People You May Know: Kaily Smith Westbrook Balances Producing and Acting In This Indie Darling

Social media can instantaneously make you famous overnight or it can destroy you in a blink of a second.

People You May Know is an indie film that takes a look at social media as it shapes the way we see, relate and think about relationships and ourselves.

The film stars Nick Thune (Knocked Up, Dave Made A Maze), Halston Sage (Before I Fall, Paper Towns), Kaily Smith Westbrook (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Ian Harding (Pretty Little Liars), Carly Chaikin (Mr. Robot) and Usher Raymond IV (Hands of Stone).

Here’s the synopsis:

An introvert’s total lack of an online presence leaves him feeling isolated until a social media maven utilizes his design skills to digitally present his life in the most glamorous ways imaginable.

LRM had a phone interview earlier this month with actress/producer Kaily Smith Westbrook. She talked about her roles on the project and working together again with director Sherwin Shilati and producer Shelley Stevens. She even kindly discussed in detail a scene that was cut from the film.

People You May Know is now available On Demand and Digital HD.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: Kaily, could you tell us on why you were attracted to this project People You May Know?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: I have to go back a little bit. I worked with my producing partner Shelley Stevens and director Sherwin Shilati before. We were actively looking for a project to work on together. I had read so many scripts over a course of three months. I really couldn’t find anything that got me excited. Sherwin sent me this treatment from Michael Mohan for People You May Know. I read the first three sentences and I had goosebumps. I had this totally gut feeling that this is a film I wanted to make. This is a story not only I wanted to tell as a producer, but as an actress.

LRM: Tell me about this character you actually play. And how is this character so relatable to you?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: She’s somewhat relatable. Everyone assumes [this], because I am an actress. Franky is also an actress [in the movie]. Frankie and I lead very different lives. Franky had given up her dreams and moved out of the city to live with her husband. They have a different life. She isn’t happy and knows that she should be doing something else. She started to question on whether she made the right decision when the film begins.

Luckily, I have a very supportive husband who let me pursue my dreams. So what’s relatable with me and Franky is with the desire to tell stories and to be an actress. This desire to fulfill is something anyone could relate to. It’s having a dream and wanting to pursue it. It’s wanting the support of your family for that.

LRM: So you didn’t have to get an alternate job like Frankie did?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: No, I’m pretty lucky I don’t. [Laughs]

LRM: Now you mentioned you were on board as a producer. Why did you come on to that decision too?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: When we were talking about working together with Sherwin, Shelley and I—I had executive produced the last project we worked on together. For me, in the back of my head, whatever we found [as the next project] that I would be active in raising the money and helping the story develop. I felt like I couldn’t just walk away and just act in it. I can’t be like, “Okay! Go produce it and let me know when it’s done.”

I’ve invested so much since we said, “Let’s go find something.” It’s the hours we spent just looking for something before the time and money to develop it. That’s really why.

As much as I love acting, there is something about producing that I can’t get out of acting—it’s about being creative every single day. I do really well as a producer or rather a creative producer. I feel like I can really thrive when I’m in an editing room working with the editor and director. I’m not good with numbers and budget. That’s why I have Shelley as my partner. She is great with that. I’m not so much. We all make a really good team.

LRM: Wow. That sounds terrific. So what was the most difficult thing you had to do on this project?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: Oh, my goodness. The most difficult thing I had to do was to stand outside in Brooklyn on the East River at two in the morning in twelve degree weather in ripping winds to shoot the last scene of the film and it ended up being cut. [Laughs] That was indeed the most difficult thing I had to do. It was freezing. We didn’t have two cameras. We only had one camera that night. It was also a long scene too. I didn’t remember on why I had this specific jacket on for the scene. It would’ve made sense for me to be wearing a big warm jacket. I was in this lighter fall jacket while I was freezing.

That was the most difficult thing I had to endure.

LRM: How sad? So that entire scene was cut? [Laughs]

Kaily Smith Westbrook: Yeah, it was. Since it was only one camera—we felt like we didn’t have enough coverage to edit the scene. It wouldn’t be done to fulfill the needs of the story and for the audience.

Instead of Frankie saying a Truthful Tuesday quote to him—she actually instant message him and said, “Want to meet up?” Then they met and had a real conversation. He asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that you’re married? Why did you lie?” We were able to get closure on that. He kissed me on that scene.

We then felt like that [scene] didn’t feel right. The audience couldn’t tell anymore on how long ago she left Phillip. It’s like she left her husband suddenly found herself kissing some other guy. We felt that it undermined the relationship of the story. We decided it was better off to leave for the audience to wonder on what happened to these people.

LRM: Understandable. How was it acting opposite to Nick Thune? He’s a pretty funny guy.

Kaily Smith Westbrook: Yeah. He’s really funny. It’s interesting, because for our scenes—we didn’t really improv much. We stuck to the script. Now if you came on the set with Nick Thune and Nicholas Rutherford—it was absolutely hysterical hearing them go back and forth. It was so funny.

Our scenes were definitely more dramatic. I wasn’t definitely tipping over laughing.

LRM: This film is all about social media. How much do you relate to social media? How much do you use it yourself?

Kaily Smith Westbrook: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I try to post on Instagram and share it on Facebook. I’m more of a stalker by looking at pictures and liking them. I would spend a few hours making a post and never posting it. I try it, but I’m not great at it. I need to get better.

LRM: [Laughs] I guess it comes with practice. Thank you for this conversation. I really appreciate it. Love the film.

Kaily Smith Westbrook: Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

People You May Know is now available On Demand and Digital HD.

Source: Exclusive for LRM

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