AWD Icon Members work extensively in feature films, television, commercials, music videos, and/or new media. They have not only shown exceptional skill and/or received substantial acclaim, but are also advocates for AWD’s mission for parity in the entertainment industry.

AWD Icon Member KELLY PARK began her entertainment career doing improv and working as a sought-after acting coach. Directing an episode of “Alexa & Katie” jumpstarted an explosive television career that has led to her becoming a Producing Director and Pilot Director (eg. “Lopez vs. Lopez,” “Country Comfort”). Additionally, Kelly and her writing partner husband recently sold a show to NBC and she is in the process of directing her first feature.

Kelly spoke to AWD about what she looks for when casting sitcoms, which comedic directors have influenced her, and how “giving is her way of living!”

AWD: What do you believe are the key differences between coaching actors and directing them on set?

KP: Coaching actors allows me to dig deep into the character, back story and the character’s future. There are so many layers that we discover as a team which really enhances the actors’ performances and how I direct. Directing actors involves so many other elements. Now we have to add technical aspects (camera, lighting, etc.) as well as heightened reactions when we put it on its feet with the cast. 

As a director, how do you foster a collaborative and creative environment on set to bring out the best performances from your cast and crew?

I pride myself in setting the tone! A positive, loving tone. My mama always said, “leave your stuff at the door!”, and that’s exactly what I do – I leave it all at the door. For me, it’s important that my team (cast and crew) knows that I come to the set ready to collaborate with everyone, bring fresh ideas and find new ways to make great tv. I was an Acting Coach before I started directing, so I’ve established a “shorthand” with actors that makes them feel comfortable and safe. We are speaking the same language! I am an actor’s director. I am also a crew member. Whenever I walk onto a set, I remind myself that there’s probably a hundred years of experience in that room and collaborating with that experience is key to the success of the project. I make sure to let the crew know how much I appreciate all their tireless efforts and that they are valuable.

When working on iconic reboot shows like Frasier and Night Court, how do you lean into the established tone of the original show while also modernizing it?

Lucky for me, Night Court and Frasier were my favorite shows back in the day. I knew those characters. I had a deep understanding of the comedy and it was imperative for me to match the initial tone. I’m the Director that loves movement and blocking in unusual, sometimes underutilized areas of the stage, so that’s what I do.The writers of both shows have really nailed it, so it’s easy for me to come in and give them a touch of the “Kelly Spice”!  

Could you walk us through your process for developing and refining comedic timing within scenes?

Once I receive an outline, or the first draft of a script, I start to prep for table read, production meeting, and then ultimately blocking and actor performances. I review the script as much as possible, just so I can be ahead of any writing issues, story confusion and comedic beats that may need to be explained. Then I start communicating! Listen, communication is KEY! I ask a lot of questions. Once I’m on that stage with my cast, I have the confidence to help the cast nuance their performances as much as possible. Also during my prep, I watch sitcoms and take notes! You never know what gems you’ll uncover.

As both a director and executive producer on upcoming projects, how do you balance these dual roles? What advantages do you find in wearing both hats? 

As a Producing Director, I’m starting from the ground up! I am able to weigh in creatively and make decisions for the project. I love, love being involved in all aspects of the creative process so balancing comes naturally. Having a background as a Project Manager in the corporate world definitely helps!

Are there any particular sitcoms or comedic directors that have significantly influenced your work? 

Yes! Stan Lathan (Martin, Moesha,The Soul Man), James Burrows (Cheers, Friends) and Ellen Gittlesohn (Half & Half, Reba). These Directors are the GOATS!! Watching just one of their episodes is like a master class! Movement, timing, energy, performance – they had it all! 

As an Icon Member of the Alliance of Women Directors, how do you advocate for and support women in the directing field?

Giving back and making myself available to anyone that wants to learn (especially women) is always on my agenda. I mentor any way I can. Either its having people shadow on set, a zoom meeting or even just a phone call to encourage and uplift. Just recently I helped a young director who had never done a multicam with a project. Giving is my way of living!

Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about that you’d like to share with AWD?

My husband and producing partner and I have recently sold a show to NBC that we are currently developing. I am also in the process of directing my first feature film!! I am so excited about the future and I love all the possibilities!!

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