Student Success Stories
Kayla Elise Thomas
Actress, singer, screenwriter, gaffer
Kayla Thomas thinks we could all use a little more humor in our lives.
With that in mind, she and two other Georgia Film Academy graduates are collaborating on a short series of films under the title Scooby Crew. The story follows a group of 20-somethings working in different facets of the movie industry who end up “connecting” during a wild film festival after-party.
“It’s this really goofy premise,” Kayla says in a phone interview, “and a bit autobiographical, but on top of that, it’s us being satirical and poking fun at ourselves. We’re just putting something out there to make people laugh.”
But there is a serious side to her work as well. As part of a production company called Our Side of the Story, Kayla has been busy on a project titled Colored Girl Chronicles (not to be confused with Jenise Wilson’s book series of the same name) “about four women of color, in Brooklyn, navigating life,” she says. “We’ve written ten episodes and filmed our pilot which is nearing the end of its editing phase.”
The other nine episodes were due to be filmed over the summer of 2020, according to Kayla, who had temporarily moved to New York for the Chronicles project. “Now I have to do a workaround,” she says. “We have a few teasers, and there’s a whole Kickstarter ready to launch when things settle down and we figure out what’s going on out there. We are going to try to make the filming happen as soon as possible.”
What inspired her to get involved in the film? “It really started when I was in Georgia College my sophomore year. We had a film class and learned about shots and sound equipment - things like that. That kind of sparked my interest and then in my senior year I did the screenwriting class. That’s my number one passion at the moment.”
Kayla says the GFA course helps students “get a deeper understanding of every aspect and puts it all together. It’s also been beneficial because once I graduated and started writing and acknowledging the program, I met some great people.”
Before all that happened, Kayla played the role of Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray and Trix the Aviatrix in The Drowsy Chaperone, the latter being “a brave and brash female aviator….sassy, sleek and a take-charge kind of gal,” according to the Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s description of the character. This was when Kayla was enrolled at Milton High School, where she participated in a Godspell production in conjunction with the Renaissance International School of Performing Arts. Thomas then joined the Atlanta Workshop Players and played the role of Ramona Merengue in the company’s production of Zombie Prom.
In college, Thomas took three years of vocal training and competed as a partner in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. She wrote and performed in a short film called Dissection and her senior capstone was a one-woman show about her life titled Embrace Your Humanity.
“Finding my voice has definitely been a journey - figuring out what that is. Growing up, being the type of woman I am, I was always struggling to figure out what my genuine voice was.”
While in New York she sang in a Brave New World Repertory Theatre production called The Plantation, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard set in Virginia after emancipation and the Civil War but before the advent of Jim Crow.
“Ever since I was a child, I have been drawn to art in every form,” Kayla wrote on her website. “Every time I’ve seen the first shot of a movie, walked through a museum where hours felt like minutes, lost myself in a song, or witnessed the curtain rises at the start of a show, I felt the power of it all.”
When Kayla was working in theatre, she recalls “there was always something that didn’t fully line up; then I started learning about and pursuing film, and watching more movies - that’s when it really clicked that this was what I was supposed to be doing.”
So is the film industry a good career choice for people? “It’s worth it,” Kayla says. “It’s not always linear, but it’s exciting. If you have a drive and a passion for it, you should definitely follow through with it.”