2016 JLLB LUNAFEST® Women in Entertainment Q & A Interview Series: Karen Foster Interviewed by Ashley Hopkins
In honor of our upcoming April 10th LUNAFEST event, a film festival highlighting women filmmakers, the Junior League of Long Beach (JLLB) has created the LUNAFEST Women in Entertainment Q & A Interview Series. It will feature interviews pairing JLLB members making a difference in the Long Beach community with women making a difference in the industry.
For our first interview, JLLB member and LUNAFEST Event Chair Ashley Hopkins (for the second year) will be interviewing Karen Foster, a producer at DreamWorks Animation and her husband’s aunt.
Ashley is in her third active year in the league. She joined JLLB to serve her community in a meaningful way alongside other passionate, community-minded women. Outside of the league, she works as an executive assistant at a financial services firm.
Karen Foster is a DreamWorks Animation producer who works on animated features, theme park rides, and live entertainment. She has over 16 years of experience in feature animation production and development. She started her career in theater, both as a behind-the-scenes person and an actress.
Ashley Hopkins (AH): What was your first job in the entertainment industry?
Karen Foster (KF): My first job in animation was as a development executive at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I had been working at a nonprofit theater that supported the development of new plays and the careers of the playwrights who wrote them. It was a fabulous organization, but funded by octogenarians. I knew that the theater’s lifespan was only as long as the funders’ lifespans, so I started fishing around for work. I told my friends that I needed a new profession, but didn’t know what it was. I hoped they would tell me. Sure enough, a few months later, a friend recommended the position at Disney. After five months of interviewing, I got the job.
AH: What does your typical day look like?
KF: The nice thing about my job is there is no typical day. But in general, my days include a series of meetings with either artists and directors, or production people and executives. I am either reviewing scripts, recording actors, sitting in the edit bay reviewing footage and artist’s work, or sitting with production managers, accountants and production executives reviewing schedules, production strategies and budgets. If I am working on a theme park installation, I’m on site. But mostly I am at the studio where most of our animation is produced.
AH: What are three key aspects of your job (e.g., producing, developing relationships), and what kind of qualities will help you succeed in those areas?
KF: All of the aspects of my job are producing, but three key aspects are creative review, budgeting and personnel management. Keys to being successful in those areas are imagination, resourcefulness, patience and empathy.
AH: What is your favorite part of the job?
KF: I have lots of favorite parts. I work with amazing people, who are both talented and fun. I am challenged on a daily basis in many ways. I am always growing, using my natural creative skills and gaining new skills that are less natural for me. I feel incredibly lucky to have found such a demanding and rewarding profession.
AH: Who or what inspires you creatively?
KF: I get a lot of inspiration from my colleagues. But the challenge of any given task is also inspiring, especially when it really is challenging. What is more exciting than creatively tackling the impossible and succeeding?
AH: What advice would you give to women who want to work in the industry or do what you do?
KF: I have been fortunate to work at a company with many women in leadership roles. As a result, I may have had less barriers to success than women elsewhere. So, I am grateful for that.
The advice I would give women is the same advice I would give anyone seeking work in the industry: follow your passion. Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your dream. Don’t listen to people who tell you how hard it is. Sure, it may be hard, but some people break through. The only people who make it into the industry are the people who try to make it in the industry. That is the first step. After that, I would recommend relentless effort. Make calls, ask for informational interviews, do your own projects.
The industry is rapidly changing. The methods of delivering entertainment are radically different than when I was growing up. The DVD market is dying and young men aren’t driving movie ticket sales anymore, they are playing video games. Young people looking to break into the industry should study the entertainment habits and appetites of their peers. That is the future market. Figure out the market and how to satisfy that market, and you will have a leg up on the people keeping their eyes on the past.
Find out more about Karen Foster below.
http://www.dubaiparksandresorts.com (Dubai Parks has a DreamWorks section in their Motiongate Park)
This interview was edited by Rachael Rifkin, a Public Relations member of the Junior League of Long Beach. She has been in the league since January of 2012 because she believes in positive community programs. When she’s not doing JLLB activities, she’s a ghostwriter/personal historian who blogs about the traits we inherit and the qualities we find only in ourselves.