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Kyle Edward Couch: “My biggest tip is to pace yourself”

I think for me, I would love to inspire more people to find work-life balance. Our culture loves making us feel pressured and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. Stress is the silent killer for a reason. I honestly think if more people slowed down, we would see WAY more quality content. It would also […]

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I think for me, I would love to inspire more people to find work-life balance. Our culture loves making us feel pressured and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. Stress is the silent killer for a reason. I honestly think if more people slowed down, we would see WAY more quality content. It would also bring way more quality to our living. I heard someone once say that if you don’t have an ulcer by 50 at our place of business then you aren’t working hard enough. That is such a toxic and destructive way of living and millions of children are missing their relationships with their parents because this is openly promoted in a lot of workplaces. I think if we took as much care of the people working at our businesses as our businesses themselves we would be a much healthier culture as a whole.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Edward Couch. He was born in Monroe, Michigan. Couch wanted to make films from a young age and decided to study film at Oakland Community College. At 26, he co-wrote and directed the award-winning short film One Last Run (2015). Shortly after One Last Run, Kyle directed the award-winning short film The Eulogy (2015). He went on to direct Thirteen One (2018) a documentary chronicling the ups and downs of recovering from heroin addiction while also training for a half-marathon. He was awarded the Award of Excellence at the Metro Film and TV Awards for that film. He then went on to writing and directing his first feature-length film, The Tent (2020). He resides in Michigan with his wife and daughter.


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

It’s my pleasure! Thank you for having me. I grew up out in the country, surrounded by cornfields and forests, so my imagination has always been active. From a very early age, I was interested in making stories come to life. When I was 7, I would stage my toys in the backyard and play with them like I was making a movie. I was that weird kid who always knew how to entertain himself regardless of the situation. My father was the type of guy who loved engaging my imagination. I specifically remember him always trying to scare my brothers and me with stories about aliens and bigfoot during drives home from our baseball games as kids late at night. He was great. I also leaned into film a lot as an older teenager when my father got sick. Something about experiencing other people’s stories, based on fact or not, really was a cathartic means to handle that tragedy in my life. Once he passed, I knew I had found my passion and knew I would never stop pursuing it. Since then it really has become not just a career but a way to bring my real-life struggles into a creative medium and hopefully connect with other people who may or may not have experienced similar things.

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

Yes, this career path was always in my head, I just needed to start creating. Once that dawned on me, I was in a position to create short films at my church. I would take bible stories and adapt them to modern times. I specifically remember making Moses. My girlfriend then, my wife now, helped me write it and I chose to shoot it in three separate segments and then piece them together with a bookend type element, not entirely different from The Tent. When we showed it to our congregation, about 150 people, the Pastor dedicated the whole service to this, 50-minute student film if you will, and just the excitement people had watching it, seeing themselves on the big screen, most of the actors were people in the church, it was a moment for me that changed how I viewed making movies. It was like all of that hard work translated into a singular experience all of these people shared that night. I really knew since that moment there was no turning back for me.

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

Going to Sundance was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced since I began this journey. I made a short film with my friend, Matthew Santia, and it won a grand prize at a festival. The prize was tickets to attend the Sundance Film Festival, all expenses paid. That was so cool because we got to meet people like Judd Apatow and Elijah Wood and just really experience that festival which is just, on a whale other level.

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?

Oh yes, I specifically remember my first real short, an adaptation of the good samaritan story in the bible. I literally shot it in order, each angle at a time. Once I got back to editing I realized nothing matched and it was a train wreck. I still ended up showing it to the congregation and everyone was really sweet but I knew it was awful. At the time it wasn’t super fun but now looking back, I learned so much from making it. It really compelled me to keep pushing and moving forward. I’m still learning too, it never ends, but that moment was sheer, uneducated mistake-making in its rawest form haha.

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

I work for a non-profit as my day job. I just recently produced an entire virtual fashion show. That was a challenge in many ways. I know nothing about fashion so it involved a lot of research and watching stuff I never thought I would. I am also writing a new script for my next feature film. It’s similar to The Tent in the psychological elements but an entirely different genre. I love being challenged and it’s currently doing just that haha.

We are 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?

Well if films don’t represent the actual world around us then what are we doing? The part of filmmaking and storytelling that is most important is that people can relate to it. If they can’t, they will go find the stuff that does speak to them, as they should. I have always championed diversity because I want my films to be real, not fake. Another reason is the uniqueness of each culture. If everything is written or directed or even acted from a place of sameness, it’s boring. We would miss out on so many truly intriguing possibilities in the art of filmmaking. I think lastly, it’s ignorant to believe that one point of view is correct over another. That starts at such a young age. If our children only see themselves and not other races and genders in the movies, they can become disillusioned with the world around them and ultimately grow up to feel and really be more privileged than others. Our culture will only truly change if it starts from a young age, if we teach our kids, who will one day run this country, both in entertainment and politics, two of the biggest powers, what the real world looks like around them and how to respect it accordingly.

