Viewpoint: Cream’s Kate Harrison Karman on finding silver linings amid the clouds of crisis

As the landscape of ‘business as usual’ drastically changed over the last month with no defined end in sight, how do we look for the silver linings? Are there any? ...
April 14, 2020

As the landscape of ‘business as usual’ drastically changed over the last month with no defined end in sight, how do we look for the silver linings? Are there any? These are questions that all of us have asked ourselves, our children, our parents, friends and co-workers. And for me, the answer is yes.

Company culture is one of the primary building blocks of a successful business and my partner David [Brady] and I have worked to prioritize this well before the COVID-19 crisis hit. It’s always been tough to quantify, but its importance should never be underestimated. And now that we are face to face with this new normal, I have never been more grateful for it.

In households where we’re jockeying for workspace, worrying about our parents, navigating teenage bickering, and trying to understand grade nine math all between never-ending conference calls, we all need to look for the silver linings and of course keep our sense of humor.

What can we learn from this ‘new normal’?

Our staff is a family.

Now that our days are filled with Zoom calls and FaceTime, I surprisingly feel more connected to our staff than ever. At the office, there is always something distracting us – a phone ringing, someone waiting at the door for signatures – but now, with regularly scheduled check-in calls, I feel we truly have each other’s undivided attention. We’ve somehow been given a small window into each other’s home life and that brings us closer together as a team. And, their full support to step and help us weather this storm without complaint is inspiring.

Our clients are on our team.

We may be worried about what’s happening in our shop, but we need to remember our clients are reeling too. Their programming schedules have imploded, and they’re dealing with a ton of producers who are struggling to figure out how to stay on track, all the while trying to manage this from their dining room tables. They want us to succeed, and I’m so impressed with their support and transparency.

Our suppliers want to help.

Cream has been lucky enough to have some of the greatest supplier relationships out there. Our post houses worked tirelessly to make sure they could work remotely to get our shows delivered, which has managed to keep our schedules on track without a hitch. Our insurance and finance partners have all picked up the phone to ask what they can do to support us. Without this type of cooperation and foresight, everything would have been more difficult.

Our competitors are our friends.

I’ve had tons of ‘check-in’ emails and phone calls, which reminds me that we’re not alone. All of us are wrestling with the same questions. Do we pivot to COVID-conscious programming? Do we stay the course and ramp up development? There is no easy answer, but we can help each other if we share ideas and communicate. Maybe someone has a way to shoot local interviews that we haven’t cracked yet? Perhaps someone has an available editor who is set up at home or a post-house relationship that can help get a show delivered on time. It is in our mutual benefit to help each other keep the wheels on the bus. So, whether it’s at Realscreen Summit, Banff, MIP or the Science Congress, I’m looking forward to raising a glass with all of you after all this to say thanks for sticking with it.

As we march forward over the next few months waiting for governments and health professionals to let us know what’s next, I think we all need to remind ourselves that we’re playing the long game. As producers and entrepreneurs, nothing is ever easy and the landscape is forever changing. Things have never been tougher for us than they are right now… but we are a global community of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and employers, and we have a responsibility to be leaders. So, reach out to thank those who are supporting you and if you’re having a tough time, reach out and ask for help. We will get through this together.

Kate Harrison Karman is president of Toronto-headquartered Cream Productions. Founded in 2003, and led by Harrison Karman and CEO David Brady, the company’s many credits include BTK: A Killer Among Us (ID), Fear Thy Neighbor (ID), Paranormal Emergency (Travel), Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan (Animal Planet), Survivorman (OLN/City TV), Blood and Fury: America’s Civil War (American Heroes) as well as the upcoming Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan (Netflix) and The Story of Late Night (CNN), among dozens more.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.