First Bloom Films: Interview with Actress Katherine Waddell

Katherine Waddell
Actress Katherine Waddell is the co-founder of First Bloom Films, a Los Angeles based production company specializing in character-driven movies created by women.

Actress Katherine Waddell is the winner of the “Best Actress” award at the Manchester Film Festival; she is also the co-founder of First Bloom Films—a Los Angeles based production company specializing in character-driven movies created by women –which she founded alongside award-winning writer and director Em Johnson. Katherine’s portrayal of Poppy Valentine in a film titled “Balloon Animal” landed her the Best Actress accolade and the project is especially memorable because it was filmed during the pandemic. Em served as the writer and director whilst Katherine assumed the role of producer and actress. This film follows a young circus performer, stuck under the harsh rules of her father and community expectations, who finds herself captivated by small-town America, forcing her to question everything.

Katherine recently discussed her career via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in acting and how did you break into the industry? 

Katherine Waddell (KW): I became interested when I was super young, getting cast in my first show in 4th grade. From there on out, this was sort of it for me, I fell in love with it immediately! Honestly, everything has been a slow burn so far, whether it’s my acting career or my producing career. This is year seven of me pursuing this industry professionally, and I still feel like I have a ways to go so I am always hesitant to say that I have broken in or that I am rolling in success – but that could also be my imposter syndrome! The best thing I have ever done for my career is networking. As tedious or uncomfortable as it can be to be in a room full of people you don’t know, I always push myself to get out there. My best work has come from networking and getting to partner with unbelievably talented people that I met on a whim.

MM: How did you establish your company and why did you select that name?

KW: For Em and I, who is my co-owner, we knew the logical next step for us while making our debut feature, “Balloon Animal,” was to turn our partnership into a production company. We have always been aligned on what we wanted to add to the industry in terms of supporting women, film content, and changes we hope to see in how set-life is handled in the coming years. We had been workshopping the name for a while actually! We knew we wanted it to reflect our company’s goal to be a pillar for women, and that we wanted it to be feminine as well. Em eventually came up with the name as a perfect reflection of how we felt we were blooming into the film industry and hoped to help others achieve the same.

MM: Why do you focus so much on films by women?

KW: I think as women it’s important to frame our work through our experience. We know what it’s like to be disregarded or not taken seriously just because we are women, and young women at that. It’s incredibly difficult and disheartening. Now, we are in a position to be leaders and foster female talent. That’s important to us. We can create encouraging work environments where women can thrive and pursue their careers without judgment or disrespect. It’s not always easy, but we’re trying our best!

MM: What do you like to see in a script? For instance, do you prefer any specific genre?

KW: We are always open to anything! When we read stuff, we just follow our gut on whether we like it or not. Would we enjoy this if we saw it in theaters? Would we choose this off of our Netflix lists? It can really be that simple. We are also always looking for material that is outside of the box. Have we seen this before? Or, if we have seen it before, what about it makes it stand out and gets us excited?

MM: You won an award for playing the character of Poppy Valentine. So, what was she like and how did you prep yourself to portray her? 

KW: Poppy is someone we can all relate to in that she’s on a journey to find herself. I think everyone, especially women in their 20’s, can wonder or struggle with what is best for them. Where are we supposed to go, and who are we supposed to be? And am I terrible if I want to put myself first sometimes? I really looked inward at my own experiences and how I, as Katherine, relate to those sentiments. These themes have been a big part of the latter part of my 20’s, so it was easy to fall into her.

MM: What was your favorite part of the movie and why?

KW: I love the montage scene! It’s one of the first time’s we get to see Poppy really exploring the world for herself and the joy she feels is palpable.

MM: What did it feel like to win all these acting awards? 

KW: Honestly, amazing! You never want to expect something like that, as in, getting your hopes up, but when you are validated like that, it’s hard not to get excited. I am incredibly proud of the film and all the work we did, and when anyone wins awards, I feel like we all won. No one person on a film set can do their job without a myriad of people supporting them. We are looking forward to the rest of the film festival season to see what happens next for us!

MM: What are your favorite kinds of characters to play and what would you consider to be a “dream role”? 

KW: I love playing women who are full of personality and are facing real dilemmas whether they are internal or external. Women that aren’t too cliche or that we have seen over and over again. Definitely multi-dimensional. And a dream role would be to join the current cast of the new Lord of the Rings TV show!

MM: What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

KW: Definitely creating my production company First Bloom Films. There is nothing like being able to start something from the ground up and watch as it slowly starts to succeed in all the ways that you hoped for. It’s my safe place too to explore my identity as a filmmaker and make films that mean something to me, and that I hope means something to others as well. It’s also just great to start a company with your best friend!

MM: How do you imagine First Bloom Productions might expand and evolve over the next ten years?

KW: We want to keep making movies, of course! Movies that we love and that other people love as well. We hope to continue to get the opportunity to showcase our talent, hard work, and vision for the film industry and how it can be a greater and more accepting place for women to work in.

MM: What is coming up next for you, and the company, and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

KW: Em is currently writing our next film called “Kismet.” It’s an incredibly interesting thriller about a young woman who joins a multi-level-marketing scheme. We love thrillers and wanted to expand the repertoire of films that we hope First Bloom Films is known for. We never want to box ourselves in, because we are always audience members first, and we love all types of movie genres, as stated above! We also have a few other narratives and potential shorts in the works but we aren’t ready to announce anything quite yet! We hope everyone will keep checking in with us to see what we are up to as we navigate our way through these new beginnings.

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