"When you're really in the moment, your brain turns off and you sort of touch God or whatever it is you believe in, you touch it. " Kate Hackett, actress, Classic Alice, The Long Dig
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ABOUT KATE HACKETT:
Kate Hackett does it all. Writer, producer, actor, and more, Kate joins the podcast to talk about her career including the Amazon web series Classic Alice and the brand new sci-fi short, The Long Dig. Also starring in the film is Cliff Simon, who was a guest on the podcast before. Find out what keeps Kate creative in this inspiring episode.
Jeff: Kate, thank you so much for joining me on the show. And sometimes I like to start with the most recent in work back, because I'm always curious about creatives and everything that goes into it, but one of the most recent things that you've been a part of and not just a part of, like wearing all the hats is The Long Dig.
Kate Hackett: Yes.
Jeff: You are executive producer. You are writer. You are star. You probably got lunch one day.
Kate Hackett: I didn't actually. My very lovely friend, Dana did our craft services [inaudible 00:00:34] and thank goodness because I couldn't think about it. And she was like, "Don't think about it. I got it."
Jeff: What is it like working on... Now this is just a short film. I mean, it's not a Bruckheimer blockbuster out there or whatever, but still, to put together a short science fiction film, which looks great by the way. It was awesome. I watched the whole thing. And what is it like to be the producer as well as the writer as well as the star? Is it crazy? Does it make you nuts?
Kate Hackett: It's exhausting. I've done this before and the best thing that I have found to kind of help deal with all of those... you can't wear all of them. On shoot day, you can't have all of those on. So delegating and surrounding yourself with people that are really great at their jobs so you can just be like, "I don't need to think about this," really helps. I had a really great team which had all my back. I assembled a really great team. You want to find people that know what they're doing. They know people that know what they're doing, and you can just be like, "Great. Enjoy." And all you have to do is sign off on everything. It's fantastic. So I had on set a strong team and for the most part, I could focus more on acting.
Kate Hackett: There was a little bit... For this particular one, I did kind of have to also be a little bit of a producer, just because time was so tight. We shot that whole thing. It's 15 minutes long. We shot it in two days.
Kate Hackett: Yeah. So people who aren't film people... The script reading was 16 pages, 15, 16 pages, which means we were doing something like eight-ish pages a day. But it was also an action movie, which means that pages get long because there's dialogue and it's lots of space. So because it was this action movie, things were shorter on the page than they took to shoot. It was crazy. We moved so fast so there was a little bit of like, "Oh my God," for me on that particular set but...
Jeff: Wow. It was really a lot of fun to watch. And for my listeners who might not have checked it out yet, it is available and it stems from a as of released yet tabletop game, right? Aeronauts.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: And without getting too much into it, it's your character and a bunch of other characters navigating through this crazy mist. And I have to ask, was it just a set filled with smoke machines the whole time?
Kate Hackett: Some of it was practical. Some of it was added later. We did as much practically as we could in camera, because mist is weird. It's hard to CG.
Kate Hackett: It's hard to make so we pumped as much as we could into the actual room, but we did add some in post later too.
Jeff: Well, it looked great. I wouldn't have known that you added any. It just looked like you guys were fighting through. Like I said, it was like a Spinal Tap concert that you were just fighting through, all of this smoke machines went awry, which is great.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: And I also wanted to mention, actually a former guest of this show was in this as well, Cliff Simon.
Kate Hackett: Oh. Yeah.
Jeff: So it was great to see him working with you. Was it great working with him?
Kate Hackett: He is so good. I don't know if you worked with someone that does what you do or whatever, and you're like, "Oh, you're good. Hold on. I got to step this up." He's just really... It was good for me to work with someone that is known in the industry because I know like, "Oh, that's what I have to do. Okay. All right. Cool. Cool, cool, cool. I don't suck, but you're a different level."
Jeff: He's amazing. He's everything. Yeah.
