A once unimaginable trip to New York City last week was a dream come true for Keylee Sudduth.
A Friday night worldwide premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival provided the silver-screened stage the 2007 Waxahachie graduate once dreamt of as a young girl.
Keylee (Koop) Sudduth first met her husband, co-writer, co-director, co-everything, Micah in 2011 when they were cast in a play, "Little Dog Laughed," at the Austin City Theatre. They married two years later and it was off to Los Angeles to pursue a career on the big screen.
The two hoped for quick LA stardom. Instead, they both found hardship.
Those trying times as a new couple in a new city with new responsibilities led to their new web-series, “Home." The lovebirds wrote, produced, directed and funded the comedic, semi-autobiographical series, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend.
The small town actress turned big city hopeful said she would not be where she is today without her hometown theatre programs. Keylee explained how the encouragement from long-time Waxahachie High theatre director Andy Reynolds — who she calls Papa Bear — is something she reflects on daily.
“If you want to be an actor, don’t let anything sway you from perusing that because a lot of people poured into my life like Mr. Reynolds,” Keylee emphasized. “He made me believe that if this was something I believed in and was passionate about, I should go for it. And I still hold on to that, all of the people who have encouraged me because pursuing a creative life can be difficult.”
At the early age of six, Keylee auditioned for her first show, “The Sound of Music.” She received the unfortunate news that she was not cast. This was the first but not the last time she would be rejected.
As she watched the show from the audience in “amazement,” Keylee recalled the production to be her favorite childhood memory and longed to perform on the stage at the Chautauqua Auditorium.
“The fact that I was seeing kids on stage in my hometown perform in this beautiful theatre, really made me believe that I could do it. So, I auditioned. It was for “Annie Get Your Gun” was my first play there, and then I was hooked,” she elaborated.
Three years later she landed the lead role, “Annie,” which came as a surprise since she auditioned for a different character. To this day, Keylee has the Waxahachie Daily Light newspaper clipping, featuring her as the lead actress.
“I was surrounded by all of these artistic and really kind people that encouraged me,” Keylee expressed. “And, it was what I needed in that time of my life because my parents were going through a divorce and I found a community with Waxahachie Community Theatre, and I’m really grateful for that.”
The now Los Angeles resident visited home two years ago to hear her sister say, “I do” at the same Chautauqua Auditorium. Keylee recalled exploring the dressing room she once used as a child.
After graduating a year early from Waxahachie High School, Keylee later enrolled at Texas State University after studying at a Christian college in Missouri. The out of state school was not challenging enough.
She knew acting was her future.
Though Micah, a Palestine High School alumnus, also graduated from Texas State (2007), the two did not cross paths until 2011 in Austin.
He was to be cast opposite of her in “Little Dog Laugh," and recalled the moment he first caught a glimpse of his bride.
“I saw her and was smitten like a kitten. I wanted to date her instantly,” Micah relayed.
He conveyed the story of how his father fell in love with his mother at first sight. So when Micah was in the audience, he had the same realization. Ironically it turned out, but at the time it was a joke to himself.
Instantly, they became best friends and were in love before they knew it.
“We’ve always dreamed about collaborating together and over the years we’ve made a couple of short films and another short series before this called, ‘Talk,’” Micah elaborated.
The two emerged into episodic television, challenging each other to write a more extended narrative, which transitioned to the long-term goal to create “Home.”
They agreed sorting out the theme took the longest — a year and a half. The duo realized the show should reflect their lives as newlyweds, moving to Los Angeles to peruse acting careers.
“Home” reveals the challenges they faced through a comical and dramatized lense.
It took nine months to write the script. The two then performed readings with their LA acting friends to see what jokes worked and check the flow of the writing.
Dan Finlayson, their cinematographer, gave them fantastic advice. “If you don’t choose a deadline, you’ll keep putting it off because you’re never going to feel like your script is perfect and that you’re actually ready to do this,” Keylee recalled.
The series was shot in December 2016 and took years to save the funding.
“Home” is in the new online works category at the Tribeca Film Festival along with five other submissions. The series is produced by Bob Billiams Productions.
To watch the trailer click here.
“We are crazy surprised because this is our first film festival submission. They [Tribeca] are a well-respected and prestigious platform, and we are so grateful excited to give us the chance to premiere there,” Keylee emphasized.
Splitting time between their day jobs and their passion project, the thought that no one would watch the show floated in their subconscious.
Keylee shared, “This show is kind of a love letter to anyone who has pursued a dream or anyone who has felt — especially with our generation who have felt, ‘How do we do this adulthood thing? How do we find a place for ourselves in the industry that we are interested in?’”
The unclear path of entertainment challenged her to remain resilient and focus on the reason why she wants this. The acting industry makes her feel alive. But, on a daily basis, she researches for a Texas filmmaker, Matt Cook.
Her advice to those coming up and the students at WHS is, “Bet on yourselves, invest in yourselves and don’t be afraid to set a long-term goal that people might mock because you know what, it could really help you in the long run.”
Reynolds, who referenced himself as an “online groupie." He considered Keylee a beautiful artist with an artistic soul for others and said her “never-quit mentality” is what got her where she is today.
He also admitted Keylee’s early graduation from Waxahachie High and the theatre program was hard to watch.
“I got her in my class as a sophomore in high school, and she was going through some stuff, but the theatre was definitely her safe haven, and I encouraged her to stick with it,” Reynolds recalled.
“She was a brilliant actress in high school. I always knew if she put her mind to it she would do something really special and I’m really proud of her for doing that."
To stay up-to-date on "Home," visit https://www.facebook.com/thebobbilliams.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450