Courtesy of Kate Bohan
Kate Bohan and her daughter Kayla have take the concept of the mother-daughter bond to whole new heights with the feature film “Kayla.” When Kayla went to her mom at the tender age of four and told her she wanted to act, Kate took steps to help her child realize her dreams — she became a filmmaker.
Kate had some prior experience in production in her native China. After majoring in broadcasting in Beijing, she was a professional reporter and news anchor. But when Kayla expressed interest in acting, Kate started studying filmmaking in Hollywood with the ultimate ambition of making her own movie.
As she explained in a recent interview, “I wanted to create a happy memory for her as a child so when she would grow up she would have a lot of motivation.” The result is a feature film entitled ‘Kayla,’ which is garnering acclaim and picking up awards at festivals around the globe for both the filmmaker and the movie’s young star.
Originally, Kate made the short ‘Kayla’s World,’ with the intention of expanding it into the feature format. Kate drew upon her own personal experiences to flush out the script. “When shorts become feature films, you need to expand the story a lot,” she explained. “So I was able to use my personal story, with some extra drama, to turn it into a full-length film. I think a good story is what keeps audiences interested, storytelling is a true gift.”
Courtesy of Kate Bohan
Coming up with the perfect script took some time. “It took me three years to complete the script for Kayla, the feature film,” acknowledged Kate. “I almost forgot how many pages I reviewed and had edited. I had several cabinets full of paper with both scripts, in Chinese and English. Sometimes I felt like I wanted to give up but I’m so glad I didn’t because now the film has won Best Screenplay at a number of film festivals. My son told me that if I didn’t complete something when I was given the chance, I would regret it in the future. I kept telling myself that and it kept me going.”
The movie tells the story of a seven-year-old girl who is forced to navigate the worlds of Chinese culture and Western culture, with a mother who comes from China and a father from the United States. According to Kate, roughly 60% of the film is based on real-life events.
“For instance, in the airport when Kayla said goodbye to her dad (because he couldn’t go to China with us), she said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go to vacation in China. I want to stay here,’ and she started crying. You see that in the movie, but that also happened in real life,” recounted Kate.
She added, “Another night, when we were in China, she was staring at the sky and said, ‘Mom, I wish I could be a dove.’ I asked her, ‘Why?’ Kayla said, ‘Because dove’s have wings and I could fly to Dad.’ I put this part in the movie, too.”
For some people serving as both filmmaker and mother to a young star might be challenging. But Kate explained that couldn’t have been farther from the truth on her set. “Kayla was very respectful,” Kate remarked. “Young Kayla shows incredible maturity and emotional intelligence that are very surprising to find in a child actress. She’s a courageous little girl and very talented actress. She called me ‘director’ on set, and I didn’t tell her to. She’s very adorable. For example, sometimes other people on set would ask her what to do and she would re-direct them to me and tell them, ‘You should ask the director.’”
That doesn’t mean the process came without its own set of challenges. “This film for me is a miracle but it wasn't easy,” Kate conceded. “Last year I could not imagine how I would finish. Directing the film was like having 1,000 jobs at once, I am the director and the producer and I also had to guide my little daughter. I led two teams from China and the United States to complete the film. Through many film festivals it has received a lot of positive reviews and awards, for example we won Best Picture from the Festigious International Film Festival and Best Drama Screenplay from the Los Angeles Film Awards, and Best Director from the NY Film Awards and more. I feel very honored by this."
Courtesy of Kate Bohan
Kate continued, “I'm still very proud to be a woman in the arts. Women are standing up and being heard all around the world. It's a very exciting time for us. When I was applying to film festivals, I saw that many were looking for female directors. They're very welcoming. It was a very positive experience.”
She hopes the film also delivers an inspirational message to viewers, “This film is suitable for all ages, and not just that — it will change people's thoughts on how they view the world. It will let them see how life is wonderful, that love is equal; it doesn't see countries or race. Most importantly, it will show you that if you have a dream, just keep going and that dream will eventually come true. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
Kayla chimed in with her own message to her audience, adding, “This movie tells us that love separates us, but it also reunites us. Love can overcome all challenges. I hope everyone likes this film and it can give them courage. I hope everyone can experience all the wonderful things this world has to offer. I hope everyone’s wishes come true.”
To learn more about Kate Bohan and Kayla visit the film’s official website.