Kate Hackett: He was great. So film actors don't often get rehearsal time. We just meet on set or maybe at a table read if we're lucky and you just go. So we met that day. We had never rehearsed it. We did a couple of rehearsals for camera, but no one's paying attention to you. They're looking at the camera and making sure that shots look nice. So I think around take three I was like, "Oh, okay. All right. I understand. I have to..." I remember thinking like, "Oh, I need to step myself up here. He's outacting me. He's really good." And I was a little embarrassed. I was like, "Oh no, I hope he's not like, 'What the fuck?' angry"
Jeff: No. It was really cool. And I have to ask, this stemming from I love, there's a lot of stuff like this now in pop culture where we get multimedia type stuff where this is stemming from a tabletop game and it's also video content that's coming into it and people. There's other things where TV shows become comic books or vice versa. And it's really cool how much multimedia happens. Do you know or can you speak on will there be any more of these stemming from the game?
Kate Hackett: I wish. It's money. It's all about money. This took... We had a 25,000 to work with on this 15 minutes short. If we were to do... This began as a backdoor pilot. We wanted to make a TV series out of it so this was our pitch. This is the world, whatever, but also it can stand on its own. You don't need the rest of it. So the reaction, the response that we've been getting is like, "Oh, are there going to be more?" That's what we wanted, but trying to scrape together money to do multiple episodes, you want to try to shoot everything all at once because it's cheaper that way but that also means you need a lump sum of blank.
Jeff: A lot.
Kate Hackett: I think we budgeted... We have a season arc. We know what we want to do, but the budget for that is probably going to live in the hundred thousand world and that's nothing for a TV show [inaudible 00:07:08] fine. So especially when you're dealing with digital world, there's not a big return on investment. So we would love to. I don't know if it's going to happen. Maybe another short, we could probably pull together, but right now, I said we're going to talk about it. But currently, there is thing going on.
Jeff: Yeah. As we are recording, we are in the midst of the pandemic and I know the entire industry is just on lockdown, just like everything.
Kate Hackett: Yeah. Like nothing.
Jeff: So who knows? That's the beauty of projects like this. It is out there now. People are enjoying. I'll tell you right now, it has definitely gotten me excited for the game when the game comes out.
Kate Hackett: Oh good.
Jeff: And so hopefully when the game comes out, that will reinvigorate it again. And who knows? We might come out the other side of this pandemic and everybody will just be like, "Get me a million episodes of this."
Kate Hackett: I've read a couple of... So after or during the great depression, stories that were being told were screwball comedies and musicals, very light and fluffy stuff and the same kind of thing happened after the recession. So I don't know if sci-fi might have a place because it is another world that we can disconnect from. It's not like our world in trouble and we need a hero. It's somewhere else. But I'm curious to see what the trend. We'll definitely see a lot of comedies, but where does that hard boil sci-fi live now? Because it was starting to bubble up and I hope it doesn't get crushed because I love that stuff.
Jeff: Yeah. Me too. Me too. For sure. And I don't think it will. I don't know. I can't say, but I think we'll get a healthy dose of everything coming out of this. Because again, just speaking on the Hollywood side of it, the entire industry shut down and when it all reopens and everybody can be doing it, I feel like any industry is just going to be like, "Let's make all of the things and do all of the things," I hope.
Kate Hackett: I don't know because studios get so twitchy about money and...
Jeff: That's true. That's true.
Kate Hackett: They're so [inaudible 00:09:19]. They've been for the last 10 years since the recession, so scared of taking a risk on original stuff that we get reboots of reboots of sitcoms from the 80s like "Who needs that?"
Kate Hackett: I do. I will take that job, but [will need that? 00:09:39] so I think this will scare them even more. Honestly, I think they're going to... I don't know.
Jeff: Oh, man.
Kate Hackett: They're not big risk takers.
Jeff: Oh man. Well, we'll see. We're all going to see together.
Kate Hackett: Yes. We definitely will.
Jeff: I want to go all the way back. I'm always curious especially with creative people. When you were a kid, did something happen where you were like, "Okay, I want to be an actress," or "I want to get into comedy" or "I want to do something like that," or did that kind of come to you later in life? Or...
