Filmmaker Marklen Kennedy: “Relationships are the key to success;You’ll never stay ahead of the curve if you don’t network”

It’s not easy. You’ll never stay ahead of the curve if you don’t network. Relationships are the key to success. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Most importantly: the people who think they should be on a reality show should NOT be on a reality show. It has to be organic. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. […]

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It’s not easy. You’ll never stay ahead of the curve if you don’t network. Relationships are the key to success.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Most importantly: the people who think they should be on a reality show should NOT be on a reality show. It has to be organic. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marklen Kennedy. As Founder of IN YOUR FACE PRODUCTIONS, Marklen is the creator and Executive Producer of numerous television series, starting with the hit Showtime series, “Gigolos.” In addition to launching “Gigolos” he has produced and/or created an array of hit television shows such as “Late Night Chef Fight, “Postmortem in Vegas, “Vegas DOA, “Back of the House Brawls,” “Trailer Park Housewives, “Vivica’s Black Magic’, the soon to be released “Labor of Love” on FOX and the award winning mini-series “Texas Rising” on The History Channel. Kennedy has taken his production talents Into the Film Industry with Executive Producing a slate of theatrical motion pictures. Kennedy produced his first major motion picture, “Cops and Robbers’ released in 2017, as well as “Fright Fest (2019),” “Diamonds in the Sky, “Dead Trigger (2018),” “Treasure Hunter: Legend of the White Witch” (2018), and the upcoming “Knuckles” (2020.) Marklen Kennedy is the perfect chronicler of the seamier side of Las Vegas. As unreal as Las Vegas can seem, it’s a bottomless well of Inspiration for him. As one of Las Vegas’ more prolific television producers — he has built programs around male escorts, a Vegas coroner, a cooking competition in the Palms parking lot, Wives in double wides, Parent Teacher Associations, Mobile Matrimony Celebrations and even tempting the faith of Evangelicals in Sin City. Kennedy is a Texas native, and appeared on the Las Vegas scene in the early 2000’s as one of the originators of bottle service in the city’s burgeoning nightlife scene. With his imagination, charisma and proximity to the rich and famous, Kennedy, who regularly hung with A-list celebrities, entertainers and even the occasional former President or two, was first approached about starring In his own reality show as far back as 2004, but as a nightclub executive he had to protect the anonymity of his celebrity A-Listers and high-profile clients, as well as the inner workings of the Casino, so he declined multiple offers to be in other producers shows and decided to create his own. Prior to his success as an Executive Producer in the Television and Film Industries, Marklen Kennedy had an established career as an Actor and a respected professional in the hospitality industry in the US. Throughout his career, he held senior management positions in the most exclusive sought after nightlife venues in the country. A graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with minors in Journalism and Advertising. As a Division 1 collegiate football player at SMU, he was named to an All-Southwest Conference Football Team as well as Texas’ ‘Rookie of the Year on the SMU Rugby team. Marklen and his wife reside in Las Vegas, Nevada with their two children; daughter Barbeque and son Queso. Upon graduating from SMU, Marklen moved to Los Angeles where he began working the door at the famed Bar Marmont on Sunset Boulevard and began training with the infamous acting teacher Roy London. After a year in Los Angeles, Marklen was offered the lead role in the Witchcraft film series. From there, he went on to appear and star in numerous films as well as securing numerous television episodic roles.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Marklen! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Born and raised in Texas where the vernacular was an inherited form of communication people would say things that no one else in the world would ever understand.

“Y’all” vs “All y’all”,

“Howdy” — the official Texas greeting,

“Sorry” isn’t always an apology,

When in doubt, shove in some extra syllables,

“Bless your heart” is not a benediction,

just go ahead and drop that G,

there is really only one season in Texas,

Fixing doesn’t mean repairing, it means preparing,

The worst thing you can be is a damn fool,

“Lit” can mean more than cigarettes,

Corn-fed refers to size, not food,

Things don’t fall over in Texas, they TUMP over.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I opened and ran nightclubs in Las Vegas bringing bottle service to the city. People didn’t understand the concept of sitting at a table and buying an entire bottle of alcohol. One night a celebrity female came in for her bachelorette party and she wanted to know if there were any male escorts in Vegas. There was a cheesy Italian guy in the club wearing an unbuttoned Versace shirt and I relay the message. He says, “My friend, that is what I do. I am Gigolo.” Her bachelorette party ended with a bang! I call an agent friend in LA and pitch him an idea about Gigolos in Las Vegas. He says it’s a terrible idea. And he sets up a meeting with Showtime Networks and I go in and tell them stories of what these “Gigolos” do in Vegas. The show got greenlit. The nightclub got sold. And 7 seasons later Gigolos is still one of the top rated unscripted shows on the network. From there I started my own production company and have been creating and producing shows ever since.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Another show that I created was about bringing evangelical Christians into Las Vegas to tempt their faith (Sin City) on the Lifetime Network. The mentality is that God doesn’t exist here and that everybody wants to go to Heaven, just not yet! We brought in real people from all over the South from street preachers, to Mennonites and we were filming at a club. The doorman was so well versed in scripture that when one of the show’s participants told him he was going to hell, the doorman threw out verse after verse ultimately making the young bible thumper break down crying wanting to leave the show. It was fascinating to watch this litmus snow globe of Las Vegas reality.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

