The Dancing Rabbit: Kim Delgado

Kim Delgado has worn many hats in the entertainment industry which include: Writer, Director, Actor, Marketing Consultant, and Branding Creative Director. He has also taught screenwriting and acting as well as coaching actors for over twenty years.

Why did you get into the entertainment industry?    

I enjoyed the theater and felt great joy in my early elementary and high school performances. After playing the role of Peter Pan in the 5th grade I knew I wanted to be an actor. At 12 1/2  I got a scholarship at PAF PLAYHOUSE in Huntington Long Island. I soon became an Equity Apprentice at the theater. I then got cast in the play “The Miracle Worker”. My mom was an ardent lover of the arts and sent me to take some classes at the Performing Arts Foundation (PAF). Which was the only Equity theater on Long Island at the time.

What were your goals when you started? 

I wanted to work as an actor and in the back of my mind, I thought maybe I would write plays and films one day. In the future, I am interested in expressing myself through the medium of media with topics that include social issues, current events, Bi-Op’s, historical, and documentary style entertainment venues.

Did you go to film school?

No. I went to a performing arts BFA program. And went on to get practical experience working in the industry. I would recommend people who want to get into the entertainment industry to go to a film school or industry-related program that gives them the technical knowledge they will need to procure paying work. Learning things along the way takes longer and sometimes miss critical pieces of the puzzle.

Do you feel that you got the education you wanted from your time in school? Do you think you would have been better off going someplace else or simply just diving right into the industry?

I graduated from high school a year early at 16.  I was working as an apprentice at (PAF) and was spotted by a talent scout for Trinity Square Repertory Company and went on tour before I even graduated from high school.  I was rehearsing “Brother To Dragons’ in Philadelphia and shuttling back and forth to Long Island to take my finals and graduate high school.  I auditioned for Julliard, North Western, and Purchase.  They auditioned me and all said to come back in a year. They did not want a 16-year-old to start their programs. Their policy was for a freshman to be at least 18 in their freshman year.  I decided to go to the Davis Center in NYC. The Lenord Davis Center was a part of The City College Of New York.  Since it was in New York City, I had access to all of New York Theater. I had a part time job working for the Golub Brothers and they controlled all the concessions on Broadway and Lincoln Center. I got to see every Show in NYC many times. It was heaven. If I had not been in NYC, I would not have access to industry or had the meteoric start to my career.

What advice would you give to a prospective student who is applying to film school?

Do your research.  Try and figure out what you like in course materials and find the best fit for your mindset. Go on the internet and look up the teachers at various schools and find the review students give them.  Read the “Hollywood Reporter”, “Variety”, and industry periodicals, looking at what kind of projects and jobs are available so you can gauge what skill sets you will need when you start looking for an industry job.

What did you do after school?  Did you have trouble finding work when you first got out?

I was blessed. In my Senior year, I knew that school would be ending and my parents would no longer be footing the college bills. I took a course at Ben Collier’s commercial and industry seminar. I then went on to freelance with multiple agents and got a national commercial, and booked “To Kill A Cop” which was a two-part four-hour NBC special. I took the first semester off and then doubled up my last semester. I graduated Cum Lude and got cast in a starring role in the feature film “Boardwalk” with Lee Strasberg, Ruth Gordon, Janet Lee, Eli Wallach, and Joe Silver. I literally graduated from college and got booked starring opposite the greatest acting teacher on the planet. Talk about a dream scenario this was an amazing start to my professional career.

What difficulties (if any) did you encounter in Hollywood?

When I first started out there were very few black roles outside of muggers, robbers and bad guys.  I did a fair share of roles where I was being killed, getting arrested, or playing other unsavory roles.  I studied Shakespeare and I was playing street thugs. You also run into scams. Bad photographers, for-pay casting calls, agents who held your money for months, and unscrupulous managers trying to take triple commissions. The industry showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What did you do for a day job while looking for showbiz work?

My day Job in NY was background work. I specialized in commercial background work. The pay was great and in those days upgrades to principal happened a lot. While I was studying karate and auditioning for acting work I did work as a bouncer for the super hot club Paradise Garage. I also worked as a casting director for Group Seven Productions. After I moved to California I didn’t do background or have a regular job for over 30 years.

Do you ever work for free or on spec now?  And if so, how do you choose when to work on those terms?