Kate Hackett: No. It was ingrained. So I was, I don't know, little, little, three, four, and I did ballet. My mom stuck me in it.
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Kate Hackett: I did ballet and that season ended. She was like, "Do you want to keep doing ballet or you want to do something else?" And I was like, "Well, what else you got?" And she said, "How about a play? Do you want to be in a musical?" And I was like, "Yes." So I did musicals from... I couldn't even read my first one. I did musicals from when I was five until I moved out here. Yeah. So I grew up doing it and I think my mother says they put me in this thing and I started... You know Beauty and the Beast, the little tape that they used to have. I'll put it in and I press play. And I would do the whole thing for my parents. And my dad turned to my mom at one point. It was like, "She's going to want in. She wants to be an actor. This is what she wants to do." And my mom was like, "Let's hope not." Sorry guys.
Jeff: Okay. I got to ask what was that first play?
Kate Hackett: The Music Man.
Jeff: Oh, what was your part?
Kate Hackett: Amaryllis.
Jeff: Oh, okay. Okay.
Kate Hackett: Yeah. I've always been the girl that can sing and can't dance do I just float from side to side on the stage like [inaudible 00:11:35] I don't do any of the fun stuff so.
Jeff: That's amazing. Well, you first started making your mark, at least when I was first aware of you, with the stuff that you were doing with Funny or Die.
Kate Hackett: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: And this whole digital world. The world, it's so funny. I talk about this a lot on this show and to other people, things like YouTube and things like video on the internet is such a normal conversation. It's such a normal thing that you catch yourself. I'll even catch myself talking about it like it's been around forever and it hasn't.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: It's crazy to think that 20 years ago, there was no such thing as any of that. And Funny or Die is one of those bastions of the internet that is just amazing and it can give so much spotlight on to talent like yourself. And what was it like when you were creating stuff that was starting to really gain ground on Funny or Die in that beginning like the... Well, I'm going to get the name wrong. I actually wrote it down and I got the... Special Message to American Teenagers.
Kate Hackett: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff: Yeah. Like that thing.
Kate Hackett: It was really cool. As far as I could tell, that was probably the most organic surprise viral thing I've ever had. I don't believe anybody on that team did any special marketing or had any super special connection to people at Funny or Die. It just kind of blew up and landed on their front page and it was really cool. Everything else I've done has been a little bit more carefully marketed and we had publications that we went to and we did it the normal way. So yeah, it was cool. It was also at a time when Funny or Die... I think now you can't just put stuff up on Funny or Die anymore.
Jeff: It's completely different now.
Kate Hackett: You have to be produced by Funny or Die.
Kate Hackett: So it was a different time. You could kind of wiggle your way in a little bit. It was good though. It got me... Everything I do, I don't expect any one thing to like, "Poof, now I'm arrived." So each thing has a pretty small goal for me. For that one and I think Kate and Joe, those were both get a commercial agent things. So I was able to go when I was submitting, I was able to be like, "Hey, I've made this thing and it's on the front page of Funny or Die. I'm here."
Kate Hackett: And I got a commercial agent and then I booked a commercial job. It was good for me. Classic Alice was, "Wow, I'm not fucking working. I better do something. And maybe I can get a manager out of it." I got a manager. I have very low aspirations for anything I make. And then when they surpass those aspirations, I'm like, "Great. Fantastic. I am a genius. Little big [inaudible 00:14:40]"
Jeff: I think that's a good outlook to have in life in general though, because so many people, no matter...
Kate Hackett: [crosstalk 00:00:14:47].
Jeff: Well, no matter what you're doing, whether it's a creative endeavor or it's the push and paper world or whatever it is, so many people are looking at that finish line. So many people are looking at the end goal as the highest of the peak of the mountain that you can get as you're pushing that boulder up there and of course you should be looking there, but you should also be focusing on each step, getting that boulder a little higher. And I think that's really inspiring that that's how you look at every project. It's not just like, "I'm going to be the next hot thing with this." It's like, "Here's the short-term goal that's going to get me to that next thing."
