“You need a very large room to cover the floors and the walls with all of the pieces so you can see and arrange it all,” jokes Kristin. “I have to do that in my mind. After that I just follow my instincts. It takes a tremendous amount of time to think about and consider what you have, what is most important, and where things should go. How do you get your point across in a way that the audience will understand and appreciate?”
Kristin explains that this film was different from others that she had produced because the content was so complex. WVIA brought in Susan Dentzer, a nationally recognized health policy correspondent for PBS Newshour, to write and narrate the piece. Kristin says she admired how Dentzer was able to take such complexity, choose what the story should highlight, and create a comprehensive storyline.
“You have one hour to tell the story and while you certainly learn basic storytelling techniques, you still have to absorb the content and really get to know the people you interview; and that takes time and consideration,” explains Kristin.
Originally a Studio Art major, Kristin took a break from school when the reality of making a living as an artist became painfully obvious in an industry that is not known for its financial opportunity.
“I didn’t really have a path,” she recalls. “It dawned on me that my original skills may not get me very far as an artist. I thought a lot about the opportunities filmmaking presented and it went beyond creating a visual piece, or a musical piece -It was like weaving a quilt. It was a way to tell a story using all those methods, and it presented a pathway for my passion.”
Having grown up in and around the WVIA Public Media studios where her dad, Bill Kelly, worked for thirty years, Kristin was no stranger to the film and television production process. She says she knew early on that the type of films she wanted to do fit within the PBS model. She switched schools and majors and graduated from Temple University in 2005 with a degree in Film and Media Arts.
“Growing up with PBS greatly influenced me. I became very respectful of the mission of PBS and WVIA,” relates Kristin.
That influence drew Kristin back to WVIA after graduation where she tried to break into the industry the same way most people do –volunteering and doing entry level freelance work over the summer. She was fortunate enough to be assigned as a Production Assistant for Expedition Susquehanna in 2006 and spent all summer carrying equipment. When the film went to the editing phase, Kristin applied for and earned, the position from the Executive Producer of the film, Tom Curra who is now President and CEO of WVIA Public Media.
“Expedition Susquehanna was my ‘big break’ into the industry,” notes Kristin. “It was my first shot at editing an long documentary. Tom gave me the opportunity to try and it worked out. “
After Expedition Susquehanna premiered and saw success, Kristin was given several other editing projects on a freelance basis, including Hearth and Harvest and the first season of Greenlife Pennsylvania, a series sponsored by DCNR that focuses on individuals who are making a difference in natural resource conservation. In 2012, Doran was given her first full film as producer, editor, writer and director of A Century of Service, a film about the Tobyhanna Army Depot centennial. She went on to do the same with the Emmy nominated Seeking the Greatest Good in 2013 and Innovation and Enterprise: The Story of Gentex Corporation the following year.
So many times, people find a passion for something and also find they are talented and skillful at it. Unfortunately, when it comes to the arts, that talent and passion doesn’t always translate to a secure living. For freelance filmmakers like Kristin, managing a steady schedule is difficult, if not impossible, because of the temporary nature of each project and the intensity of the workload while the film is in production. A freelancer not only needs to be ready and available for projects that can start as early as the next day, but they rarely have time to hold a second job while working on a film, leaving the agonizing decision to take a job they know they may have to quit, or risk long bouts of unemployment until the next project surfaces.
“When I come out at the end of a project, the question is always ‘what’s next? What am I going to do?’ You don’t want to leave a job when another film comes up, but you need work to survive. In the last four years I have had two stints of 3-4 months of unemployment and that hurts both financially and creatively,” she relates.
Kristen credits her husband with helping her through those periods of uncertainty.
“My husband is so supportive. “He picks me up if I ever lose faith in what I’m doing. He tends to remind me of why I do it,” says Kristin.
Why one does what they do typically has a lot to do with the fact that the intrinsic value they find in that activity outweighs the challenges associated with it. Kristin says she considers what she does not only an honor, but also a big responsibility. She strives to tell each story in a way that is informative and entertaining. “I approach all films the same way -what is the best way to tell the story and touch people. It all comes down to storytelling, the visuals we use and doing justice to the people in the film. I’m lucky enough to have a great team of support staff within WVIA to help me accomplish that.”
Reinventing American Healthcare is a good example of the weaving of personal narrative into a comprehensive whole that achieves that goal of informing and entertaining. “Healthcare is so very personal, but these people were letting us tell their story to depict the Geisinger story,” she says. “I try to find the real person and allow them to shine through the technical aspect of what we are asking them.”
Kristin hopes to continue making documentary films and evolving as a filmmaker. She says the mission and non-commercial aspects of WVIA allow for producer creativity and films that are different from those produced in commercial venues.
“I really love the content” Kristin says about PBS. “Its different than other things you see on television and I’ve always recognized that. There are so many styles out there and what PBS and I do stand apart from everything else.”
“I want to keep telling people’s stories and hopefully using that opportunity to make other people think good things about the world. I’ll always consider it to be worthwhile. It’s a big responsibility and I respect that,” concludes Kristin.
Reinventing American Healthcare can be seen on WVIA Public Media on demand page at www.wvia.org.