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

First thing I wish someone told me was how to pace myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race type way of thinking. That quantity over quality is superior. It’s not but I was never told that and so I would constantly burn myself out just so that I was producing more and more stuff. It’s not a healthy way of living.

Second thing I wish someone would have told me is that your career, no matter how passionate you are, won’t fill you up at the end of the day. It’s the relationships you have that will bring meaning to what you do. On The Tent, while I am insanely proud of the film, I developed a relationship with Tim, who played David, that is now so strong because we went through all that filming and planning. That’s the best thing I walked away from that film with, his friendship.

A third thing is finding balance in work and home life. That’s one thing that I feel you really have to experience for yourself. I had many late nights and while sometimes there are seasons that call for that, it should never become a way of life. I always told my cast and crew that their families came first and if they ever needed to leave early or miss a day because of that I understood. I just wish I was better at following my own advice in those moments. That’s a mistake I don’t intend on making again, after all, what good is success if you have no one to share it with. Luckily my wife is supernaturally supportive, she always has been, but there were nights I felt it for sure.

A fourth thing is being confident in your choices. When you write something and have a vision, you should know firmly where you are willing to bend and where you can’t. Directing is hectic sometimes. You have a million questions rifled at you daily on set and when you truly know your vision, those questions can still throw you sometimes. It’s important to have a guide that you’ve constructed to help you make those tiny choices that, in the end, add up to a large group of decisions that can truly make or break a film. It’s all in the details.

A fifth and final thing would be to be aware of the mood you are in on set. As the director, you set the mood and vibe on set. If you’re stressed, everyone is stressed. If you’re lazy, it also sets a vibe. I have experienced both on my end and I’ve really learned to make myself aware of where I’m at for that day and if it’s not good, work it out before you arrive, find a method to get back into the mode of being creative, collaborative, and not be a taskmaster, but be supportive and encouraging.

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

My biggest tip is to pace yourself. Find a rhythm that lets you relax prior to filming and after. Learn to let go of personal things prior to and let go of technical things after you leave the set for the day. I always struggled with constantly talking about the set when I came home. That’s not good, you need to have separation. I think also, it’s important that you don’t compare yourself to others. Filmmaking more than anything is such an individual journey for everyone. It’s so easy to want to be the next Orson Welles or Speilberg and want to be an auteur by the time you’re thirty but their journey was so different from one another even. Some of the greatest filmmakers took a long time to get there. It’s important to find the rhythm that works for you and to pay attention to how you are growing, not how everyone around you is. The only comparison in your heart should be to yourself, pay attention to your growth only. I’m still learning this daily.

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. 🙂

I think for me, I would love to inspire more people to find work-life balance. Our culture loves making us feel pressured and overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. Stress is the silent killer for a reason. I honestly think if more people slowed down, we would see WAY more quality content. It would also bring way more quality to our living. I heard someone once say that if you don’t have an ulcer by 50 at our place of business then you aren’t working hard enough. That is such a toxic and destructive way of living and millions of children are missing their relationships with their parents because this is openly promoted in a lot of workplaces. I think if we took as much care of the people working at our businesses as our businesses themselves we would be a much healthier culture as a whole.

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?

There are truly SO many names that come to mind for me. My mom is a huge one. She really loved me during a time of my life that I didn’t deserve it and always stood by me. Her encouragement and belief in me was the root of my pursuit of filmmaking. My wife too, has been so sacrificial in our marriage and it’s because she believes in me. That is something that I can’t possibly repay her for. Finally, Tim, the actor who plays David in The Tent. He has really taught me so much about work-life balance. He is an awesome father, an awesome husband and a truly great friend to me. He really has been a huge inspiration to me and has believed in me in ways I didn’t think were possible. It’s inspired me to do the same for others.

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

Quality over quantity is one that just comes to mind in this interview. I think most people relate that to work but it also works for life. Quality in life over quantity is so much more important. I think we really need to stop sometimes and evaluate that quality at home and be open to changing things up if its not good or out of balance. I think that’s especially important in filmmaking. It can be very lonely at times if you aren’t careful.

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. 🙂

I would love to sit down with M. Night Shyamalan and just pick his brain on the lessons he’s learned in filmmaking after all of these years. He really turned me onto making stories that were grounded in reality but with the added supernatural element. He just seems like such a family guy too which isn’t easy to obtain at the level of success he has had. He also is someone who, despite some hardships, has always remained loyal to his love of making movies and content that speaks to the human condition. He’s a huge inspiration to me, always has been.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am actually on Linked in and love connecting so feel free to find me by searching my name!

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