Kate Hackett: I don't even know what the top of this mountain would look like. I haven't. I don't know if that's good or bad. I don't imagine it because I think actors and entertainment industry people think they know what's at the top of the mountain, but there is no top of our mountain. There's always somewhere to keep going to, and then they get disappointed. It's a frequent problem. You finally land your pilot. You finally get picked up and you're in now, but oh my God, there's still more to do. Why is there still more to do? If you kind of go into... I think with the assumption of like, "I'm never going to be completely a hundred percent happy with where I am." You're never disappointed because you know you're never going to be totally happy.
Jeff: Exactly. Exactly. And you got to have the work ethic which you do. You're always putting yourself out there. You're always working hard and you've studied for this too. I read that you are an alum of UCB right?
Kate Hackett: I did do UCB. Actually, in college, I studied history, which is not this.
Jeff: Not this.
Kate Hackett: No. My mom was like, "Oh, you did something useful." And I was like, "History is useful? It's not. It's not useful."
Jeff: Mm-mm (negative). I happened.
Kate Hackett: I loved it. I thought it was a great major, but it's not particularly like... It's not a money field.
Kate Hackett: People aren't like, "I need a history major right now. I'm going to throw you tons of dollars." But I studied at UCB. I've taken classes pretty much everywhere. I think it's important to learn and that's always how I live my life, just learn a lot.
Jeff: That's very, very, very true. And I think that's really great that you think that way, because so many people don't. So many people are like, "Well, I know how to do a little bit of this and I'm done with it."
Kate Hackett: Oh no. I'm a big fan of, I know a little bit, but I'm going to surround myself with people who know more and then ride their coattails into the sunset.
Jeff: Good point.
Kate Hackett: I think the most dangerous person on a set is the person who thinks they know it and they don't. So I much prefer to be like, "Great. I'm going to learn from you."
Jeff: That's great. It's great. You mentioned the Amazon Digital Series, Classic Alice.
Kate Hackett: I did.
Jeff: Which is amazing by the way. And I would have guessed you going to school that you would have said you were a English major...
Kate Hackett: Yep.
Jeff: Coming out of that series. That show's premise is amazing to me. It's so fun and refreshing, and you're great in it. And I just have to ask, did you know all of these books going into it or did you have to read all of those books like go all of them?
Kate Hackett: I do. All of them.
Jeff: You did.
Kate Hackett: I mean, I refresh. Yeah. I'm a big reader. So I did study history, but I love books. I am always reading something. You can't see it in here, but my whole house is an enormous book field.
Kate Hackett: There's just shelves, everywhere. There's books in my closet. I keep Harry Potter in my kitchen because I have nowhere else for it to go. I'm a big reader. So I did know all of those books. I didn't have to like, "Wait, what happens? And what else happens? Oh. Right, right, right." But I had already read all of them. They were in the mind bank of stories to pick from. That is available on Amazon and YouTube. If people are still locked at home, it's like, what? Two feature films worth of television for you to watch.
Kate Hackett: So please watch it. It was fun. It was quirky and kind of goofy and just upbeat.
Jeff: It seemed like a ton of fun. In fact, I was trying to picture you guys kind of coming up with each episode and being... because you're taking books... I mean books and stories like you did an entire episode on Macbeth.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: Stuff that is really dense and you're like, "Okay, here's 12, 15 minutes of what I'm going to do with that." And it's like...
Kate Hackett: What I did... I think that somehow that sound weird but I made... The only things that I didn't write were the interstitials, where the people are just doing confessionals. Those were written and kind of improv-ed by the actors and my other team member, Dana Shop. But the actual episodes, I wrote all of them. I picked the books, I did all of that stuff and I made this enormous... Sorry, my washer is singing to us. Sorry everybody. I made this really big timeline and I put each book's story arc and each character's plotline and where they work because there was a real original plot over top of all of the following the book stuff.
