Diversity in Production: Our Producers Join WIFVNE

Saltwater Collective

The mission of Women in Film & Video New England (WIFVNE) is to offer mentorship, education, and community to women looking to advance their careers as storytellers. As part of that mission, Katie Shine-Young and Tom Adjemian, two studio producers from our Motion & Sound Department, Anchor Line, are leading a panel designed to give female filmmakers the chance to see how the pre-production process comes together based on a script.

The panel will take place on July 14th form 4:30pm – 5:30pm EST. You can sign up for the event on the WIFVNE website. Katie and Tom will be joined on the panel by Kristen Kearns, COO & Executive Producer at Element.

Q: WIFVNE has a great mission. Tell us a little bit about why it is important to you both to be a part of that. 

Katie: If you are exposed to different cultures, people, and practices that are different from your own either on set or on screen then you are more likely to learn better communication skills and understand concepts that you may not necessarily be exposed to otherwise. The film industry is generally made up of caucasian males, that is just one voice we are hearing. WIFVNE allows for more diversity to be heard and that is something we are always striving to achieve.

Tom: It is profoundly shocking, disturbing, disappointing, and dozens of other adjectives that our industry isn’t more diverse. Creative benefits from diversity of thought. Not only because our audience is made up of different genders and ethnicities and beliefs and, yes, even Yankee fans, but also because without the inclusion of additional view points, creative becomes dull. That our industry doesn’t seek out diversity from the start is a remarkable shortcoming. I fully support balancing the industry, to ensure all views can be included and shared in the creative we produce.

Q: This event is focused on discussing the pre-production plan for a script that you wrote. What’s the script about?

Katie: The script is promoting a turkey delivery company. The script involves all the things that would give any producer stress heartburn; A-list celebrities, multilingual talent, animation, explosives, travel, a large cast, and so on.

Tom: This script is designed to discompose producers. It’s an amalgamation of the most time consuming, budget breaking, stress inducing scenarios producers face on the job. And it includes frozen turkey.

Q: What aspects of the script, from a pre-production perspective, do you think are crucial for the audience to understand. What are some of the things you want people to take away from the event?

Tom: The ultimate goal was to provide a unique look into the mind of a producer, both to give creatives and non-creatives a better idea of our process, but also to (hopefully) positively influence future productions. And to be clear, this isn’t about making the production easier. It’s about making the production better.

Q: How did you get your start in production? What were some lessons you learned the hard way?

Katie: I started out as a production assistant on set. My aunt had a friend who worked in hair and make up and wardrobe, and she helped me get my first job. I proved on-set that I was a hard worker and reliable, and the rest is history. One of the hardest lessons I learned is that complaining on set is extremely frowned upon. If a problem arises? Fix it. If you are uncomfortable, talk about it in a productive way. Don’t understand something? Ask for help. One day I was young, and dumb, and complaining that we had to work late and I was doing all the crappy production assistant tasks (I was a production assistant so of course I had to do those tasks), I overheard the AD say, “She either stops complaining and stays or continues to complain and leaves.” And that was it, I kept my mouth shut, showed up early, stayed late.

Tom: I have always loved making short movies and must have at one point bothered my neighbor with one of them. Although I’m uncertain as to what she saw in me, she suggested I could be a good fit at an ad agency in Philadelphia and graciously set up an informational interview for me. After I graduated from college, they hired me as a production assistant and assistant editor. I was an assistant to the Director of Production and to our agency editor. I was able to live and breathe broadcast commercial pre-production, production, and post-production on a daily basis. It was an incredible foundation that I still rely upon today.

Q: What is your advice for aspiring producers on how to improve their craft and get the jobs they want?

Tom: If you’re looking to add to your reel, don’t be afraid to get involved in productions in which you have little experience. Although it seems to run counter to the job, not knowing the typical stress points sometimes can allow you to move more freely on the job. Where others may stall, your unique perspective and experience may help push the production forward. As for getting projects you want, I recommend finding great production crews and sticking with them. You’re not always in control of the work you get to produce, but you certainly have more control in selecting those with whom you’ll share a 10 to 12 hour shoot day. If you like the people you work with, those shoot days won’t feel as long.

Katie: Learn about every department. You don’t need to be an expert in lighting or camera but knowing the basics of the craft is important. As a producer, you are in charge of making the creative come to fruition and understanding how that all comes together is crucial to achieving an ideal outcome. I agree with Tom, finding a good team to work with is important. You are spending a lot of time with your crew, you learn from them, they learn from you, and if you prove yourself you keep getting hired. As you learn more, you move up, you get more work.

Register here to hear more from Katie and Tom with WIFVNE on July 14th from 4:30 – 5:30pm EST.

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