Storytelling Through an Unfiltered Lens: Filmmaker Kelly Needleman

Kelly Needleman is a creative force and an inspiring one at that. He is an accomplished landscape photographer and an aspiring filmmaker. He’s motivated, only seventeen, and his work is stunning. He’s prepping to start filming his first feature this summer. “I feel grateful that I have found a passion for creating movies. People search their whole life to find what they are destined to do. I am self-taught in photography and film, but I know I have so much more to learn and I am looking forward to the journey ahead,” says Kelly Needleman. At such a young age, Kelly has already produced beautiful work in both photography and film and you rarely see someone his age with such a strong vision and work ethic.
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However, sometimes talented filmmakers see life through a lens — with the film playing in their mind — it’s part their daily creative process. Needleman is one. Kelly Needleman is a Director, Actor, Producer, Photographer, and Entrepreneur. He’s compelling in his calling to create films, especially in a culture where many teens are not sure what they want to do, especially with so many options. Kelly’s passion and discipline consist of filmmaking told through artistry, nature, and meaningful storytelling.
At a young age, Needleman had a creative eye. Growing up with his cousin, David Needleman, who is a professional photographer that shoots celebrities, influenced him to pick up a camera. Kelly was attracted to the beauty of nature and started taking images and time-lapses of landscapes. His strong ambition to create resulted in being published in various publications and awards, such as National Geographic and Canon. Actually, he’s been published 7 times in National Geographic YourShot. (https://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/1460193/#awards)
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Photo: David Needleman
His pictures became viral on social media resulting in a celebrity status following.
Needleman’s passion for landscape photography was a natural progression into the film industry. He formed his own company called Needleman Productions, where he showcases his movies. He has made numerous shorts and experimental films. Kelly has been recognized locally as a student filmmaker and has recently won a prestigious award (Best Young Director) for his documentary, MY IDENTITY, in the Hollywood International Independent Film Festival. His goal is to make beautiful movies by utilizing the natural elements of nature, fog, sea, and sunlight as tools in an outdoor studio.
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We were stunned when we saw his work. His photos are beautiful, enticing and eclectic all at once. It took me somewhere else, which is the point. When an artist evokes emotion or makes you leave your thoughts for a while; it’s real art. Needleman has a gift, and the only mistake would be if he did not utilize it to his full capacity. It’s incredibly inspiring when someone this young takes the risk and doesn’t hesitate. When Kelly had a minute, he spoke with Gemma.
How did you become interested in taking photos of nature?
My love for nature developed by exploring my surroundings in Northern California. I am fortunate to live in an area where beauty envelops the atmosphere. I started traveling with my family at a very young age and visited unbelievable locations such as Iceland and the Dolomites in Italy which inspired me to share my experiences through film and photography.
Do you sometimes feel like an “old soul?” Your vision is very mature.
Yes, I do feel I am an “old soul.” I feel grateful that I have found a passion for creating movies. People search their whole life to see what they are destined to do. I am self-taught in photography and film, but I know I have so much more to learn and I am looking forward to the journey ahead.
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What was the inspiration to transition into film?
I do love photography and always will — Yet, as a storyteller, I felt the medium of film was more engaging. A movie can create a mood, develop characters and share a point of you. It takes people out of their everyday life to experience something new. It can also make you a different place mentally, which is very powerful.
How did you find the process of screenwriting? Creatively Challenging?
Screenwriting was something entirely new for me. As a director and a visual person, the mood of the film was essential to me. I set the scene in my mind, and the dialog flowed from there. It comes with challenges of course, but I seem to thrive off of that.
Do you feel driven to create?
I do! I always like to try something new and authentic. It is easy to create something that already exists, but I strive to be as original as possible which fuels my ambition to be the best I can.
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Photo: David Needleman
Who are some of the directors that you admire?
I admire directors such as Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese for their mastery of storytelling. I appreciate when a director displays their style throughout the filmmaking process. I also respect the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as student screenwriters/actors to directors.
How do you balance being an HS student, working in photography, and now, making films? (Not to mention, the business aspects)?
I thrive on the energy of always being busy. I am a very organized and disciplined person, but at times it does get a little bit crazy.
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Photo: David Needleman
I know you are working with Gigi Cesare on your upcoming film “Lost Visibility.” We covered her, and she’s so confident, talented, and fun.
Yes, I am incredibly excited to be working with Gigi for my upcoming feature. She is a very talented actress, and I love her passion for the film. She is a beautiful addition.
Can you please expand upon your upcoming feature film, “Lost Visibility?”
The logline for my feature film “Lost Visibility,” is: Maybe they were not as close as they thought they were. Three friends share intimate dreams that bring their secrets to reality. The film is in the genre of Psychological Thriller, Teen Drama, Mystery, and Horror. I am currently in pre-production and plan to shoot during early summer of 2019. The film will most likely be released at the end of 2019.
I also really enjoyed your short film, “Lucid Visions.” Again, visually, it’s gorgeous. Can you explain your personal experience?

“Lucid Visions” was a unique film for me because it exposed me to an exciting genre. I loved the concept of dream versus reality. This short film led me to the idea for my feature film.

You do act as well. How do you like acting?

Yes, I do act, and it’s an entirely different experience from directing. I feel being in front of the camera helps me connect and have a better understanding of the actors when directing a film. In my opinion, it’s essential to learn both aspects of acting and directing to create the best possible film.

Kelly Needleman has an extremely bright future ahead of him. We hope to report upon him again (Part 2) when his film is released. After graduating from High School, Kelly is planning on majoring in Film Production (specifically directing) and minoring in business around LA.
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Photo: David Needleman
You can follow Kelly on the following social media platforms:
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