There are superstars and there are triple-threats, but there are no adequate all-in-one terms to describe someone like filmmaker Kevin Sharpley: He’s a producer, writer, director, and editor, sure—but he’s also an actor, poet, podcaster, and mixed media performance artist. His work experience includes film, television, documentary, commercial, music video, multimedia, and event video production, as well as serving as chairman of the Miami Dade County Film and Entertainment Advisory Board.
Oh yeah, and he’s executive director of CineVisun TransMedia, a nonprofit organization that supports independent entertainment—and a father to two daughters.
Catch your breath yet? These roles fall under the Kijik Multimedia umbrella, of which Sharpley is founder, president, and CEO. Perhaps most impressive of all, none of this was handed to him, as it is to many who inherit a career path in Hollywood—no one in Sharpley’s family was in the entertainment industry. As for his own entrée, “It’s a long, winding road,” Sharpley explains. “I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to be a filmmaker.”
Instead, he explains, choices in pursuit of his varied interests led him to where he is today. Born in Detroit, Sharpley moved around frequently with his family before settling in Miami in high school after his mother remarried.
“Miami really opened my eyes to the world,” he shares. “Miami is a place where you’re exposed to more cultures—and in ways uniquely true to whatever culture you connect with because of its proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe. People who live in Miami, they maintain a lot of their cultural identity because they can go back and forth. So that opened my mind and my eyes to exploration of the world.”
His introduction to the entertainment sector came in the form of a girlfriend who modeled; soon, in an effort to connect to the design world, which intrigued him, Sharpley was modeling, too. Within months, Sharpley found himself signed to major campaigns, modeling for prestigious agencies such as Wilhelmina and Ford, and walking for Tommy Hilfiger and other designers.
When he wasn’t traveling the world for his modeling career (he began acting during this period, too), Sharpley worked toward an arts degree at Miami Dade College and, after, enrolled in the film program at the University of Miami. Three months in, he landed his first music video.
“And then everything went wrong with the people I hired,” he laughs. “So I learned how to do all of it—I only wanted to write and direct at that point, but I learned how to edit and produce, so my next project, I produced it, wrote it, directed it, and edited it.”
With the newfound skills he had learned on the fly, and to provide himself with a stream of income that would be more conducive to his school schedule—his professors weren’t impressed with castings and auditions as excuses to miss class—he founded Kijik Multimedia.
The road from there—his 20-plus years in the entertainment industry—has included awards and critical acclaim; yet his proudest moments, he says, were the births of his daughters.
In a tie for second place are his 2014 induction into the Miami Dade College Hall of Fame and having Danny Glover narrate his documentary Sove Nou, which tackles Haiti’s complex history—at least until he landed Tommy Flanagan (of Sons of Anarchy and Westworld fame) for The Beach Chronicles, Sharpley’s Miami-based pulp-noir animated sci-fi saga.
“I created that project because I wanted to have a project that’s based here in Miami,” he says. “I built it in a way where Miami is a character in the story. I do whatever I can to bring projects here.”
He loves Miami, he says, and that’s part of the reason he has continued to base his company here rather than in film-industry hotspots like New York or Los Angeles. “The film and entertainment industry at times is on par with the best in the world,” he says. “Some of the best projects have come from Miami and South Florida, as far back as Flipper, The Jackie Gleason Show, Scarface, Miami Vice, Burn Notice, Ballers—we have and have had some of the best talent, crews, everything from top to bottom. We also have an incredible and growing indie scene buoyed by quite a bit of support from organizations like Miami Media and Film Market, the Knight Foundation, Oolite, indie theaters such as O-Cinema, and others.”
Kijik Multimedia offers both branding and an entertainment side. “We probably have worked in just about every medium there is,” Sharpley says—from short films to comic books to video games and everything in between. “They’re all storytelling devices, at the end of the day.” His variety of talents has led to an equally interesting roster: his clients have ranged from Bacardi to the US Air Force.
Along with the rest of the entertainment sector, Sharpley felt the sting of COVID-19: Many of his clients went out of business or slashed their marketing budgets in the backlash of the pandemic. However, the situation also brought about a forced push in a promising direction: animation.
“Animation is something that we’ve always done, but we’ve never really put the foot on the gas in terms of pushing the animated component of the company,” he shares. “But with COVID, animation is something you can do without having to have everyone in the same place.”
The impact of the pandemic was also heartbreakingly personal: his brother and stepfather died from COVID-19, both within weeks of his daughter’s birth. “That was also an impetus for focusing more on projects that can be done remotely,” he shares.
One such recent project, an animated short film titled The Incredibly Short Life of Peter Panties, has taken off in ways Sharpley and his team never expected.
“We always have a few projects moving because you never know which project is going to take off,” he explains. “But when you start winning awards and you start being accepted into festivals, it helps to define or redefine what you’re doing.”
The short film has been accepted into 10 festivals and won six awards. “It’s a huge boom for a sector of the industry that we’re putting a lot of focus on,” he says.
Sharpley credits his success to his willingness to be nimble—and his savviness in “planting seeds” throughout a variety of projects.
For example, in post-production, Sharpley currently has a live-action version of The Beach Chronicles featuring names of note, as well as a music video and a feature film. “Because of COVID, it’s given us the ability to do the post-production, the visual effects, that we needed for the project,” he explains. The song they picked for the music video, which is by a Miami artist, has also gained traction and is now on one of Netflix’s biggest animated shows. “Planting seeds for things that then grow, and you can harvest them later—I think that’s a big positive for my company as a whole.”