive for growth. 

Some feedback from the judges was really cool to hear, as well as constructive criticism, that basically said “less is more” and that I could’ve shortened my film and had an even bigger impact. And for another film festival, I submitted a 3-minute version of that same film and ended up winning an award. 

I think what you’ll come to find is that even the most critical judge is still going to show you some love and respect. We’re all creatives. We know all the challenges of filmmaking, so we’re going to see what you’re doing and not shame you but encourage you to keep creating and challenging yourself. 

What opportunities did winning Musicbed Challenge open for you?

The win really helped get my name out there, being featured in articles and different online blogs and posts, including Forbes, which was pretty awesome. The win put me on the radar of some future film production clients, as well as other filmmakers who wanted to collaborate with me. It also created a platform for me to continue to spread the message of the film and a starting point to have a difficult yet necessary conversation to potentially open minds and bring awareness to the issues in my community. 

How did winning Musicbed Challenge impact your career?

The win gave me confidence as a filmmaker. It was validation of the power of my voice and using film to amplify my own voice as well as others. Before the results were in, I already felt proud of my film, and that pride in the final product, and the feeling of accomplishment in seeing it all the way through, was a win in itself. 

You don’t have to win to benefit from the competition. There’s so much you can do with a completed project. I will forever have this film to showcase what my team and I can do as filmmakers. Without the challenge, this film could still be an idea in my head that I procrastinate and never end up making. 

This film not only impacted my career, but it also changed my life. I met new people to collaborate with, and it opened doors. I found my voice and realized my artistic power. It really solidified my why. I want to make films that matter, films I can stand by and be proud of. 

What helped you choose the right song for your entry?

The Musicbed app is so user-friendly. It’s really a seamless and straightforward process whether you know exactly what type of song you need—tempo, genre, mood—or whether you just want to browse for inspiration. 

When looking for a song, I already had my voiceover written and knew the mood, genre, and tempo I was looking for. It was one of those ‘I know it when I hear it’ moments. so I just went through the different songs under each category, reciting a few lines to see if it fit. I was able to save songs to a project folder until I found the right one. It ended up being a perfect fit—runtime and everything. 

What would you say to someone on the fence about competing in Musicbed Challenge?

If you’re on the fence, it’s usually fear or doubt holding you back. To ease that fear and uncertainty, I’d remind you that you don’t need a huge budget or crew and gear. You can make a film with your phone! Get creative, gather your resources, and just do it. Whether you already have an idea that can fit the challenge guidelines or if you make something from scratch, this is a great opportunity to see your idea all the way through and have a finished film to add to your portfolio. 

Challenge yourself and do it for fun, it’s not all about winning. Musicbed is a great platform for filmmakers to connect with other filmmakers and see other work that could inspire their next project. 

Have you ever felt stuck creatively? If so, how do you find ways to become unstuck?

All the time. It really depends on what stage of the creative process I’m stuck. If I’m stuck creating story or dialogue characters, I may watch other films or read screenplays and books about filmmaking and directing. The nerd in me gets excited to use what I learned. 

What I find is that it usually boils down to the bigger purpose or theme. What am I trying to say, and to really know my why. I have to reconnect with why I want to tell this story. What’s the purpose of the film. What’s the purpose of this character or scene or line of dialogue. Then I can Reverse Engineer from there. 

Other ways to get unstuck would be to get inspired. Sometimes you have to go deeper, and sometimes you have to step outside—literally and figuratively. Get another perspective. Maybe what’s needed are some fresh eyes—someone who you can bounce your ideas off of. Or it can be as simple as watching other films to get inspired by other filmmakers. 

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a few documentaries in various stages of production. Including one about the Youth Justice Reform and advocacy work in Los Angeles, and a docu-series exploring the history of Black wealth in America. In addition to producing and directing original projects, I’m also in the process of expanding my production company. My goal is to acquire funding for content development in order to hire creatives and crew to create original content. This will ultimately provide opportunities for independent creatives and underrepresented storytellers to create content for consideration by major film/TV networks and studios.

Ready to get started? Musicbed Challenge submissions open March 1 and close on March 31. Download the Starter Kit now. Good luck.