The Indie Way – Q&A With Lee Kholafai

Lee Kholafai is an American model-turned-actor from Alabama. Lee was discovered while walking the beach in 2004 during a summer family vacation. In 2006 he suffered a severe ankle injury during college football which led him to pursue his global career in modelling.

Lee has appeared in many national and international campaigns and appeared in GQ Magazine and Men’s Health as well as others.

He acquired his big break in acting when he was called to audition for a Kelly Clarkson music video, playing her love interest. Since then, he has appeared on various commercials and videos for MTV, VH-1, and Fashion TV.

After joining a theatrical agency, he landed lead roles in 2 feature films and a short film. Since then, he has become an independent movie producer along with his life partner, Korrina Rico. Together they launched their first movie, Glass Jaw in 2018 and their most recent film, Incision in 2020.

In his spare time, Lee enjoys time with his family and friends. His hobbies include football, boxing, hiking, skimboarding, working on cares, and freestyling to his favourite hip-hop tracks.

Can you tell us about your modeling career – what’s a day in the life of a male model?

I just have to make sure I stay in shape pretty much since I have to match my previous photos lol!

When did you realise that you wanted to become an actor? Which actors have been your greatest influences?

I think it was realizing you get to show your personality more. In modeling you’re posed a lot so you don’t get a chance to show your personality as much. I really love Al Pacino. He’s a badass. 

What inspired you to become a filmmaker/producer? What challenges did you face?

Living in LA and seeing so much talent and politics. I figured the best way to do it is control your own destiny.  The biggest challenge really was raising money and other than that, I wore too many hats so I drew myself thin. But hey, I learned a lot since you learn by taking action I suppose.

Congratulations to you and Korrina on both your movie releases! Can you describe the steps of launching a movie from conception to release? What are the greatest hurdles?

Well first it’s the idea, then getting the script, seeing the budget, then establishing the team. The hardest thing to acquire is the money. There’s lots of great scripts out there that just don’t have financing. 

The boxing/fighter genre is so popular. What inspired you to make Glass Jaw and where did you see this placed in the genre, comparing to the likes of Rocky or The Fighter?

Well Glass Jaw was a very challenging film to make on an indie scale due to all the locations, extras, and action. Glass Jaw’s main message is just to never give up and keep fighting for what you want in life.

Incision was a completely different type of film and seemed like a lot of fun to make – what inspired you to make this?

I took what I learned from Glass Jaw and applied it. Less locations, minimal cast, and so on with a bigger audience. There’s more people that say, “let’s watch a scary movie”, than “let’s watch a boxing movie” so it was also a business move. As far as what inspired the story, it’s because cosmetic surgery is so popular and scary sometimes with bad jobs so we thought how scary would a psycho plastic surgeon be that performed on you against your will to so-called make you beautiful.

Do you get involved in the post-production process, especially for audio? How important is an immersive audio sound mix (eg. Dolby Atmos or DTS-X)?

Yes, I did and it’s very important. Especially for a horror movie. Music carries a lot of films.

During the pandemic, we have seen major releases streaming online to coincide with theatrical release. How important or influential are streaming services for the independent film-makers like yourselves?

It’s important because it widens your audience which for an indie with less marketing dollars, the more eyes the better.

Your next movie, Greed, is in pre-production. Can you share any news about this?

Yes, this has been delayed obviously due to COVID-19. It has a lot of action, intimacy and crowds.

Do you have any gems of wisdom to share for any budding actors or film-makers starting out?

Set a date, just go for it. Learn as you go. Many of life’s regrets for folks at the end, are what they didn’t do, not what they did. 

Finally, can you share the names of some of your favourite music tracks, TV shows and movies?

Music, I love anything with a good message and that’s real that I can relate to. The latest artist I’m listening to is Morray. For TV shows, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones are a few of my favs. Movies, I love Scarface, Casino, Rocky, and IT.

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