Leaders, Storytellers, Dreamers: Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto

Leaders, Storytellers, Dreamers: Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto

  • Marks Realty Group

Introduction from Jess...

Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, two of the kindest people you will meet, and fabulous neighbors at that. Nancy and Kenji greet you with the best smiles, the kind of smiles that make you smile even when you don't want to. I usually see Nancy heading out on her bike with a yoga mat in tow. Kenji can be seen in front of his flower boxes or handing out his famous homemade pesto.  Together, they are Emmy nominated, Kelly+Yamamoto Productions. Their filmmaking philosophy is to take alternative looks at stories, themes, and characters and to tell specific stories from which audiences can generalize universal truths. Great neighbors, and even better filmmakers!

Q: Who inspired you?

A: Kenji - "Artists like Pablo Picasso, who said, “Art is theft.” Frances Ford Coppola because he dared to incorporate family in all of his films."

Q: Who believed in or supported you? (Physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually)

A: Nancy - "Kenji and I have been partners in life and in filmmaking for decades – we’ve made almost ten films together and I’ve directed most of them. He has supported me in every conceivable way, especially when I come up with an idea for a new film that I want to direct. He’s always enthusiastic, no matter how crazy, no matter how close to impossible it is."

Q: What setbacks did you overcome? 

A: Kenji - "I overcame my own doubts in myself, especially in the making of my new documentary, THE BIG DEAL."

Q: What is your favorite memory?

A: Nancy - "My favorite memory is of the day we were closing the $1.8 million financial deal to make our acclaimed narrative feature film, THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD. I was a nervous wreck, sitting in my office biting my nails while Kenji was in our attorney’s office, dotting every i and crossing every t. When that was done and the bank had given them the thumbs up, Kenji called and said, with a smile in his voice, “The eagle has landed!”


Q: Where do you find your inspiration?

A: Nancy - "I find it everywhere – while distributing my documentary COWGIRLS, I discovered the novel that we adapted into THOUSAND PIECES OF GOLD. My new screenplay is loosely based on my experiences as a young woman working on a cattle ranch. My documentary DOWNSIDE UP was inspired by the fact that the factory in the post-industrial wasteland that was my hometown was turned into America’s largest museum of contemporary art."

Q: Where do you go from here? 

A: Kenji - "As a born-again artist, I have the rest of my life to explore the world."

Q: When was a time you had a major breakthrough?

A: Kenji - "During very calm walks in the Corte Madera Marsh, when my mind is active and nature is quiet. For example, about a year ago on one of those walks, I came up with the idea that changed the very nature of my upcoming documentary, THE BIG DEAL."

A: Nancy - "I recently had a major breakthrough when someone in really respect in the independent film world read a draft of my script and told me how to solve a problem that I have been struggling with for ages."

Q: Why?

A: Kenji - "It is more important now than ever before to make art. Art is my way to respond to the
uncertainties happening now and in the near future. It makes me feel fortunate to be a
contributor in the world I live in.

A: Nancy - "Why? Why not? My first job after graduating from college was to make five short films. I had
absolutely no experience with anything creative, my degree was B.S. in Public Health. What
was my boss was thinking, hiring someone like me to do that? But I fell in love with making
films, abandoned my public health career to pursue this life and never looked back."


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