Kate Hackett: So I had to make sure that they kind of all match. So I did it book by book, but then like big picture as well. I forgot what your question was.
Jeff: I was saying how much fun it seemed like, which now it seems a little more maddening than fun, but how much fun it seemed to be able to plot this dense material to just...
Kate Hackett: It was fun because it was basically like writing a really creative book report, which I enjoyed. How I decided what to keep and what to ignore sort of a little bit of just instinct. I don't think I was like, "Do I need the three witches in Macbeth?" It was like, "I need the three witches in Macbeth. They're going to be history majors because we always know what's going to happen."
Kate Hackett: I'm sure I threw away important moments that didn't fit for the story that I was telling. I know I did. I think there was a whole... Dracula was probably the hardest one because Dracula's a fucking weird book.
Kate Hackett: Have you read it?
Jeff: Yeah. So weird.
Kate Hackett: It's super dark because it's letters and diary entries and it doesn't quite... You would think it would be really easy to do like a blog style show from diaries and letters. But it wasn't, and there were probably whole plotlines that I was like, "Forget it. I'm just going to focus on one little thing." Which I think is actually how most Dracula adaptations are.
Kate Hackett: Because there's so much happening that you can't... You're like, "I don't know what that plotline was, but I'm going to stick to Dracula and Lucy."
Jeff: Yeah. A lot of those books from that timeframe... Frankenstein's the same way. There is-
Kate Hackett: Yeah. It's a weird book. A lot of stuff happens.
Jeff: Yeah. It's like so much happens, but it all happens from different perspectives.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: It works on the page but when you try to put it out into that... But again, Classic Alice was such a cool idea and you did it, I thought, very expertly. Every single episode of being able to just take this literature that most of us all know, like I said, I was wondering if you had to revisit any of the books because a lot of those books are books you're required to read in school, even whatever.
Kate Hackett: I don't think there were. Macbeth, I was required to read, but everything else I think was a read for fun for me.
Jeff: That's great.
Kate Hackett: No. Maybe not persuasion because I'm not a big Jane Austen fan. Don't tell my fan base. But everything else I think was for fun. I read Crime and Punishment for fun and decided I wanted that to be your first book that we did because that's ridiculous.
Jeff: [crosstalk 00:23:24].
Kate Hackett: What a terrible book to pick to try to reenact.
Kate Hackett: I thought it was funny.
Jeff: Oh, it's so funny. And to quote your show, you looked very stealthy.
Kate Hackett: Thank you.
Jeff: And so honestly that brings me to the theme of this show. I talked about it earlier. That end goal that fuels everything is death. I don't mean to spoil it, but we're all going to die. But the thing is that we all are doing our best, no matter what it is, whether it's our job or our hobby, we're trying to leave this world a little different before we leave it for good and you're doing that in spades. And that just brings me to the question. What fuels you to do that? What fuels you to keep wanting to create, keep acting and keep out there?
Kate Hackett: I don't know. Let's see. I've struggled with this the last couple of months like "Why am I trying so hard?" I think it is a pretty common question for artists to ask themselves.
Kate Hackett: Probably every, I don't know, six to 12 months, especially if you're not working, which right now, no one is. We kind of get this like malaise of, "Why are we doing this? What is the point in this? It's so hard." But you feel alive when it's right. There's some teacher ages ago... It's sort of like runner's high, but different. When you're really in the moment, your brain turns off and you sort of touch God or whatever it is you believe in, you touch it. Sometimes it happens a single time and it's like a split second, but then you chase that feeling for the rest of your life because it's like, "Oh cool."
Kate Hackett: It's hard to do that I think in film and TV, because film and TV really isn't a medium for the actor. It's for the camera, maybe the director, but you can still... That moment's really... Not cool, like surprising. And there's nothing else really like it. And I don't think you can only get it from creative work. I'm sure there are other jobs that also do that. And I just don't know about them because I'm not mathematician or bioengineer or whatever. But for me, I have hit that, where everything falls away and you're just there. It's really cool.
