Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 Reel Women During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready.
Katharin “K” Mraz, is the owner of Ladie K Productions, Inc., a media, marketing, and production company; Smart Pretty Designs, Inc., a production art and design company; and Creative Works Media, Inc., a photography/videography company focusing on progressive and socially responsible media.
Based out of Chicago, Illinois, she spends her time as a freelance producer, director, production designer, art director, actress, and model with a focus on independent feature films and narrative shorts highlighting diversity or women in the industry.
In her free time she contributes to Reel Chicago and several magazines spotlighting projects focused on people of color and women in media. Katharin also mentors young aspiring filmmakers, models, and actors, and is an active advocate in the GLBTQ community.
What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
I stepped on my first stage when I was 10 or 11 years old and knew I was going to be an actress. Before I was 11, I wanted to be a farmer. I went to a farm summer camp, forced my family to vacation at farms and ranches, and love animals. I’m still an actress, and I still kind of want to be a farmer.
How did you get into the film industry?
I have been acting since I was a child, but there were a few major breakthroughs I’ve had, one being modeling. Acting wasn’t going anywhere when I was a teenager because of a lack of roles for women of color, especially Asian women in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I attempted a music career at 19 in Philadelphia as a singer / songwriter but it wasn’t satisfying enough to me. It wasn’t until I discovered modeling in Hawaii at eight months pregnant that I really started to pick up steam. From there I dove into filmmaking, and acting lead in Indies.
Who were your mentors?
Ah, unfortunately I haven’t been fortunate enough to have many people mentor me in my adult life. I’m not very close to my family, and yearn to find the right mentor to help push me to excellence. My loving and accepting husband has likely been one of my main mentors as an adult. That being said, I had a few people in my earlier life that really took me on and helped mold me into the woman I am today. One is my ex-boyfriend’s mother, Mrs. Snipes. She was a strong, confident, loving woman of color who overcame so many obstacles, and still took me under her wing when my life was falling apart. My best friend’s mother, Ms. Lackey, who was like a mother to me when I was growing up, was another person in my earlier life whose strength and bravery has been inspirational. Like Snipes, she helped me hold on to what shreds of confidence I had hanging by a thread during the roughest times of my life.
What is your greatest achievement?
I think my biggest achievement is living true to my dreams to be an artist for the rest of my life. At some point I decided that I was going to claim myself the “Original Self-Expressionist and Starving Artist” and I still believe that’s who I am today. The number of people that come up to my daily to tell me that my ambition and work ethic is inspiring is over-whelming, and I hope more people follow their dreams no matter what cards they are dealt
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What is your greatest disappointment?
I really wish I could have stayed more focused on acting instead of needing to work as much in film as I do. I love film, I love production, I love set life, but if there had been the number of opportunities for me when I was in my teens or early 20s as there are now for Asian women in their teens and early 20’s, I think I would have had a much more successful career as an Asian Actress. Instead I spent a chunk of my acting career refusing roles because I was tired of seeing Asian women portrayed as victims and sex-workers, and knew I had to write better stories and make my own content, which is what I’ve been striving to do.
What are your biggest pet peeves?
Ooooooooooo, so many. The longer I work in film, the more Pet Peeves I have, I want to make a handbook, and t-shirts. That being said, here are a few off the top of my head.
What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade?
I think we will continue to see this shift in streaming distribution and a need for content to fill different platforms never tapped. I also see more computer animated talent than physical human talent
Name a job you had that would surprise people.
No job would surprise anyone, I’ve worked every single type of job in the world and everyone that knows me knows it. I don’t think it would shock anyone, but lets see. I was an umpire as a kid for the Wheaton Park District, I did tele-researching for a short period when I was 16, and sold flowers in a basket in Hawaii after my kid was born.
Which Marvel or DC superhero do you get to play?
Huh, I always like Rogue cuz she’s so darn sexy.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
Build relationships with friends. I always see people hanging out with friends, going out after work or class, and doing fun things like Friendsgivings. Unfortunately I have created such a strong workaholic environment, I’m usually the one who has to turn down the invitation even though I really want to go. That’s why I appreciate my friends who are patient with me and keep on me about spending time with them.
Do you talk to yourself?
A ton. More than is probably healthy.
What inspires you to be creative?
Balance and equality in this world is what inspires me to be creative. Telling stories others aren’t telling or haven’t heard I think helps create balance in the world. Media is amazing like that, it’s like music and other forms of art; they create, shift, and change culture just by existing. That’s why I’m in film, and why I won’t ever leave it. It’s not a job, or a career, it is a purpose.