I had the honor of interviewing writer, actress, film critic, and blogger Lonita Cook, check out all her awesome stuff!

Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us some about you and your work
LC: I’m an aspiring writer. I write for the page, for the stage and for screen. I will be releasing the first installment of my paranormal romance series, “The Chronicles of Cyn” in a couple months. The first book is “Awaken the Sleeper”. I’ll be participating as a writer in Project Playwright (in KC) this September and I’m writing my first feature screenplay, a supernatural-mobster romance.

I serve on the board of CinemaKC, a not-for-profit and television show that showcases local artists. The show airs on KCPT, our local PBS affiliate. I also serve the board of Kansas City Women in Film and Television as co-vice president and chair of our Short Screenplay Contest Committee.

My first short film, “Return” has played a couple of film festivals and I’m developing another short script so I can learn how to actually make films. I’ve been a film critic on Kansas City Live, a day time talk show on KSHB-TV 41, our local NBC affiliate and for my column on an online site, but now I’m transitioning out of that so I can focus on creating content.

It might be important for me to specify. My fiction is TA (traditional adult).

Me: Very awesome!, I don’t think I’ve seen a paranormal mobster film, how’d you come up with that?
LC: Well, I write the stories I’d like to see. I love the supernatural, I always have. I love romance, and I like mobster films, but this particular script came from meeting an actor, kind of famous, in person. This actor, I won’t say his name, but he usually plays deranged killer types, a mafioso or something along those lines. His characters always seem to have this lunacy in their eyes. They’re spiritually and morally disheveled, which can be kind of cool, but when I met him, he was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. He was sweet and shy. I thought, his talents are being wasted. This guy should be a leading man. He’s an incredible actor and he’s drop dead gorgeous…and very Italian- dark, smooth, handsome. I wanted to write something that could potentially be for him that marries his type- the crazy mobster- with his beauty.

Me: Well we definitely look forward to seeing who it is!, that will be your first feature film?, and the paranormal romance will be your first book?
LC: If the stars align, right? (I’m laughing) but yes, I would love to have him play the role. I keep his photo posted above my desk as a source of inspiration for the character. 

I am pretty new to writing. I’ve been a mom and routinely a mother for 19 years. I have three children. As they grow up (my son already moved out) it’s starting to be real that they will move on. They will move out, go to college or what-have-you. I am single, so I’ll be alone in my empty nest. No whining here, but, I am acutely aware that I didn’t do very much for myself. I was one of those women who shoved aside my own desires to meet the challenges of motherhood, but, I do want to have something for myself when they’ve grown up and gone on to live their lives and fulfill their own desires.

I’m starting to learn and write. So yep, these projects are my firsts, and by firsts, I mean, I’ve written tons of things, practiced, taken courses, been in writing groups, etc, but these are my first book and feature that I am producing and will submit to contests and festivals or release to an audience.

Me: I’m sure you’ll do great!, will you also be in it?, you did great in counterparts!
LC: Will I be in the feature I’m writing? No, I don’t really consider myself an actor. I hope to create roles for actual actors, but, thank you for the compliment. It was an honor to work with Patrick(Rea) and then a dream come true to have him direct my very first short film!

Me: Was pretty awesome!, it’s unfortunate for your fans that you won’t appear, are you going to try your hand at directing?
LC: I think I would be a good director. I lack some of the skills necessary to produce, but have always kind of been good at directing, particularly when it comes to working with actors (since my formal training is in acting, I guess), but writing is my central focus.

Me: Very awesome!, why don’t you think you’d be good at producing?, and will Patrick Rea produce?
LC: Patrick is a great producer. I’ve learned so much working with him. He makes himself easy to learn from. He’s easy going and open with newbies. He is a mentor, but, this feature is just being written. My hopes for it are grand, but my plans on how to get it there haven’t been quite fleshed out. I’m not sure who might produce.

I am a problem solver, but probably not by nature, so it’s a slow burn process. I’m the kind of person who needs to ponder situations and figure all possibilities. I seek advice before making decisions (usually). I’m not quick. I think a producer has to be quick in finding solutions. I also see producers as people who aren’t pushovers, especially when it comes to money. I’m kind of a pushover, but I’m just getting started. I’m not super sure what my other talents are as a filmmaker or artist. I know my passion is writing and I’m fairly decent at it. I work hard to be better. I write everyday. I read “how-to” books. I read the trades and try to stay acquainted with industry trends, including what’s coming, but, that’s just all in my room, at my desk work. I’m not sure what I can do outside of it yet. Could I guide a film team from development to completion? Would I be good in a room? Do I network well? How’s my pitch?

I’m not sure yet. Sure I want to do it. Not sure I’m good enough to do it. Still in a fairly insecure mind set. Do you think that insecurity ever goes away?

