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Meet Your Makers: Why Communication, Trust and Teamwork are Key for Kirsten Noll


Scholar's managing executive producer on embracing your mistakes, the joys in the variety of production and being a clear and efficient communicator

Meet Your Makers: Why Communication, Trust and Teamwork are Key for Kirsten Noll

Kirsten Noll is a Los Angeles based managing executive producer. With a decade of multifaceted experience, she is passionate about design driven and multidisciplinary narratives. Having received degrees in Motion Media Design and Animation from Savannah College of Art and Design she has a strong technical understanding of both creative and client needs. Her diverse background in live action, design/animation, and VFX has established a proficiency in all stages of production. An effective communicator and passionate problem solver, she strives to consistently furnish a high level of satisfaction with a record of cultivating new and long-term client relationships. As the media landscape continues to shift, Kirsten seeks to give guidance in the production process while expanding and further developing the Scholar brand.

LBB> What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?

Kirsten> I was drawn to production during my Motion Design internship at Digital Kitchen. I’d just graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with degrees in Motion Media Design and Animation. The role was my first taste of working at a creative agency and the first time I realised that production existed outside the realm of film and television. 

Looking back, despite technically coming from the artist side, my other experiences all had roots in production. I’d previously interned in post-production at Nicktoons and with the producers of The Animation Show. The driver in those choices and opportunities was a deeply rooted love of animation – something I still have today!

LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?

Kirsten> I’ll go with my first paid role in production. I knew I didn’t want to be a motion designer but had used my internship to learn how a studio works and get to know folks in other departments. I started as a Studio Manager before being promoted to production coordinator. The coordinator role was in live-action production, something I knew nothing about at the time. I fell in love with production hard and fast and never looked back!

That experience shifted my career trajectory in more ways than one. Without the opportunity to learn live-action production, I would never have become a Line Producer, which ultimately led me back to my passion for design and animation as a Post Producer. It’s also taught me to think about production holistically. This mix of experiences contributed to my understanding of the ins and outs of production, making me a bit of a Swiss Army Knife and fuelling my passion for continuous learning and personal development.

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Kirsten> A combination of asking a trillion questions, getting thrown into the deep end, and making mistakes! I was fortunate to start under the guidance of several amazing women who are powerhouses in their own right and still kicking ass in production today. Thanks to their mentorship, trust, empowerment, and patience, I learned how to gracefully navigate the unique challenges every production brings. 

LBB> Looking back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production you were involved in where you really had to dig deep and that really helped you to grow as a producer?

Kirsten> I was producing a campaign that required a mix of live-action, CG animation, and 360 technology. Despite a unique set of parameters, our team had wrapped our heads around the concept and established a production plan to execute the creative. Where things got complicated was communicating with another Producer on the job. We simply did not see eye to eye. I could tell that our relationship was negatively impacting the production. So, I asked to be removed. While difficult in the moment, that choice taught me several valuable lessons.  

LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?

Kirsten> Despite the previously referenced Swiss Army Knife approach to producing, I'm afraid I have to disagree. A good illustrator isn't expected to animate and a good cinematographer isn't expected to execute the lighting plan for a shoot. But, like those fields, Production is a craft, a set of skills honed over time and through experience. 

LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?

Kirsten> I love the variety. Any given project is made of a blended combination of choices. It's what makes our work in creative production so diverse and colourful, and those same choices give us an opportunity to shape our industry in the same way.

I get to partner with some seriously talented folks to concept and create a wide range of content from full animation to live-action to mixed media and everything in between. It never gets old!

LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?

Kirsten> Welp, for starters, we're not delivering on tape anymore. Ha! But seriously, production has changed immensely in the past few years alone. In the new age of Work From Home, with many teams being fully remote, it's easy for folks to feel isolated and disconnected. I've found it's essential now more than ever to communicate and check in with your team. As producers, we're team builders and cheerleaders - using that superpower to boost morale and provide support has never been more rewarding.

LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?

Kirsten> Being a clear and efficient communicator. A problem solver capable of remaining flexible, offering solutions, and thinking outside the box. Having a positive attitude; caring goes a long way and is just as important to the internal team as it is to the clients and campaign. Perhaps most important, producers are a fierce protector of creative and creative teams. They can absorb stress, relay feedback, and remove the negative so creative teams can focus and do what they do best. They also know when to throw up a flag with enough time to redirect and get additional help. 

While these traits may come naturally to some, they are all learnable things you pick up with experience.

LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

Kirsten> I’ve had the pleasure of working on a ton of amazing projects over my career, one of my favourites is Acura TLX produced at Scholar. 

It was the first commercial to be shot vertically as a truly social-first campaign, a beast in the best possible way. We filmed over nine x days on location and stage, and combined captured content with archival footage, design, 2D and CG animation, and VFX. The result is a dynamic mixed media masterpiece that yielded over 2,500 individual 9x16 videos. While the execution required a ton of problem solving and organisation, it was one of those rare jobs that are creatively open – make cool $h!t and the best idea wins.

LBB> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Kirsten> Scholar produced a campaign in early 2021 with Doremus for Akamai Technologies. The product was tech-heavy, and the creative was conceived to match. The shoot required stylised lighting, practical weather FX, and high-speed photography that would be elevated in post-production using tracked in FX to represent code and data. However, travel was restricted due to elevated covid cases and limited vaccines, so everyone, including the Director, was remote for the three-day shoot. At the time, this was the most complicated production we'd run remotely offshore and couldn't have done it without our partners in Colombia, Vagabond. Ultimately, everything came together beautifully thanks to a collective trust in the process and fantastic partnerships. 

It’s also exciting when we get to produce content for great causes. Scholar just finished a lovely mixed media piece for a non-profit called Bloom Foundation. They have a fantastic program that supports young girls going through bullying and addresses the rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide among teenage girls; the anthem video is a vital tool for them to raise awareness.

LBB>Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?

Kirsten> No comment, this would breach at least one NDA ;)

LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?

Kirsten> To continue to provide mentorship and a safe and open space that promotes acceptance, understanding, and growth. My door Zoom is always open.

LBB> As a producer your brain must have a neverending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Kirsten> Ha! The truth is I don't. I love a good "to do" list and find organisation calming. Seriously, I reorganise my closet to relax. 

I enjoy getting outdoors, my husband and I are hiking our way through the National Parks. I'm also part of a pasta-making group called ‘The Pastatutes.’ 

LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Kirsten> Surround yourself with good people. There are no dumb questions. Embrace your mistakes; they'll make you stronger.

LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?

Kirsten> Communication, Trust, and Teamwork. 

LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?

Kirsten> Communication, Trust, and Flexibility. 

LBB> One specifically for EPs: Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?

Kirsten> It took a minute to navigate this shift. I've found that I'm still hands on, just in a different way. I work with a brilliant team of producers at varying stages in their careers; some need more guidance from me than others. I also trust that everyone understands the job at hand; I never did well when micromanaged and I try to remember that when working with my team.

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Scholar, Wed, 24 Aug 2022 08:06:02 GMT