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Kelley J. Baker
July 20, 1956
Kelley J. Baker (born July 20, 1956) is an American independent filmmaker and the writer and director of three indie feature films: Birddog (1999), The Gas Cafe (2001), and Kicking Bird (2005). He specializes in creating extreme low-budget narrative films, usually bending a few laws in his favor to perfect his piece that typically spotlights his distaste for corporate greed. His characters tend to be average with some character flaw that draws the viewer in.
Baker started making short films in the late 1980s. His films have aired on PBS, The Learning Channel, and Canadian and Australian television. His films and style have been recognized in publications such as Runners World to Filmmaker magazine.
Baker has toured the U.S. teaching his brand of filmmaking at workshops and showing his films to audiences at art house theaters, colleges, universities and media art centers. His methods have been considered guerrilla film making. On the set of the Gas Cafe, Baker shot at a bar after closing. He set up the lights on the rigging in the ceiling of the bar, so when the bar closed, Baker was able to turn on his own lights and begin shooting.
Using the money he made from Good Will Hunting, Kelley financed his first feature film, Birddog (1999), the story of used car salesman, Harv Beckman, operating in a trashy part of town. Beckman accidentally comes into possession of a rare 1948 Kaiser automobile, stirring up disturbing revelations about the facts behind the 1948 Vanport, Oregon, flood that destroyed an entire community. The film explored racism, greed, and class in a very corrupt city. It opened the 2000 São Paulo Film Festival in Brazil, and one critic referred to Kelley’s style as "Bruce Springsteen meets David Lynch".
The Gas Cafe (2001) has been called "an old Twilight Zone episode, that has collided with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot". Five people collide in a bar one night. One is dead, one never lived and the other three are lying. Shot in digital video in 8 nights with a budget of $4000, the movie was said to have been funded entirely on unemployment checks.
Kicking Bird (2005) is about a 17-year-old high school student, Martin "Bird" Johnson. Considered nothing but white trash, Johnson's mother is in jail, his father gone, one brother in a work camp, and a bitter grandfather who beats him. When the greedy high school track coach sees Martin outrun his whole team, he realizes the boy may be his ticket to a college coaching position. The film was shot with digital video in 18 days with a budget of $5000. The Runner’s Gazette says, "Kicking Bird Kicks Butt!"
Baker was the recipient of a Western States Media Arts Fellowship (1997) as well as grants from the SOROS Fund (2000), The Collins Foundation (2000), the Oregon Arts Commission (1993), Pioneer Fund Emerging Documentary Filmmaker grant for his film Criminal Justice (1985), Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust (1984), The Maurie Clark Foundation (1984), and a technical assistance grant from RACC (2004). Baker has completed two documentaries for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Juvenile Justice Office of the Department of Justice (1999).
The Stirling Art Centre at Macrobert University in Stirling, Scotland, ran a retrospective of Kelley's work in 2006. The Pacific Film Archives and The Northwest Film Center have hosted a retrospective of Baker's short films.
Projects with other filmmakers
Baker was the sound designer on six feature films directed by Gus Van Sant, including My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, and Finding Forrester. He designed the sound on Todd Haynes feature film, Far from Heaven, with Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore. He was the picture editor and sound designer on Will Vinton's The Adventures of Mark Twain, Meet the Raisins, and four Claymation Specials for CBS. He has also worked with Roger Corman as Assistant ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) Mixer on Humanoids from the Deep in 1996.
Projects in film education
As proprietor of Angry Filmmaker, Baker tours the United States and United Kingdom teaching about indie filmmaking at workshops and showing his films to audiences at art house theaters, colleges, universities and media art centers. Baker has appeared in over 200 cities and 350 college and media arts venues. In the last six years, some of the locations Kelley has spoken at include: USC Cinema, Macrobert University in Stirling, Scotland, University College, the Dublin Institute of Technology both in Dublin, Ireland, Rochester Institute of Technology, Columbia College, Depaul both in Chicago, Illinois, 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle, Washington, Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, Blinding Light Cinema in Vancouver, British Columbia, Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, Reel Women, University of Texas both in Austin, Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Desert Reel Film Festival in Midland, Texas, Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee, Indie Memphis in Tennessee, Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, Capri Theatre in Montgomery, Alabama, the Artsfest Film Festival (as keynote speaker) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association both in Pennsylvania, Proxy Theatre in Northampton, Pennsylvania, the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild in West Virginia, Madlab Theatre in Columbus, Ohia, Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, Nightengale Theatre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Wichita State University in Kansas.
Baker is also the author of The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Making the Extreme No Budget Film released in 2008. His second book, Sound Conversations with (UN)Sound People is due for release in 2011.
Baker is producing and directing Dangerous: Kay Boyle, a feature documentary chronicling the life of the woman called "the most dangerous woman in America" by S.I. Hiyakawa in 1967. This work in progress was featured at the Independent Feature Film Market in New York.
Baker is also directing The American Dream: A Work in Progress 2006-07. He has spent two years, interviewing people across the country about the American Dream. It was scheduled to be released in the late 2008.
Baker attended the University of Southern California. He received a BA (1980) and an MFA (1982) in Film Production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and did post graduate work at the American Film Institute (1989).
- U.S. Public Records Index, Vol 1 & 2 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
- Internet Movie Database
- Angry Film Maker
- Oregon Art Beat — Filmmaker Kelley Baker · Oregon Public Broadcasting
- American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, By Laurie Champion
- Filmmaker Kelley Baker 21 Nov 2009. Introduction to Video Production. George Fox University.