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You know Kaitlyn Jenkins as Bettina on “Bunheads,” ABC Family’s quirky ballerina comedy which is currently on, ahem, “extended hiatus.” (Boo! Bring back our TV obsession.) But while the show is in limbo, Kaitlyn’s making the most of it with her Dancer’s Music Video Project on YouTube. This triple threat is directing, starring, choreographing, singing and dancing in the videos—talk about multi-talented! This June, the first of six mini-videos, “L.O.V.E.” (inspired by the Nat King Cole song), debuted on YouTube, and Kaitlyn’s just getting started. Read our Q&A with this bubbly bunhead below:
What inspired you to do this YouTube project?
Kaitlyn: I’d been thinking about doing something like this ever since I was little. The idea was to do it music video-style, but within a story where I would provide the singing the background and dance to it. It felt neat and different, and I hadn’t seen that done before. When I was starting “L.O.V.E.,” I kept coming up with more concepts, so I decided to make it a series. It’s called the Dancer’s Music Video Project, and for me, it’s a new form of art.
You’re singing in the videos, which is new for you!
Kaitlyn: I don’t consider myself a very strong singer. A lot of the reason I didn’t decide to do this earlier was that I was nervous about singing. Somehow dancing and acting in front of people doesn’t scare me, but singing was a whole different thing. Coming from an arts high school, the musical theatre program was always very intimidating. I’m finally getting the courage to sing, and it’s opening a whole other chapter in my life.
Kaitlyn: I learned on “Bunheads.” When there was a lot of downtime on set, I would ask all of these questions because I was curious and bored. We spent half the days in our chairs waiting. I loved talking to the crew because they are such awesome people, and I learned a lot doing so. When you’re on set and the director comes up to give you notes, you learn a lot of film lingo. For instance, I learned “dirty over the shoulder,” a pose you see in “L.O.V.E.”
For girls who want to make films, what’s your advice on getting the resources you need?
Kaitlyn: The whole thing was super low-budget—we did it all for about $1600. My friend Evan films the Anaheim Ballet podcasts on YouTube, so I approached him to be part of it. We used his equipment, and he did it for free, which was so, so nice. He knows how to film dance, which is really great. So my biggest advice would be to network—find people in film schools that can help you inexpensively. Also, use resources in your own city. I was also able to get my locations for free, and found a great old house in Norwalk that fit the time period. Finally, really learn about the craft before you start spending money. Without knowing enough, you’ll be wasting a lot of money you could have saved.
Why was YouTube the right forum for your project?
Kaitlyn: YouTube is a really big thing now—it’s grown into something that creates stars. I’m not sure if it will boost my stardom, but hoping it will keep the followers I have now and inspire people to notice what I’m doing. A lot of it was part of my own “evil” little plot to bring “Bunheads” back sooner.
Any tips on building your network of followers or getting attention for your videos?
Kaitlyn: You can tag your videos to different videos, so they come up on similar searches. I tried to link it to as many things as I could. Also, I spent some time publicizing with all of my friends and family and trying to show them my videos. I find it hard—there is a fine line with people and social networking. There are unspoken rules with social media, and if you don’t follow them right, you lose a lot of people.
For girls who are just starting out with their dance or arts careers, do you have any advice?
Kaitlyn: Perseverence—taking classes, being informed, constantly studying. I heard something in my acting class from my teacher that spoke to me. She said, “How many hours does it take for a normal job in a week? 40 hours. So how do you call yourself actors if you’re only spending 6-8 hours a week on a craft that you love?” She taught me to study every single day and do something to further your craft. It should be to the point where it’s almost like an addiction and you can’t live without it. Watch a dance movie, watch choreography, take classes, network. If you’re not active in it every day, it will dwindle away. Put in the work and, by the laws of nature, something will happen.
Watch Kaitlyn in action in “L.O.V.E!”