Me: I think insecurity goes away as we become comfortable in our craft and learn how to do what we’re doing well
LC: That’s true. I guess I don’t mean insecure in the traditional sense of the word. I think most people hear the word and think a compromised sense of self-worth. What I mean is- am I prepared? Have I prepared enough?, and then that’s when it comes down to how others size you and luck. You know, when opportunity and preparation meet…

Me: You’ll be secure someday!, so what all can we look forward to in the future?
LC: Thank you! I hope that for every artist. I know we tend to struggle with both senses of insecurity and I root for us.

Well, I am always in each step of the creative process. I am always developing a concept, in production on a project and/or editing. Right now, we’re editing my novel (shout out to my editor Naomi Shupp), am in production on a self-generated blog/vlog project centered around approaching 40, and then, of course, I’m writing the feature. I guess presentation is a step in the creative process. That step will be new.

I will also continue to serve the community. That part is incredibly important to me.

Me: Awesome!, where is your vlog at?
LC: Well, we haven’t launched the site yet. We are treating it like television (or how we perceive television schedules to rotate). We’ve written a bunch of entries and are in the process of filming some video spots. We don’t have a hard date when we want to launch just yet. We’re still coming up with a marketing and sales plan…but we decided to move forward with production because it’s a blog. We can have a blog without the fancy businessy stuff, right? It’s more for fun than anything. 

Oh, I’d also like to mention that Kansas City Women in Film and Television and KCFilmFest is open for submissions with our short screenplay contest. There are two categories: Best Short Screenplay- open to female writers only (including teams). That has a $1000 prize, and Best Female Protagonist – open to all gender writers (including teams). That has a $500 prize. All finalists will be eligible for the Audience Choice Award – $100 prize. 

I mention it because I am the Chair of the committee and would like all writers to know of this opportunity. I plan to be very busy with it, so, submit, submit, submit! Find more info at kcwift.com

Me: You’ll definitely have to let us know when your vlog launches!, how’d you get involved in KCWIFT?, and how long have you been involved?

LC: I will definitely keep you posted. I appreciate that.

I’ve been a member of KCWIFT for four years and on the board for two. This is my third year. The people in this town are just really close knit and we support each other. After joining and being involved with both the org and the industry, I was invited to serve the board. It’s a great honor, and now I am working with CinemaKC. I have been really blessed, but as far as KCWIFT is concerned, I think it’s paramount that we mention that our membership is made up of everyone. Our central demographic that we serve are female filmmakers, but we support all filmmakers. That always seems to be a question in everyone’s mind, but we welcome everyone.

Me: Very awesome!, it’s like a support group?
LC: It is in many ways a support group. Our local film industry works to build on a pretty solid foundation. We have many professional artists who are working and they mentor up-and-comers. It is our goal as a whole, I think, to have a viable, bustling industry that can compete with other cities and states, especially when it comes to attracting productions.

KCWIFT meets a need- each organization has a different focus (ours is ensuring female filmmakers have equal opportunities)- but we work in accord with the other organizations to support the growth of our local industry, as well as the growth of our filmmakers.

Me: That’s definitely awesome!, so in addition to all of this stuff, you’re also a film critic and columnist?, tell us some about that
LC: The way I see a film critic, or any critic, is they are a liaison between the film and the audience. They take their expert perspective and share it with consumers, so that that consumer can get a sense of whether or not to engage in the art.

That’s how I approach film criticism. It is more than an opinion. It is an art in and of itself. Where the task becomes challenging for me is each critic has to have a defining voice, something strong to be heard above the noise. It takes a lot of energy to get your brand to the point where it stands out, a lot of energy, stamina, focus- refining and refining. For me, film criticism, aside from how I like to work to “perfect” all things I commit to, isn’t my passion. It is fun and doable, but not my calling.

I will continue to watch movies and give feedback, but as part of my upcoming blog. Just a small section that isn’t the defining, well, I am concerned with identity. I don’t want to say I’m a film critic because I’m not. I’m a writer. I have an opinion and I love films, but I am a writer. That is the thing that I am cultivating. That is my passion, and here’s the thing. It was tricky to discern for awhile because film criticism utilizes many of the same skills that turn me on about writing. As a critic, I got to write, sneaky, sneaky, it felt right because of it. I got to give my opinion- contemplate and share. I discovered the idea of developing a voice and sharing it. This is a key skill for writers. So, it felt right because of it, and I LOVE movies, I love filmmakers, I love audiences and consumers. So, it felt right because these are the key people I thought criticism served, but, alas, I am a writer who wants to write fiction- for the page, the stage and for the screen.

I am finished with the old site where I was posting reviews and I am not the kind of girl who likes to go backwards, so, let’s talk about kcwift.com. I am beginning a blog called kcwift’s KC Hot Spot. I will conduct interviews with entertainment and film professionals. I will also continue to review movies. I’ll talk about the impact film has on the careers of women professionals as well as the effects women have on film.

My first installment was an interview I did with Keith Coogan from Adventures in Babysitting and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead fame. He was wonderful. 

Me: He’s definitely a talented actor!, thank you so much for this interview!
LC: Thank you endlessly for your attention and for letting me talk about these things that I find super cool. You’re pretty awesome.