Kathleen is CEO and Lead Editor at Jynx Productions, the company she co-founded in 2005 with her partner in life, Johannes Wiebus. Jynx Productions provides documentary-style content to an international array of broadcasters, ad agencies, and corporate clients. Every project they undertake harbors that little special something, that golden sliver hiding somewhere within. Kathleen uncovers, polishes, and makes every project stand out.
Jynx Productions is based in Maine. She and Johannes fell in love with the Portland area on weekend trips from New York. It seemed like a great place for a fresh start, and a wonderland for raising their kids. So they just went for it, and never looked back.
Kathleen has looked to role models more than mentors: Alice Guy Blaché, Coco Chanel, Gloria Steinem, Christiane Ammanpour, P!nk. These and so many other women inspire her to step out of the shadows and have faith that if she keeps her goals in sight and moves toward them, bit by bit every day, she will eventually achieve at least a few of them! Photos in this newsletter provide some behind the scenes with Jynx Productions.
How did you get started?
After studying Film at NYU, I knew I wanted to become a documentary filmmaker. I began my career as a freelance editor for ABC News and various production companies in New York before accepting a staff editor position at Bloomberg Television in London. There, I worked my way up from editor to post supervisor. In 2000, I began running the post department globally for Bloomberg, and moved back to New York. While climbing the corporate ladder in my early 30s was exciting, I started to miss the creative aspects of filmmaking, and was longing to make a change. So, in 2005, after really not very much deliberation, my husband and I both left our corporate jobs to start our own production company. We had some good contacts with European networks who were looking for American content, so we just thought, “Let’s give this a shot!”
What do you love about the work that you do?
I love the entire process of filmmaking, but most of all it’s about the storytelling. I love hunting for interesting subject matter, introducing an audience to people and ideas they may never have heard of before. I am also passionate about editing. I enjoy its evolutionary process. There is something very cathartic about corralling hours of footage, sifting out the muck, and arranging the best selects into a coherent, interesting, watchable story. I find the collaboration with the production department deeply satisfying. That collaborative effort sometimes illuminates a juxtaposition of previously disparate elements, and suddenly BOOM! magic happens in the edit room.
More and more, I find that I love running a small company. I enjoy the business end: forecasting, development, improving workflow, designing systems, and mentoring. At the same time, I also enjoy creating our brand story. Implementing my creative vision is remarkably rewarding.
What is something interesting you are working on now?
My favorite project this year is a 60-minute documentary we are producing called “Forever Young – The Quest for Eternal Life”. It’s a project that took us all over the world, from the West coast of Canada to the jungles of Colombia and into ancient Japanese villages. The doc looks both at age-old and very futuristic ways people are trying to extend their lives as long as possible, and the reasons behind their decisions. It is filled with larger-than-life characters and shot beautifully in gorgeous locations. It was truly a joy to edit.
What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
Much of my early experience unfolded as we’ve heard all too often, growing louder now with the #metoo voices. I experienced the same clichés as so many others, the usual story of casting couches and men in power cornering me in dark rooms. I experienced hostility from many other women who were also fighting to climb that ladder, trying to be taken seriously by the men in the room. Luckily, I said yes to the opportunity of working at Bloomberg LP in the early days at the London office. At that time, the spirit of a startup permeated the corporate culture and in that environment, there were no limits. Under the empowering leadership of Katherine Oliver, I was able to achieve so much. Katherine showed me that it was possible to maintain a position of strength in a male dominated industry.
What piece of wisdom would you like to pass on as advice to others who are beginning their careers?
My advice: Have the courage of your convictions. If you see your path ahead and it makes sense to you, go for it. There will be plenty of people, plenty of obstacles that will make you doubt your abilities or make you second guess yourself, but try not to add too much weight to those forces. Instead, listen to your own voice, and surround yourself with people who lift you up. They will help you define and reach your goals.
And, say YES to opportunities that come your way. You can figure out the ‘how’ as you go.
What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
I would like to see more women in the industry, of course, but I would really like to see more women holding decision making positions, positions of power. I would like to see women investing in the development of new productions, not only investing in women-led productions, but productions that are clearly trying to break away from the archaic paradigm of the male gaze. I would like to see women working to lift each other up, minimize the competitive nature of this business, and instead foster collaboration. More voices at the table will bring a plurality to the creative process, and new prisms through which to view and construct a fresh narrative.
What is in the future for Jynx Productions?
I have a loose vision of where I see Jynx in 10 years. My heart belongs in the documentary world. As an editor, I have always enjoyed putting chaos into order. I would like to continue to produce documentaries, with an eye to expanding our broadcast client base. Having said that, I also enjoy the commercial projects we take on. We are often working with non-production savvy teams who rely on our talents implicitly to conceptualize, pitch, produce, and deliver meaningful and watchable video content. It feels so rewarding when we hear how well the videos are received. One area that we haven’t fully explored at Jynx is scripted programming. But that may be changing. So let’s watch this space and see how that shapes the future for Jynx.