I am so busy trying to get my own films and tv projects set up that there is no time to work on a spec.  I recently took on a position as North American Development Director for Globalflix.  My mandate is to find cross-pollination projects for Europe/Africa/South America and American storylines.  Add that to the script doctoring jobs and mentoring of new writers and actors there is no time for freebies. I  am juggling so many film and tv projects that I have written and developed that I can’t write, act, or produce for free.  If the right opportunity came up for materials that gob-smacked me I “might” consider working on it.

What are you currently working on, and how did you arrive here?

I have four features an animation series and a live-action series among 20 or so written projects that I am going out with through my agent and other contacts. You start at the beginning.  I wrote my first project back in 1989. I have had over 12 options on the project and made over 100k in options but it has not been made. I am still shopping this feature project. It took me ten years to sell my first screenplay which was a co-written project. “Taken In Broad Day Light” went on to be the 3rd highest rated movie in Lifetime history and was sold to over 100 countries.

My latest project SK8HARD started as an animation idea. I was persuaded by a friend to write it into a live-action feature film. After several years of not getting any action on selling the script, I met a woman who wrote and produced comic books. So I decided to make my SK8HARD screenplay into comic books. Because I created my own Intellectual property, I now had enough new artwork to make an animation pitch bible and am shopping the project once again as an animated series.  My agent just got interest from Netflix. So the circle is complete. I started with animation, went to live-action feature, then to comic book form and now back to animation.

sk8hard, kim delgado, skateboard, comic book, youth

What are the biggest mistakes a person can make when they first start working in the industry?

Writing is re-writing.

Acting is a technique, producing is knowing how to collaborate and delegate.

These are skills that take time to develop. The biggest mistake an artist can do is to not be ready when they get their shot. Lynn Manuel Miranda took seven years to get Hamilton on Broadway.  He did not want to waste “his shot”.

Prepare, study, and read about your craft. Network and meet other professionals.

Go to the theater, movies, and concerts.

Speak with working professionals and read periodicals and trades. It’s your career so treat it like a profession and put the time and work into it.

What’s the biggest thing you depend on, on set?

As I said before making projects are a collaborative effort and you need everything to work like a smoothly oiled machine.

As a producer, my key crew members. The director for vision, my line producer to keep the project on time and on budget, and of course the actors and crew to deliver the best they have every day.

Did someone ever try to take advantage of your inexperience in Hollywood?

Hollywood is a backstabbing snake. all manner of liars, hooligans, gangsters, and perverts are attracted to the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry will chew you up and spit you out.  Taking advantage of inexperience in Hollywood is part of the industry landscape. 

People have tried to put their name on my scripts as co-writers, given me faulty contracts, tried to get me to sign away my script or life rights for peanuts. I have been routinely told that I’m really an actor so I wouldn’t know about certain technical aspects of the industry. As a person of color, there is also a lot of racism.  

I come from a cultured background. My father was a hematologist and my mother was a nurse practitioner/psychotherapist. We are an educated family. Besides writing stories about people of color, I write white and Jewish stories as I grew up in Huntington Long Island.  There were no black kids in my school until 7th grade and then very few.  I’ve been to at least 15 bat mitzvahs and 10 seders. 

But industry people are surprised when they read my Alan Bell Environmental script or my Barry Levin TV series with Jewish protagonists.  People have stared me directly in my face holding the script with my name on it and ask me “DID YOU REALLY WRITE THIS”? They just can’t believe a black man wrote with such clarity about the Jewish experience.

Of course, it’s okay for Stephen Spielberg to direct “The Color Purple”. Or Johnny Depp to play a Native American in the “Lone Ranger”, but whoa be it for a black man to write about another race other than his own. Hollywood is two-faced.

Did you ever pay for a program that promised big results to help further your career, but it never delivered?

Hollywood preys on desperate people. If it sounds too good to be true then you know it’s too good to be true!  There are plenty of producer workshops, networking parties, and parasitic online podcasts and blogs that people pay for in hopes of finding the holy grail of entrance into the entertainment industry. There is no holy grail just hard work and luck. 

Yes, I have paid my hard-earned money to scammers that could really do nothing to move my projects forward.

I would advise producers, writers and other industry-related professionals to not spend a red-blooded cent if there is no clear cut definite outcome that can be defined and put in a contract. Someone trying to get your project set up, or trying to get you to finance or trying to get you an agent or meeting is BS.

Mortgage brokers get paid when they close a loan, agents get paid after they get you a gig. Paying upfront 99% of the time will net you no guaranteed results. 

Did you ever come across a project or a person that looked promising, and then the whole thing blew up in your face?

