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Vivian Kerr: “That seems like a worthy thing to devote a lifetime to”

I’m driven by storytelling. I don’t fully understand it, to be honest. I just know that I need to tell stories, and I think it’s driven by curiosity. I just really want to know what other people’s lives are like. I was lucky enough to be part of a master class recently with the great Joanna […]

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I’m driven by storytelling. I don’t fully understand it, to be honest. I just know that I need to tell stories, and I think it’s driven by curiosity. I just really want to know what other people’s lives are like.

I was lucky enough to be part of a master class recently with the great Joanna Rotté, one of Stella Adler’s students, and she was encouraging everyone to sit down and consider our “why?” She spoke about Marlon Brando and how his “why” may have been simply trying to understand his own mind. So maybe that is it? I want to understand as thoroughly as I can the range of human experience. That seems like a worthy thing to devote a lifetime to.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vivian Kerr, an actor, writer, producer, and director.

In 2020, Vivian Kerr was a Finalist in Sony Pictures TV’s Rising Storytellers Search with her pilot FIVE POINTS, about the female-led gangs of 19th century New York. Her short film SCRAP, co-starring Anthony Rapp (RENT, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY), which she wrote, produced, and starred in, screened in over 30 film festivals in 2019, including the Beverly Hills Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival, Burbank Film Festival, Ojai Film Festival, SoHo Film Festival, and SCAD/ Savannah Film Festival. Her script for the feature was a Second Rounder in Sundance’s Development Lab and a Top 10 Finalist in Final Draft’s Big Break. She plans to make SCRAP her feature directorial debut in 2021.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Sacramento, California. I moved to Los Angeles to study theatre at the University of Southern California, and have been working as an actor for almost 15 years, and lately I’ve been pursuing more of a writing path.

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

The short answer is that I was frustrated as an actor. I wasn’t getting access to auditions for good scripts. And the scripts that I was able to audition for I thought were really bad. So, just out of my own hubris I started to think, well, I can write a script better than this!

I’d also gotten really interested in screenplay and pilot structure, and I started to read scripts from a writer’s point of view, rather than from the perspective of an individual character, so the idea of creating a full world began to really appeal to me. And then of course COVID happened and suddenly I had a huge amount of time on my hands!

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

COVID was pretty darn interesting! As terrible as the pandemic has been, it’s also been really beneficial to my creative development. I had moved back to Los Angeles from New York right before lockdown hit, and then suddenly I had all this time just sitting in front of a computer.

I wasn’t working as an actor because all the productions were shut down, so I decided to just start writing all the ideas I’d had in my head for the past five years. 2020 was kind of amazing in that regard. I wrote three pilots, a feature, a short, and decided to move forward with directing my first feature.

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?

Right after I graduated college I was doing a bunch of extra work and I remember I kept getting booked on The O.C. for these beach scenes. I am basically the palest person in the world, so I would show up to someplace in Malibu at like 5am and then get sprayed down with this thick orange spray-tan, because I guess even the background actors on that show needed to look a certain way. And then I’d spend all day trying to hide under an umbrella so I didn’t get sunburned, and then I’d go home after 12 hours and shower and the bottom of the shower was just orange gunk. I kept wondering why they were booking me on that show and why they didn’t just hire really tan people. It was really ridiculous.

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?

I am grateful towards so many people, but my acting coach Saxon Trainor always comes to mind. I’ve studied with her on and off for years, and from her I have learned a lot about how to go even deeper into my work as an actor and an artist. She knows what role I need to work on to stretch myself and she’s incredibly insightful without being dogmatic. She’s also very, very funny. I remember once working on a scene in her class and I was having such a hard time with it and I left and went outside and was kind of crying because I was so frustrated and she sort of sidled up and said, “oh, are you crying because you’re such a bad actress?” and was teasing me about how self-important I was being. She’s just the best.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice would be to view failure as desirable. Yes, it feels awful in the moment, but you have to see it as part of the process of developing yourself. Sometimes you have to just feel the hurt for a few days, but then decide to keep going. Taking creative risks is very, very hard, and we could all use more encouragement and more kindness. My advice would be try to be a resource for other talented people. Introduce people to people who can help them. The more you help other people succeed, the more you will help yourself.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I’m driven by storytelling. I don’t fully understand it, to be honest. I just know that I need to tell stories, and I think it’s driven by curiosity. I just really want to know what other people’s lives are like.

I was lucky enough to be part of a master class recently with the great Joanna Rotté, one of Stella Adler’s students, and she was encouraging everyone to sit down and consider our “why?” She spoke about Marlon Brando and how his “why” may have been simply trying to understand his own mind. So maybe that is it? I want to understand as thoroughly as I can the range of human experience. That seems like a worthy thing to devote a lifetime to.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m currently fundraising for my feature film SCRAP, which will be my directorial debut. Hopefully we’re going to shoot that later this year. I see myself continuing to act, write, produce, and direct for as long as I can. Eventually, I’d love to have my own production company.

We are very interested in looking at 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 and our youth growing up today?

It’s obviously so beneficial to encourage everyone to participate in the entertainment industry, because then it just makes our understanding of the world that much richer. I think that is why we are so drawn to documentaries — something about going into someone else’s point of view is so engrossing. We really hunger to experience the perspectives of people who are unlike us, and that’s been a lot harder during a pandemic, when we aren’t seeing anyone outside of our bubble. So film and television becomes the gateway through which we experience ideas that might challenge us and for young people, it can show them there’s a world out there beyond what they experience from the first-person. Racial diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity, diversity of thought and opinion — these are powerful ways of sparking imagination, and when different traditions come together, exciting things happen. I think of jazz as one of the amazing examples of that.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I try as much as I can to do morning pages, a practice from The Artist’s Way. I try to hone in on things I find challenging and journal about them, working on cultivating a perspective of gratitude and appreciation. There’s so much judgment and negativity in the world, finding time to meditate is also incredibly helpful, although I’m not as consistent with it as I’d like to be.

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

“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”

Sometimes in the entertainment industry, you will see people who have a different way of treating people based on how they view them in terms of professional success or valuableness. I remember there was a casting director once who I just totally allowed to treat me really badly. And because she was in a position to potentially employ me, I just sort of kept my mouth shut and smiled and nodded my way through what I felt like were some pretty personal insults. And in hindsight, I should have said, “Hey, this is really not okay. This is a professional job interview.” But obviously who wants to say that? But I’ve never forgotten that about her, and now I’d never hire her as a producer or recommend her to anyone I know, so I guess the relevance is that we reap what we sow.

You are a person of huge 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?

It actually might be meditation. Again, I’m not the most consistent with it, but when I do meditate it really centers me, and I can feel the positive effect it has on my mental health. So I assume if everyone on the planet had the luxury of a few minutes each day to be still with their own thoughts, it would probably lead to a lot more thoughtfulness and less destructive impulsivity.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I just finished the latest season of The Crown, so I’m going to say Queen Elizabeth. I just want to sip tea across from her and ask her all about Winston Churchill and the corgis.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I am! You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @viviankerr.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


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