Thursday, June 1, 2017

Interview: Meet Sue Kinkead, Project Runway Producer - Go Behind the Scenes Of this Hit TV Show Where "There Is No Typical Day"

e                                                                      Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry  #femalesinentertainment

   Sue Kinkead is working at her dream job. This Project Runway producer works in the fashion world, on the cutting edge of what's new, and also in television. For those of you looking for a career like this, read on to see how she went from sitting in front of a television set watching MTV to behind-the-scenes at the hottest fashion show of the millenium. And get a glimpse of what a day at Project Runway is really like. 

What was your career goal when you were in high school?

Sue Kinkead: I didn’t really have a specific career goal in high school, but i was obsessed with all things music (mtv at the time), pop culture and fashion. I knew that one day i would leave my small upstate New York town for bigger and better things.

 Do you love the world of fashion? Who are some of your favorite designers?

Producer Sue Kinkead and Tim Gunn
Sue Kinkead: Yes, I love fashion. Some of my favorite designers/fashion houses are Saint Laurent, Dior, Balenciaga, Alexander Mcqueen, Chloe, Alexander Wang, Balmain, Valentino, Chanel, Elie Saab, Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford, Haider Ackerman, Zuhair Murad, and of course our very own Christian Siriano and Michael Costello.

  Please tell me your path. How did you get to be a producer on Project Runway?

Sue Kinkead: I started my career as an intern at vh1, logging behind the music episodes. A producer called on me to participate in a pilot presentation, where i met an executive producer who hired me for my first production assistant job on “Late world with Zach,” which was a late night talk show hosted by Zach Galifianakis long before his “Hangover” fame. I worked my butt off for pennies (as most pa’s do), but i loved it and knew that TV production was what i wanted to pursue. I met people/producers on that show who then took me onto other shows. 

Through that networking, many years and many shows later, I met someone who got me an interview with Project Runway… i landed a job as segment producer in 2010, on season 8, and I’ve been with the show ever since. We are now on season 16, and I am a supervising producer. Among other responsibilities, I oversee the challenge department. We are responsible for the conception and the execution of the creative aspects (challenges) of the show. In my experience, the TV production business is all about willingness to work very hard, a “can-do” attitude, and the ability to connect with colleagues.

 How hectic is a day on the set? Can you tell me what you do during a typical day during production?

Sue Kinkead: There isn’t really a “typical day” on set in TV production, that’s why I love it. I can tell you a typical day on the set of project runway is as follows: on a challenge intro day, my call time to set is usually around 5am-7am. Our “set” for the day can be anywhere, we’ve introduced challenges all over New York City and the surrounding areas, California, Universal studios, Europe etc. I meet with my challenge producer who is overseeing the episode, and make sure all is going as planned during set up. If it’s not, we problem solve to make sure we get back on track. We shoot the challenge intro, which involves one or more of our hosts and a guest telling the designers about the challenge. Then we shoot the designers sketching their looks, and fabric shopping at mood. Then it's back to the workroom, where we shoot the designers creating their looks.

The producer's job is to coordinate and oversee all aspects of The Challenge, which
Sue Kinkead at the Season Launch
includes finding, scouting and managing locations in conjunction with our production.  We also oversee everything that is needed to execute The Challenge, which involves coordination several departments within the show (art, audio, directors, cast etc.) To ensure that everyone is on the same page and the shoot day is efficient and successful. I am often the conduit between the challenge team and our executives, making sure both have the information needed from the other.

Typically, the next day is our runway day, which we shoot in our studio. We shoot the designers frantically getting their models ready in the workroom, and then showing their looks on the runway. Runway days can be hectic, but I have such a seasoned and talented team, that the day usually runs smoothly and we are all excited to see the looks walk the runway. It is truly inspiring to see what our designers can create in just one day.

What are some of the challenges of putting together a show like this, or any reality show in general?

Sue Kinkead: To create any show, a producer must be a problem solver. Most of the time, the business is not glamorous; it’s very hard work and very long hours. We deal with challenges ranging from budgetary and scheduling restraints to difficult locations to exhaustion. Talented producers are a rare breed of people who never take “no” for an answer, and who don’t stop until the job is done, and done well.

 Can you share with me any memorable moment, memorable design, or memorable designer on the show? It can be a sad, bad, exciting or funny story.

Sue Kinkead: Being nominated for my first Emmy in 2015 was the most memorable and monumental moment for me.

 What career advice can you give to a young male or female that wants to end up in the job you have? Are there any special courses or training you would suggest?

Sue Kinkead: Get an internship and network. Also, make sure to have a positive attitude. You will probably start out literally getting lunch and coffee, or running all around a city to find the most obscure item… these things may seem menial, but i promise you… the way you do them is absolutely noticed. Do it well and do it with a smile. In this business, hard working people can be offered an amazing opportunity in an instant.

Do you have a mantra you live by? 

Whatever you’re doing, do it well. Give it your all.

 Can you tell me about any mistake, or bad choice you took along the way, or that someone else took, that helped you learn any valuable life or career lesson?

Sue Kinkead: I have seen people start off strong then get lazy and arrogant (a terrible combo). Having a bad attitude is detrimental. Keep positive and keep moving forward. Constantly complaining or “throwing someone under the bus” will get you nowhere. With any business, or life in general, i believe if you act respectfully, you will be respected and if you treat people with kindness, no matter what their position, you will be treated kindly.

 Are there any projects you are working on that you would like to talk about? Is there anything new or exciting or any changes coming to PR that you can share also?

Sue Kinkead: Gearing up for a new season of Project Runway is always exciting. We are currently about to start production on season 16 and i can’t wait to meet the new batch of talented designers. Each season we try to out do ourselves with the creativity of the challenges, and this season we have some really exciting ones on tap.

For me, working on Project Runway is very fulfilling because i am helping artists show their talents to the world. Sure, there is always some drama that unfolds throughout the season, mostly because artists are often eccentric and passionate people, but at its core, Project Runway aims to showcase the designers’ talent. The show provides our audience a glimpse into the intriguing, and often closed off, world of fashion design. After 12 seasons (with franchises), working with a lot of the same people, we are like a family. I am very lucky to be part of a show that i not only enjoy working on, but that i am extremely proud of.

Photos from Facebook, Project Runway.

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