Interview : Kat Gellin

Interview : Kat Gellin

You’ve likely seen her in films like The Inbetweeners, American cult horror The Thompsons, or beloved UK TV shows like Eastenders and Hollyoaks. We chat to Kat about her new film Of Her I Dream, which she wrote, directed and stars in. The theme of the film is something very personal to her.

We’d love to know more about you and your career milestones

Hi! I’m Kat. I started acting as a kid, moved to London when I was 18 to go to drama school, and have been in stuff like Eastenders, Hollyoaks, Doctors and films like The Inbetweeners and american cult horror The Thompsons. I also did some modelling for a bit. Now I run production company, Redeeming Features, along with my fiancee and I devote my time to writing, acting, directing and producing.

You’ve just directed your first short film, Of Her I Dream. What’s the film about and are the themes anything you’ve personally experienced?

Yeah, the film is about losing the closest person you love to cancer and how the people left cope with it. In my case it was my mum. It’s such a monumental thing, especially since I lost my dad when I was young too. But it makes you very resilient, and the film is a love letter to her for sure. She inspired me in every way.

How was the experience of being a Director different to being in front of the camera and being directed? Will you be doing it again?

I loved it! I certainly want to direct more. It was a challenge in this one because I was acting too, on such a personal topic, which I maybe wouldn’t do again to that extent. It’s good to be able to focus on one or the other. As the Director you just want to sit back and observe and make sure every department is performing at its best, but acting is very volatile and emotional and combining the two is hard! Having said that, I’m sure I’ll dip my toe in again…

You’ve just attended the famous Cannes film festival. Is recognition for the film at festivals and in the press important to you?

The thing about recognition is it gives you more opportunities to work with even more talented people, and collaborate with people you admire. So I’d say yes. I hope it’s accepted at a couple of the major festivals and has a life of its own. I’ve had very positive reactions to it so far, especially from people who have lost someone to cancer themselves. It’s something that affects so many.

You star in new indie thriller My Hero. Can you tell us a bit more about the movie and your character. Have you played a role like this before?

Never! I’m originally Norwegian, and this role was very much a girl from the coast of England. She’s middle class, unlike the other characters, which sets her apart. And she’s feisty and stands up for herself – I’ve played a lot of happy-go-lucky characters before. And I got to move away from my usual blonde look, which was fun!

“The thing about recognition is it gives you more opportunities to work with even more talented people, and collaborate with people you admire.”

Did you need to do any research to get in to character? How was the filming experience?

Yes, we spent a lot of time in Margate listening to and talking to people who live there. I got to know the girls in the nail salon my character works in. And it was extraordinary to see what people deal with there – the council estates are like their own country, with its own separate laws. We saw a lot, from incredible beauty in the beaches and resilient people, to utter abject poverty and misery and a rotten care system. Hopefully the film shines a light on it.

Director, movie and TV actress, stage star…is there a medium that you enjoy the most?

I have an old love of the theatre, it’s an immediate medium and can be very powerful. Having said that, I’ve grown to love the film especially and am very excited to explore directing. I’m very proud of my own short film – it was hard to make, but it’s good to know you’ve made something from scratch and the result turns out how you want.

“Never tell a Norwegian she’s gonna work beyond 7pm.”

When you’re not working, do you switch off easily?

Well, running your own business is a 24-hours-a-day effort for the first few years. But I’m Norwegian – they are the masters of work-life balance. Never tell a Norwegian she’s gonna work beyond 7pm. 7pm is dinner! I read a lot to relax, and walk my dog. I love yoga too. Cooking relaxes me – my fiancee despairs when I make sweet things – he blames me for ruining his waistline!

Did you always want to work in the entertainment industry?

Almost as long as I remember. My mum founded a youth theatre that I started age 6. But I wanted to be a paleontologist for a while – after seeing Jurassic Park. I was far too young to see it but I always managed to sneak peeks.

Were you encouraged to follow your dreams by your family when you were growing up? What about at school – what was the career advice like and did it encourage careers in more creative sectors?

My mum always encouraged me, whatever I did. I don’t think they were thrilled I chose such an uncertain profession, but they were practical and made sure I worked hard. I felt I had a lot of opportunities from school, but they didn’t really have a lot of advice in the creative arts. But Scandinavia have these fabulous institutions called ‘folk high schools’ – essentially like a 9-month boarding school where you study your chosen subject instead of a gap year. I did acting, and was hooked for real.

Women represented 11.4% of the UK’s TV/Film directors and only 16.1% of the UK’s TV/Film writers in 2012. Why do you think women are so poorly represented in the industry?

I won’t pretend to be an expert, but that subject is something I’m passionate about. If you think about it, it’s only recently women got out of being dependent on men and having to have three babies by age 25 – you can’t have such an immersive profession then (though some superhero mums seem to manage). We just haven’t had as much time to shape the industry to what women want to see and work with. It’s changing.

What’s the answer to changing this?

Eradicating everyday sexism, and for women to get writing brilliant things about brilliant, exciting other women. And direct stories about topics that engage them. The era where the woman is just the helpless eye-candy-girlfriend is dead. Look at ‘Orange Is the New Black’. Surprisingly, you don’t just have to be a gorgeous 25-year-old to have an interesting life! My film had a very strong female team. A female gaffer, for example – she daily endures ‘Isn’t that a bit heavy for you, love’ when she’s stronger than most dudes and more technically minded. I’m not too worried – we are turning the tide. Hopefully I’ll get to be a part of it.

“The era where the woman is just the helpless eye-candy-girlfriend is dead. Look at ‘Orange Is the New Black’. Surprisingly, you don’t just have to be a gorgeous 25-year-old to have an interesting life!”

What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you?

Recording the music video for ‘My Hero’ with an exciting new artist, a TV show in Norway and then a trip to LA with the next film I’m involved in – and hopefully some festival trips for my short film. Holiday first though!

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About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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