After the success of Gigolos, I set out to develop a show based on trailer parks in Las Vegas. The casting read: “Trailer Park Housewives will deliver the rowdy rambunctious clans from the local area Mobile Home Trailer Parks in Las Vegas. The series will follow the lives of sexy blue collar housewives, who live a trailer park lifestyle. From a self-proclaimed “Queen Bee” whose home is 3 feet longer than anyone else’s and doles out orders much like a modern day “Lord of the Flies” to the innocent newbie trying to fit in… there is a social hierarchy among this clan that rules supreme in the Trailer Park setting. If you lived here you’d be home by now! The casting call went on to say that husbands of the housewives must be involved in “Vegas” type jobs, “such as: Realtor, bus driver, blackjack dealers, concierge, nightclub industry, zoo keepers, be in the witness protection program, former or current mob family members, been an extra on CSI more than 5 times, an attorney, poker player, or just your typical everyday guy who loves watching the show Breaking Bad. A six-pack of beer, some video poker and a temporary restraining order are quality entertainment in these houses on wheels.” I sent it to the local newspapers and tv stations and day of casting 500 people showed up. Sadly “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” came out which was a hybrid scripted show about a trailer park in Florida and my show was pushed back. The mistake was throwing the casting net too public.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My next show coming out will be on FOX and it will be called “Labor of Love.” Which began as the story of my wife and I when we struggled to have our second child. For 4 years we were in the no prego zone. Wife could get pregnant, she just couldn’t stay pregnant. She was the infertility warrior, bunless in the oven, can’t-make-a-baby veteran. It took four years and well over one hundred thousand dollars to achieve this distinction through 6 rounds of IVF, and more specifically, 2,678 prenatal vitamins, 236 fertility drug injections, 65 ovulation detection tests, 89 blood draws, 36 ultrasounds, 27 pregnancy tests, 29 embryos to confirm it and 9 miscarriages. Still, throughout this not-so-fun numbers game (she always thought that procreating was supposed to be much, much more enjoyable), She tried very hard to look at the lighter side of their struggles to conceive: We did everything from shamans to witch doctors, séances to magic potions and nothing worked. The network wanted to follow our journey. Wife decided we should go to Nogales, Mexico to try a stem cell treatment of sorts, that is illegal in the states. It worked. She got pregnant naturally thus no show to make. I changed it up into a cast off component show where people via for a suitors love and attention based on what’s inside them, not on the outside. Labor of Love will air in 2020.

I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

One thing that inherently sticks out from my end is that most of my tv shows I’ve created/produced have been in Las Vegas and there is a tremendous responsibility to adhere to the reputation of what Las Vegas is. The city spends millions and millions of dollars every year to keep the image consistent as we operate almost completely on tourism. So I must stick to the ideology of what the city represents. There’s a vast melting pot of ethnicities living and visiting here. Everyone has to be represented correctly. The Trailer Park Housewives shifted in production away from narcissism and into the fact that these were amazing, decent people. All of which said the exact same thing “we aren’t trash.” It really hit to the fact that there’s nothing wrong with trailer park living and that many of the residents wanted to live that lifestyle and loved it. I learned you must stick to the realistic version the world is in right now and stay true to it. Don’t let advertisers shape whom they want to shape. Stay true to the vision.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

The unscripted world doesn’t stay consistent in its reach. The mandates change often and for a while the “trash television” model set out to shock and awe the viewers. All creative film makers have talent. No matter the gender, ethnicity or physical ability. The hurdle is that the networks only want to work with certain people and it hinders other creatives from breaking in. Advice to creative newcomers: Devise a Strategy in the beginning, Use authentic Visual Storytelling, Don’t be Afraid, Be unified in the vision process and stay true to it, Stick to the Fundamentals, Authenticity is Key, Be consistent, Focus on Relationships, Address Your Target Audience by Name, And only try to create stories that make Lasting Impressions.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

It’s not easy. You’ll never stay ahead of the curve if you don’t network. Relationships are the key to success.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Most importantly: the people who think they should be on a reality show should NOT be on a reality show. It has to be organic. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Research what has happened and what will happen. Trends are hot for a very small time. There is a huge difference between a Fad and a Trend. Networks are always looking for the next hit. Once I did Gigolos, then networks would say, “Give us another show that no one has seen before.” My best advice is to watch everything that’s on tv, streaming for what people are drawn to and create something that you don’t see from that.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Truly treat others like you want to be treated.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My attorney! Agents come and go. If you could find an attorney who is in your corner that will protect you it will propel you ahead years.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The only thing that made me think I could do it was I never thought that I couldn’t.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Myself at 21 so I could tell me to stop f’n around and focus on business.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @marklenkennedy

Twitter: @marklenkennedy

YouTube: Marklen Kennedy

Facebook: Marklen Kennedy Producer

LinkedIn: Marklen Kennedy

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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