Kate Hackett: So we, constantly chasing that high is why we do it.
Jeff: I think that's an incredible answer. I don't know if I've ever gotten that answer and that is such a rare thing to really have a handle on because it is true. I've talked to a lot of creative people. They're always chasing that moment, that magical moment, whether they're an actor or a lot of times, musicians talk about the magic in the room when you're writing a song and that song just of writes itself, but you-
Kate Hackett: We have that too. The character just is there, or when I'm writing like just, "Prrt." What do normal people say? The answer that most people...
Jeff: A lot. I get answers all over place from kids and money to "I just have to do it because I love it," or "I'm quitting tomorrow, that's what fuels me," that kind of things. But I think to have the idea that to chase that magical moment, to chase that feeling where it's all locking into place. And you said it too, it's not just a creative. I've talked to computer programmers and coming on that one line of code that they've been working on for seven months and then it finally all lined into place and it's just like, "Oh, now it works. I debugged everything." And like, "I want to do that on every other project I've ever had to do now. And I'm going to keep doing that." To be able to focus on that, that really brings... That fuels me. And I think that fuels everybody.
Kate Hackett: I think that's so cool that people can get that same feeling from so many different things. And it just depends on who you are, what you like.
Jeff: Exactly. Exactly. Well, I'm really glad that you like acting in comedy because I think that you're doing really great at it and sci-fi. The Long Dig, I got to say again, it's out and it's really cool. I hope you guys get to make another one or at least another sci-fi thing.
Kate Hackett: Yeah.
Jeff: And it's just so rad. I know nobody's working right now. Normally, this would be the time that I would be like, "Is there any products you want to plug or anything?" But I know...
Kate Hackett: Well, before this all happened, I was starting to work a little bit on pre-development. I had written a short horror movie. It's about like... I don't know how to summarize. I'm just so bad at loglines. Oh my God. But it's this woman gets a series of increasingly alarming airdrop photos on her phone. And I wanted to do because it's just one person in one location and it would be really cool to direct that. I think it would be fun project to kind of play with that. But right now everything's on pause and nobody has any money and I'm in financial lockdown myself. I'm spending [inaudible 00:00:29:17].
Kate Hackett: I don't know when this will end. I think that's the problem everybody's facing right now is we just can't plan for anything.
Kate Hackett: Because we have no idea how long this will go on. And I hope that people listen to this in May or whenever you release it and are like, "What an idiot. It only lasted two more weeks after that."
Jeff: Yeah. So true.
Kate Hackett: Yeah. So a lot of question marks. I would love... I am still trying to stay creative. I'll plug my sort of Patreon knockoff. I run my own patronage things so that Patreon doesn't steal money from me.
Kate Hackett: And it's just katehackett.com/patronage. So P, A, T, R, O, N, A, G, E.
Jeff: I'll put these links right in the line after the show.
Kate Hackett: If you just go to katehackett.com, it's pretty easy to find.
Kate Hackett: But yeah. So I definitely could use the [inaudible 00:30:15] help right now, but yeah so I just have that going.
Jeff: Awesome. I'll put that there along with your website. Is the website the best way to follow your journey? Do you do social media more than others or...
Kate Hackett: I do. I do Twitter @HackettKate and Instagram, same thing @HackettKate. The website has all of those links. If you want to get more of a behind the scenes picture of the journey... Gross. That lives on now, we have pictures of blog and locked up stuff for people who join.
Jeff: Definitely. I'll put all those links in there, including a link to your YouTube page as well, Kate Hackett Productions, because that's where you can find all of your stuff. And like you mentioned before, Amazon Digital has all of classic Alice, which we can all binge watch and...
Kate Hackett: Great. Yeah. Because you're not going anywhere.
Jeff: Because we ain't going anywhere. Kate, I can't thank you enough for taking time out of your day to talk to me. it was really inspiring to hear everything that you've been doing.
Kate Hackett: Oh, so gross. Thank you. It was very nice to be on. It was a lot of fun and reason for me to do my hair and makeup because I have not in a while.