Profiles of Tenacity: Kelly Gago

Profiles of Tenacity: Kelly Gago

September 14, 2023

Fourth-year Entertainment and Media Studies student Kelly Gago uses the skills she learned in her classes to create short films and prepare herself for life post-graduation. She encourages students to take all opportunities given to them, and make the most out of their college experience.

Why did you choose your major?

Right before the COVID-19 lockdown, I went on a trip to Disney World with my parents. I remember sitting in Hollywood Studios with my dad telling him how I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Then he was like, isn’t this your favorite Disney park? You love movies, you can major in that. And Voila a month later I got into UGA and immediately changed my major from Business Management to Entertainment and Media Studies.

What does tenacity mean to you?

To me tenacity means perseverance. It means that even when things get hard you will continue to follow your goals.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students

Okay hear me out but YOLO. (I promise I did not just time travel from 2012.) Scared to apply for your dream internship? YOLO. Nervous about applying to a study abroad program? YOLO. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or follow your dreams! You’ll only be an undergrad at Grady once so you might as well live this opportunity to its fullest.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Gago (left) working behind the scenes on her short film “Cafecito.”

There are so many but I think one of my most memorable would be writing an entire TV show with my friends in my Writing for Entertainment Media class. Also in May 2022, I was able to attend the Cannes Film Festival which was an amazing opportunity. Not only was it the ultimate test of stepping out of my comfort zone ( I had never left the country and I did not know a single word of French) but being in an environment where everyone was so passionate about film really solidified that this is the path for me.

What are you passionate about?

As the daughter of Cuban parents and a proud Cuban American, I am super passionate about telling Latinx stories. I’m also passionate about whatever my current hyper-fixation is. (This week it’s Letterboxd, my Kindle and Maluma’s new album).

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

This past year I wrote (and directed) my first ever short film, Cafecito, for my Directing for the Screen class. Honestly, I never considered myself a writer so writing a screenplay was something I never thought I would do but I had an idea and I knew I had to be the one to write it. I ended up submitting my film to the Elevate Film Festival and got nominated for best screenplay. It was such a full circle moment for me.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Group photo at Cannes Film Festival
Gago (back left) attended the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022.

I loved all my professors at Grady but if I have to narrow it down it would be Professor Sridhar and Professor Biddle. For Sridhar’s class, we were divided into groups and had the goal to write an entire episode for a TV show that we created. The task was daunting at first but Sridhar would always make us laugh and encourage us to do our best! I had Professor Biddle for Production Basics and he truly helped me gain confidence as a filmmaker.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

I am a simple woman. I love anywhere with a charger nearby and a comfy chair. My favorite places to locate these must-have essentials would be the 5th floor of Tate, the reading room in the Main Library, or the Homecoming office in the ELS.

Who is your professional hero?

My professional hero is definitely Greta Gerwig. As cheesy as it sounds she really is Director Barbie; Many of her works, both as a writer and director, focus on the experiences of complex, independent, and authentic female characters and they have been crazy successful as well. Whenever I wonder if becoming a director is just a pipe dream I think of Greta.