Tell us who you are, what you do? 

Kristen Kearns, Partner and Executive Producer at ELEMENT. My role is to oversee the company’s operations, talent relationships and head up our production and post businesses. 

Give us your career trajectory in 30 seconds? 

I started off in casting. I worked as a Casting Assistant while I was at Emerson College in Boston and also freelanced as a production assistant. Through both of those roles, I met a bunch of production folks and networked my way into ELEMENT. I started at the bottom as a production coordinator and eventually became the Head of Production. I took a break for a few years to agency produce and work on a feature film, but then boomeranged back to ELEMENT to become Partner and Executive Producer.

What was your first job in the industry? What did it teach you?

My 1st job in the industry was working as a Casting Assistant at Boston Casting. That job taught me a lot about working with different personalities as well as the importance of the details. Understanding usage, terms, scope and clearly communicating information to hundreds of people in an efficient and timely manner. 

What’s a creative risk you took recently? How did it turn out? 

Recently, we worked with a client who had a concept to film their product in a variety of backgrounds and locations. We recommended using a Digital Studio to maximize their budget. This was a new technology for us as well as for the client, but they trusted our approach. The client and agency were blown away by the new technology and super happy with the final product.

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

That is a tough question. One particular project that stands out in my mind is a project we developed and produced for Dunkin’. We collaborated with their agency on a “big idea” to take the tagline “America runs on Dunkin” and actually power a home with biofuel made from Dunkin coffee grounds (that took some time to figure out). 

The project was a combination of an in person event activation, mini-doc films for social and press outlets, a broadcast TV commercial and even a sweepstakes to stay in the home as an AirB&B. 

We were really pleased with the collaboration as well as the final videos and assets.

We also commit annually to supporting various nonprofit organizations. I am always super proud of our team and the dedication that goes into helping these organizations hit or surpass their fundraising goals by using the films we produce for them. 

What’s the best part of your job? What’s the most challenging?

I love working with creative people. Producing films is a team sport and you meet some amazing people along the way.

These days the most challenging part of my job is figuring out ways to make more happen for less. Budgets seem to be shrinking or asking for us to produce more content for the same amount. So it is a constant challenge to find ways to leverage new technology and use innovative thinking to execute without compromising creativity or quality. 

What do you look for when reviewing Telly Award entries? 

I look for unique perspectives and new visual techniques. We are marketing to an attention deficit audience and need to find ways to capture attention and communicate messaging creatively and effectively.

How do you unwind from work mode?

I have 3 kids, so they are great at bringing me back to earth. They keep me laughing and allow me to look at the world through child-like eyes. Family is super important to me, so keeping things in perspective is important to work-life balance.

Do you have any specific practices you lean on to fuel your creativity?

I am a lifelong learner. I love to read, garden and cook. I challenge myself to learn new things through each of these mediums. It keeps my mind nimble and the creative juices flowing.

When did you know that this career is what you wanted to do?

I knew pretty early on in life. My family is heavily involved in the arts, so I was raised surrounded by visual and performing arts. When I directed my 1st theatrical show as my senior thesis in high school, that was the turning point to know that I wanted to be working behind the scenes producing.

How do you stay up-to-date in your industry?

I try to stay current by reading the industry trade publications, reviewing winners from award shows and searching out young makers self-publishing work on social platforms. 

What led you to your current role?

When I started out, I wanted to know about everything and truly felt like I was a sponge wanting to absorb all the details and information around me.  So consistency and continuously pushing myself to grow and learn, as well as maintaining a strong network of colleagues have led me to my current role. And of course the growth of ELEMENT as a company opened up more opportunities to leverage my skills and interests.

Who should we look out for next? 

Last year, I worked with Women in Film New England to develop a director shadowing program. We have had 3 women participate so far: Sally Muiruri, Kristen Falso-Capaldi, Elisa Garcia. Each of them is super talented and definitely ones to watch. 

What inspired you to join the field and create the kind of work you do? 

I knew that my career would have to be in a creative field. My father is an artist, my mom a dancer. I know that my superpower is getting things done, so producing and helping creatives bring their ideas to life is exactly the work I want to be doing. 

Where do you see your field of work in 5 years?

The demand for content is going to continue to increase. Technology is going to take a huge role in making this happen. So over the next 5 years, it will be figuring out ways to leverage AI and other new technologies to evolve, but still tell amazing stories for brands that want to engage audiences.

Why interested in judging for The Telly’s? 

Judging the Telly’s exposes me to great work that I may not have the chance to see otherwise. 

Describe the moment where you feel like you “made it”? 

I would have to say when I was asked to be on a panel of female leaders in the industry. It was the turning point in my career where I realized I was now a person whose role is to mentor and train the next generation. I am not sure I will ever feel I have truly “made it” since I am always pushing myself to learn and grow more, but embracing mentorship is definitely important in this chapter of my career.

What’s the most chaotic set you’ve been on? 

I think a few projects I was on when I was agency producing were a little chaotic. Multiple locations, celebrities, a ton of logistics to fit the puzzle together just right.

When did you realize your worth? 

I was a fairly shy kid and I tended to not speak up or raise my hand. But I remember when I was a production coordinator and I was asked for my opinion on a rough cut, I was taken aback to even be asked. But then when I shared my opinion and it was embraced and even used to improve the edit, I knew then that my opinion had value. It was a turning point for me to speak up more and know that my point of view mattered. 

Have you ever experienced discrimination within your work and how did you deal with it? 

Early in my career working in commercial production, it felt a bit like a “Men’s Club.” It was challenging to find senior women in this industry that I admired. But seeking out strong female producers to emulate helped me to navigate around some uncomfortable situations. The landscape has definitely evolved over the past 20 years and there is more of a level playing field and opportunities. 

What’s a work tool you use every day and what’s one that is obsolete that you wish still existed?  

Our team loves using Slack. It is a great tool for collaboration as well as staying connected when we are not all in the same place.

A work tool that I wish still existed is the Now Up to Date Calendar software. I loved how easy it was to create and collaborate on calendars. I am still searching for a better calendar program.

What was the best part of being a judge for the Tellys?

I think the best part of being a judge for the Telly’s is being exposed to work I may have never had the opportunity to see as well as being a part of a special group of leaders in the industry.