Meet Your Makers: Why communication, trust and teamwork are so important to Kristen Noll | Panda Anku

Kirsten Noll is a Los Angeles-based Executive Producer. With a decade of diverse experience, she has a passion for design-driven and multidisciplinary narratives. She holds degrees in Motion Media Design and Animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has a strong technical understanding of both creative and client needs. Her diverse background in live action, design/animation and VFX has given her proficiency in all phases of production. An effective communicator and passionate problem solver, she strives to consistently create high levels of satisfaction by building new and long-term client relationships. As the media landscape continues to change, Kirsten seeks to provide guidance in the production process while growing and developing the Scholar brand.

LBB> What first attracted you to production – and was it an industry you have always worked in, or did you come from another area?

Kristen> I was drawn to production during my motion design internship at Digital Kitchen. I had just graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Motion Media Design and Animation. The role was my first taste of working in a creative agency and the first time I realized that production exists outside of the realm of film and television.

Looking back, my other experiences, while technically coming from the artist side, all had their roots in production. Previously, I had internships in post-production at Nicktoons and with the producers of The Animation Show. Driving these choices and opportunities was a deep-rooted love of animation – something I still have today!

LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how has that experience influenced your approach to production and your career?

Kristen: Going into production with my first paid role. I knew I didn’t want to be a motion designer, but had used my internship to learn how a studio works and meet people from other departments. I started as a studio manager before being promoted to production coordinator. The coordinator’s role was in live-action production, something I didn’t know about at the time. I fell in love with the production hard and fast and have never looked back!

This experience changed my career 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 also taught me to think production holistically. This mix of experiences contributed to my understanding of the ins and outs of production, made me a bit of a Swiss army knife and fueled my passion for continuous learning and personal development.

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Kristen: A combination of asking a trillion questions, being thrown in at the deep end, and making mistakes! I was fortunate to start under the tutelage of several amazing women who are powerhouses in their own right and continue to kick ass in production today. Thanks to their mentorship, trust, empowerment and patience, I have learned how to gracefully meet the unique challenges that each production presents.

LBB> Looking back at the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production that really cost you a fortune and really helped you grow as a producer?

Kristen> I produced a campaign that required a mix of live action, CG animation and 360 degree technology. Despite a unique set of parameters, our team dug into the concept and created a production plan to execute the creative. Things got complicated when communicating with another producer at work. We just didn’t agree. I could tell that our relationship had a negative impact on the production. So I asked to be removed. Although it was difficult at the moment, this decision taught me some 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?

Kristen: Despite the previously mentioned Swiss Army Knife approach to production, I have to disagree. A good illustrator is not expected to animate, and a good cinematographer is not expected to implement the lighting plan for a shoot. But like these areas, production is a craft, a set of skills honed over time and through experience.

LBB> What do you like most about the production and why?

Kristen> I love the variety. Any given project consists of a mixed combination of decisions. This is what makes our work in creative production so diverse and colorful, and the same choices give us the opportunity to shape our industry in the same way.

I get to work with some seriously talented people to conceive 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?

Kristen: Welp, for starters we don’t deliver on tape anymore. Ha! But seriously, the production has changed a lot in just the last few years. In the new age of work-from-home, with many teams working entirely remotely, employees can easily feel isolated and disconnected. I’ve found that now more than ever it’s important to communicate and get in touch with your team. As producers, we’re team builders and cheerleaders – harnessing this 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 is innate or something that can be learned?

Kristen> To be a clear and efficient communicator. A problem solver who remains flexible, offers solutions and thinks outside the box. Have a positive attitude; Caring goes a long way and is just as important to the internal team as it is to the customers and the campaign. Perhaps most importantly, producers are fierce protectors of creatives and creative teams. They can absorb stress, relay feedback, and eliminate negatives so creative teams can focus and do what they do best. They also know when to throw a flag, with enough time to redirect and get extra help.

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

LBB> What production project are you most proud of in your career and why?

Kristen> I’ve had the pleasure of working on a lot of amazing projects over the course of my career, one of my favorites being the Acura TLX produced at Scholar.

It was the first commercial shot vertically as a true social-first campaign, a beast in the best possible way. We shot on location and on stage for nine days, combining the recorded content with archive footage, design, 2D and CG animation and VFX. The result is a dynamic mixed media masterpiece that has yielded over 2,500 individual 9×16 videos. While execution required a lot of problem solving and organization, it was one of those rare jobs that are creatively open – make cool $h!t and the best idea wins.

LBB> And in relation to recent work, which projects did you find particularly exciting or presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Kristen> Scholar produced a campaign with Doremus for Akamai Technologies in early 2021. The product was tech-heavy and the creative matched that. The shoot required stylized lighting, practical weather effects, and high-speed photography, which would be enhanced in post-production with tracked effects to represent code and data. However, travel was restricted due to increased Covid cases and limited vaccines, so everyone, including the director, was away for the three days of filming. At the time this was the most complicated production we have undertaken remotely offshore and this would not have been possible without our partner in Colombia, Vagabond. It all worked out beautifully in the end thanks to the collective trust in the process and fantastic partnerships.

It’s also exciting when we produce content for a good cause. Scholar just completed a beautiful mixed media piece for a non-profit organization called the Bloom Foundation. They have a fantastic program that supports young girls who are going through bullying and addresses the rise in anxiety, depression and suicide among teenage girls. The anthem video is an important tool for them to raise awareness.

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

Kristen> No comment, that would violate at least one non-disclosure agreement 😉

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

Kristen> To continue to provide mentoring and a safe and open space that encourages acceptance, understanding and growth. my door Zoom is always open.

LBB> As a producer, your brain must have a never-ending to-do list. how do you switch off What do you do to relax?

Kristen> Ha! The truth is I don’t. I love a good to-do list and find organization calming. Seriously, I’m rearranging my closet to relax.

I like being outside, my husband and I hike through the national parks. I’m also part of a pasta group called The Pastatutes.

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

Kristen: Surround yourself with good people. There are no dumb questions. Accept your mistakes; They will make you stronger.

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

Kristen> Communication, trust and teamwork.

LBB> What is the key to a successful production-customer relationship?

Kristen> Communication, trust and flexibility.

LBB> One especially for EPs: Of course producers get involved – they have to be. How do you balance that in the more executive role of an EP?

Kristen: 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 different stages of their careers; some need more guidance from me than others. I also trust that everyone understands the task at hand; I’ve never been good at micromanaging, and I try to remember that when I’m working with my team.

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