September FableFriday: Karen Bresnahan, Executive Producer


Here’s the thing about Karen Bresnahan, FableVision Studios’ executive producer: you can’t help but like her. Which is a good thing, since she’s integral to running a ship-shape crew of FableVisionaries.

Karen has been with FableVision since its inception and has watched the studio grow both in size and abilities.

“In the beginning we held the company together with love and paper clips, but now there is a solid business structure in place,” she said.

Her history with the company gives her an invaluable perspective on internal and external affairs – it’s her job to say, “That was fantastic. How can we do it better next time?”

As the head of our production team, she oversees all aspects of our projects from project manager to budget milestone to technical deliverable. As September’s FableFriday, we chatted with Karen about her passion for rock ‘n’ roll, work with NASA (seriously!), her packed daily schedule, and how her touch on every project is filled with craft and caring.

What makes FableVision unique?
FableVision truly follows our mission to bring the world to a better place in every sense – from the projects we take on, to the way employees are treated, to the office culture.

You were once a science teacher? Can you talk a bit about that time in your life? Why make the switch to communications?
I had just graduated from college with a bachelor’s in biology and a New York State teaching certificate. I lived in Buffalo at the time and got a job as an 8th grade science teacher.  Then three years later, when I moved to San Jose, California, I decided I had enough of being in front of kids in a classroom and wanted to be in front of adults doing the news on TV. So I started graduate studies in communication.

You once worked on video and film production, can you share a fun story from that experience?
I had a lot of fun in the early ’80s, producing a series of rock videos with local bands including The Joe Perry Project (no Aerosmith, no Steven Tyler).  We came up with all kinds of crazy scenes including inside an underground bunker in Winthrop, keying a band into a toy farm set, and choreographing a crowd dance through the streets of Salem. I had a different kind of fun in the early ’90s when I worked at a film company with a contract with NASA and got to shoot at just about every NASA facility in the country.

What is your journey to FableVision story?
I started in Boston media as a video production assistant (never got the TV news job), became a video producer, met Paul Reynolds [FableVision co-founder and CEO] through the ITVA organization, and went on to become an interactive producer. Then Paul hired me to work at CF Video with Gary Goldberger [FableVision co-founder and president] at the time when Peter H. Reynolds [FableVision founder] arrived with his ideas for FableVision. When the company was founded, I followed a freelance-to-full-time path across the hall, and never left.

What is your favorite project that you’ve served as producer on?
A series of educational programs for Carnegie Hall that included animated movies about the history of the hall, percussion, wind, brass, and string instruments, a website, and several interactive games. Traveling with the team to Carnegie Hall several times to see the audience interact with live performers and our media was a project highlight.

You’ve been part of hiring every producer currently on our team. Any words of wisdom for people interested in production or project management? What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Participate in as much production as you can in school or on your own, show what you’ve done, and have stories to tell.

I look for smart, proactive, kind, confident, and passionate.

From budgets to managing a team of producers, you have a lot on your plate, can you walk us through a typical day?
8:30 a.m. Get into the office, make tea, check email, and organize to-do list.
9:00 a.m. Answer many emails, including an email question from a client about a proposal we sent.
9:30 a.m. Meet with a producer to start a new project.
10:00 a.m. Complete a budget for a new game.
10:30 a.m. Start a budget for an animation project.
11:00 a.m. Write the scope section for a proposal including production assumptions, a timeline, and a cost breakdown.
11:30 a.m. Meet with a client who is in the studio for a project kickoff.
12:00 p.m. Brainstorm ideas for a website activity to present to a client.
12:30 p.m. Walk somewhere to get lunch and bring it back to my desk.
1:00 p.m. Review and offer feedback to a game design document.
1:30 p.m. Write a performance review for a team member.
2:00 p.m. Meet virtually with a user experience designer to determine if she is right to add to our project team.
2:30 p.m. Prioritize and juggle team members’ time on the weekly and long-term studio schedules.
3:00 p.m. Complete writing a statement of work for a new project.
3:30 p.m. Meet with producers about process improvement and to share best practices.
4:00 p.m. Call with a client about their next project.
4:30 p.m. Review and track current project budgets and follow up with FableVision producers where helpful.
4:55 p.m. Wash my teacup and water glass, walk to the train station.

How do you balance the creative with the budget?
Keep the budget in mind when suggesting creative and reviewing the approach, but remain open to great ideas that might mean juggling priorities.

Look at your desk at work and list five items from it. Then, take a sentence or two to describe what those items say about you.

  1. My 15” MacBook Pro Retina – I cannot work without it. Plus it contains the archival history of production at FableVision.
  2. At-A-Glance 2015 calendar book – This is probably my 18th iteration and even with Google and Apple Calendars, I plan my life with this book.
  3. Reading glasses – ‘Nuff said.
  4. A jar of local honey – Can’t have my tea without it.
  5. Two bobble head Red Sox dolls – gifts from co-workers who know how much I love and follow our team.

Favorites!

Month: June. I love summer and the longest day of the year.
Album: It’s too difficult for me to choose one. I have hundreds of albums, CDs, and digital downloads that are favorites. I listened to the radio at the start of rock ‘n’ roll music, and for me it was an immediate and lasting love.
Concert: The Bridges to Babylon TourRolling Stones – October, 1997 – 5th row – Foxboro, MA
Food: Popcorn
Hike: Crested Butte, Colorado around Lake Irwin
Vacation: A trip to Italy for my 50th birthday. Everything there was so much older than me.
TV shows:
A very long time ago = American Bandstand (from Philadelphia)
A while ago = Twin Peaks
Recently = Friday Night Lights
Now = Nashville

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