Sigh…  There a lot of Users in Hollywood.

I met a woman on LinkedIn and we met for lunch, (I admit she was beautiful).

We talked about some of my projects and she told me an idea/logline she had for a film.  I was intrigued by the idea. Now an idea is just that. It’s not a treatment, or a script. There are no character arcs, hooks, payoffs, witty dialogue, or plot intertwining with theme. It’s just a general idea.

Over a few weeks I came up with a beginning, middle, and ending. Protagonists and Antagonists. Hooks and pay-offs. I shaped the idea into as story.   There was no way I was going to teach her how to write, pay her half of a sale, get her into the WGA union and have her tell me what to write for free!  I balked.

I came up with the whole story and a new title. Why would I write this for her and not own the material?  She was unrealistic and I moved on as fast as i could. she was the type that would sue if I wrote and sold the script claiming it was “her idea” even know she only had a logline of an idea. 

Were there any telling signs?

When I told her I would write it she said that she would need to write it with me and that she needed control to shop the project. Of course she had no money to pay me and had never written a script before.

Were you ever put in a position where you were asked to compromise your moral integrity? 

I’ve been asked to keep quite on some issues but so far my moral integrity is in tact.  Women in the industry have a much tougher time navigating the predatory sharks that are seeking their pound of flesh.  Desperation breeds contempt and those who do the preying like Harvey Weinstein know that that they can destroy a career with a few unflattering words. People are afraid of these moguls and their power.

Did you ever embarrass yourself in front of a celebrity?

No. but I’ve embarrassed by celebrities.  Paul Reiser worked out in a gym I frequented. We were all working out and he told a few jokes. I made a joke and he said to me “I make the jokes”. The group went silent.

Another time I was working at the Mark Taper Forum and I had been asked to understudy the role of another character because one of the actors would be gone for a week shooting a movie. I jumped at the chance to work with one of my childhood heroes. I worked on the role as if I were actually going to do it. When we rehearsed, the star had not prepared and did not take rehearsing with me seriously. But I was using all my method acting training with facial twitches, sense memories, as if techniques and all my bag of tricks. He got so mad that I was showing him up he stopped the scene and started clapping and saying “Kim Delgado is giving us an acting lesson BRAVO!”  He clapped for like 20 seconds but it felt like an eternity. It was 10am. The director called lunch and we never rehearsed that scene again. Talk about being embarrassed. My balls were sucked up into my throat and my gut felt like it was going to explode.  I hadn’t done anything but try and do good work with my idol. He didn’t want to be bothered and eviscerated me in front of the entire cast. I did not say anything. He was a star. The show was a hit and extended. I got paid. Next!

Did you ever meet someone casually at a club that wound up leading to a great job or a major step in your career? 

I met a line producer at a party in LA. He was going to be working on a project in NY and thought I would be perfect to play a role in a TV MOVIE.  I gave him a picture and resume (I always carried P&R’s in my car) and 4-5 months later he called me to have my agent submit to Judith Weiner the casting director.  I didn’t even have to audition. I looked like the character I was to play in the movie. I booked “Badge of the Assasin” playing Waverly Jones with stars James Woods and Yaphet Koto. As a bonus I was in the same production as my dear friend David Harris who starred in the  movie “The Warriors”.

What motto do you try to live your life by?

I have two. At Seido Karate our grand master Kaicho Tadashi Nakumura would give weekly meditation lectures. One of my favorites was “Yanna Karobi Yaoki”. Which means to fall down 7 times and rise again on the 8th.  As an artist failure is a recurring theme. Fredrick Douglas said “Without Struggle there is no progress”. Learning from your failures can be very valuable lessons.  So get up off the canvas and live to fight for your art again.

Part of getting my Black Belt in Seido Karate included writing a 20 page thesis. In that thesis I create my own motto “Direction Determination Discipline”

Direction: You must have a plan or a map for your success. It can be changed or modified but you need the structure so you don’t find your self going in circles.

Determination: Nothing is easy, nothing is free. You must sacrifice something in order to move forward with your goals. Pehaps you skip the partys to cresate a new script, or eshrew romance to concentrate on editing, or give up coffe and sugar to keep your iritation levels or weight down. There will be sacrifice.

Discipline: It takes a thousand punches to get one perfect. Work your craft. A dancer must practice a thousand pleaes, a writer rewrites a scene 50 tines, a director shoots test shoots and shorts, try out new equipment, become an expert at what you do. It will take time and energy but the rewards can be great.

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