As a filmmaker, writer and improv comedian, Kendrick Smith works toward a more collaborative film community in Columbia. He graduated from MU in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in digital storytelling and a minor in English. Since then, Smith has begun filming and producing the indie feature film I Love You, Elliot, which focuses on a young man who has to come to terms with his family and health issues. Smith, along with his business partners Marcelese Cooper and Parker Mitten, wrote the film after listening to the Miles Davis jazz record Bitches Brew. Cooper says the album inspired them to begin writing the film because listening to music spurred their creativity. After they finished writing, they realized they were going to need a production company to make the film. That’s when Kill My Dog Productions was formed.
Smith has also begun working on a series of short films, a podcast and a reality web series about a group of roommates called Glam, created by actress and producer Clotilda DeMauro, which are all produced by Kill My Dog Productions. As the inaugural year of running his own production company comes to a close, Smith shares his thoughts about the film community and his passion for the industry.
What was the inspiration for the company name?
My sophomore year at Mizzou my friend was telling me this story about another friend of his. Whenever he got angry, he would just yell, “Kill My Dog!” I don’t know what it was about that story, but I latched onto it, and it accidentally became part of my regular vocabulary.
Describe your film I Love You, Elliot.
It’s a dramatic comedy about this young man who has a lot of familial issues. On a mission trip from Vietnam, he learns some troubling information about himself and his family. The film is about him trying to pull his life together while also learning that he’ll probably need to deal with some of these issues. So, it’s a coming-of-age story. Upon learning this information, he starts to struggle with insomnia. During our research of insomnia, we learned that it can often lead to hallucinations. This spiraled into us deciding to push ourselves to make the film half live action, half animated.
How does comedy overlap with filmmaking?
In my writing, I lean toward more serious topics, but I inevitably insert comedy in there somewhere. Some of my favorite directors do the same, like the Coen brothers and Vince Gilligan. That style of taking very serious topics and finding the natural moments of comedy that sometimes happen in our everyday lives is somewhat ingenious, and I try to instill that in a lot of my work as well. I think doing improv comedy has helped me write dialogue because you’re constantly having to adapt to things people are throwing at you.
What do you like about filmmaking?
I think film is at its best when it’s pushing the boundaries of what people have done and really finding new ways to experiment to tell fascinating stories that resonate with people. Hearing how many people relate to a story and that they’ve had those life experiences is what I think makes storytelling so powerful.