FableVision has never known a day without Karen Bresnahan, our much-admired executive producer for the last 20 years. As EP, Karen has touched and guided every one of the hundreds of projects that have come through our door, but more than that, she has touched the lives of every person lucky enough to have worked with her. Under her tutelage, our staff has grown, matured, and thrived.
“FableVisionaries,” as we have dubbed ourselves, are a creative, talented, passionate lot. We can get a bit messy and rowdy in the throes of production, mostly because we care so much about the work we are doing and the people we are doing it for. In every project, the creative vision, beautiful artwork, and slick technology needs to be balanced with the budget, schedule, and client’s vision. It’s a bit of a dance, a blend of reality and magic, and through it all, Karen has been the perfect dance partner.
“It’s been 20 years of laughter and learning, challenges and successes, creating and collaborating—such a rewarding place to come to every day,” shares Karen. “I turn 70 years old this month, and although I will miss FableVision, now seems like the right time to hand over the reins.”
And we are going to miss her; not just Karen the executive producer who always knows the right thing to do, even though it might not be the easy thing, but Karen the incredible, caring, funny, and loyal person who is so completely and eternally a part of the FableVision fabric.
Looking ahead, FableVision’s senior producer, Peter Stidwill, will take the reins as executive producer later this month. Peter was first introduced to us as one of FableVision’s clients, and then joined our staff in 2016. We are fortunate to have such a familiar face and brilliant mind taking on this crucial role
We’ll be forever grateful for the time Karen spent with us. Her delight in taking a summertime lunch-time stroll to James Hook for a lobster roll, her exhaustive knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll music, unabashed fandom for The Stones and Elvis, and dedication to her Red Sox are just a few of the fond memories she leaves with us. We share her excitement for the next phase of her journey. Read on in this special-edition FableFriday to hear Karen look back on her last two decades at our studio.
What’s your journey to FableVision story?
In March 1977, I started my media career as a production assistant at a Boston video studio. I was working as a freelance producer for Paul Reynolds at CF Video in 1996, when Peter Reynolds started FableVision in the same location. I produced some early FableVision projects, and joined the staff as the executive producer in 2000.
For over 40 years I have been a part of Boston’s media production community, a community filled with talented folks who helped make working enjoyable. I produced videos, films, interactive videodiscs, CD-ROMs, websites, games, apps, and exhibits, and loved every job I had. But the position that brought me the most joy is here at FableVision.
After over 20 years of being a FableVisionary, what has collaborative storytelling come to mean to you?
To me, collaborative storytelling is telling stories or integrating stories into media in a way that learners feel they are taking part or collaborating, and their experience is more meaningful.
How is FableVision unique in the world of media production studios?
FableVision is mission driven, creating stories that matter, stories that move. Peter Reynolds founded the company with this mission, and it’s still the driving force behind all we do. It’s unique and such a good feeling when your work is designed to help move the world to a better place.
In the 20 years since its inception, how has FableVision evolved? What elements have stayed the same?
So much has evolved over these 20 years. FableVision started with no programmers and now has an entire technology department. We started with a studio manager plus one freelance producer, and now have a six-person producer team. The art style on day one was only Peter’s and now we have multiple visual styles to offer. The staff expanded. We moved to Boston. But just as many things have remained the same like the focus on storytelling, team collaboration, emphasis on learning, company culture, and being part of a family.
Share a memorable learning moment from your experience working at FableVision.
This is going to sound trite, but I have learned something every day that I’ve been here.
What are some of your favorite studio traditions?
Music playing all day, valentines made by hand, the holiday book swap party, Kaizen days, homemade waffle breakfasts, team members’ art in the studio, FableFun days, and I even love taking part in our weekly staff meetings. A short-lived but special tradition was when Peter Reynolds drew illustrations on our paycheck envelopes.
As executive producer, what has been your most meaningful accomplishment? What are you proud of?
I’m aware I have my own style of leading and managing that involves a mix of honesty, trust, attitude, caring, and intuition. So most meaningful to me are the team members who have considered me a mentor, and are now leading with their own version of that style.
I’m most proud of the production processes and standards we have at FableVision. I started 20 years ago with a goal of setting up procedures for budgeting and scheduling, and with the help of great team members, we established best practices over the years and continue to improve the process.
How has the FableVision team shaped your path and shaped your growth as a creative professional?
The executive team always respected my ideas and allowed me to make final production decisions. I am so appreciative of Gary Goldberger, our president and executive creative. We each contribute our unique knowledge and vision, and the blending that results has led to a path of success. As a creative professional, I was allowed to grow by managing teams that include all types of personalities and skills, trying to bring out what’s best for FableVision from everyone.
Over the years, you have helped FableVision adopt technology to enhance learning. What were some key milestones and pivot points?
Probably the key milestone was when we hired Brian Grossman as technical director. Prior to that, I managed the developers as part of our project teams. Brian on our team equaled adopting technology.
When we first started creating interactive programs, content was presented via video or text, and activities or games were designed so users could practice or be tested on that content. All that changed when we collaborated to produce the Lure of the Labyrinth game with Maryland Public Television and the MIT Education Arcade. It was designed so users explored content through story-based gameplay with the goal of learning. That was one of the studio’s first forays into game-based learning, now a key product and service at FableVision.
What are three common characteristics in a FableVisionary?
Creative. Dedicated. Kind.
Peter Stidwill will be taking over the reins at FableVision as executive producer. What has your experience been like working together?
Oh wow. Working with Peter has been a highlight. I am sorry that my time working with him was so short, and he is a big reason I leave feeling so positive about the future of FableVision.
What are you most looking forward to about retirement?
Sleeping in, drinking my morning tea at home while looking out at the river, going to yoga classes, spending time with my family and friends, and eventually discovering what I want to do for my next life adventure.
You’re FableVision’s rock star. You know we can’t let you go without having you contribute to our creativity playlist. Share your top five picks for songs we should play to keep our productivity flowing.
Nope. Instead I’m sharing all my Spotify playlists with you, and I’ll keep updating them so you can listen to Karen Faves, Chuck Berry Covered, 60’s Deep Cuts, Random Faves, etc. I hope when you all miss me and want inspiration from the roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll, you’ll put one of my playlists on in the studio. And when I stop by for a visit, I’ll be listening.