Studio Operations and Administration

My friend Jack Kindberg didn't start out with the goal of running a major motion picture studio; nor is it a part of the business one would traditionally go to film school to pursue. Jack just fell into it, and for the past several years, he's been President of Studio Operations and Administration for Sony Pictures Entertainment. He's been managing film lots for several years now—first the smaller Culver Studios, then both Sony and Culver and now just Sony. He's good at it and enjoys what he does. So what exactly does he do?

Overseeing approximately 20 different departments that employ somewhere around 250 people, he keeps the studio running efficiently while seeing to the needs of and providing many of the following services to the personnel and productions housed on the lot: stages, offices, screening rooms, equipment, set construction, set dressing and props, set construction, wardrobe, transportation, medical services, food services, an athletic club, a paint shop, etc. In addition to the 250 or so full-time employees, 75 more are brought in as needed, and some departments, such as security and food services, are outsourced. Jack's team advertises and rents studio facilities to outside productions; they work closely with the community; provide studio tours; host special events; continually implement upgrades to stages, equipment and services and coordinate with the various studio divisions and groups to make sure everyone has what they need to operate.

All studios are different based on their size and whether or not they're a union lot. When Jack was managing Culver Studios (a much smaller lot), instead of 20 or so departments, they had eight. Instead of a mailroom that employs 30 people, the Culver mailroom employed one person to do the sorting, and someone from each department or production would stop by each day to pick up their own mail. Instead of the 250 vehicles the Sony Transportation Department houses, the Culver lot kept five vehicles. And instead of a permanent studio staff of 250, Culver had around 80. Overall, full-time jobs that involve servicing the studio or producer clients are more secure than the highly sought-after creative or physical production studio positions, and most of these employees work a sensible eight hour-day. Salaries will also vary depending on whether it's a union lot (and whether employees are union members).

Many of the studio departments are operated by craft employees, such as sound technicians, grips, electricians, etc., who have chosen to work in permanent jobs rather than freelancing on a show-to-show basis. As for those who work directly in operations and administration with Jack, many started out in other studio capacities and worked their way up.

What makes Jack good at what he does? Besides being a terrific manager and team leader, he's extremely customer service-oriented, understands production needs, is adept at negotiating, eager to help his clients and responds quickly to their problems. He said his job is different every day, and he enjoys meeting new people and watching all the new shows come in. He prides himself on his people skills and on being as fair as possible. I asked him how he handles highly political situations, and he said he tries to get people to understand other perspectives. And his advice for everyone: "Don't take your work home with you at night." Because he deals with a wide range of people from top corporate executives to production personnel to PAs, he's astute, accessible and endeavors to meet everyone's needs while providing a safe, comfortable work environment for all.

This is rarely a facet of the business people clamor for, but more than anything, it's because they don't know much about it. It's challenging, extremely people-oriented and great for those who enjoy problem-solving. For those who are looking for more security within the industry, it's one of your safest bets.

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