Katy Henthorne is a producer, entrepreneur, and visionary. She attended SUNY Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) to study mass communication and speech and was launched to Emerson College in Boston, where she completed her undergraduate education with a bachelor’s degree in science. Henthorne is the co-owner of Crew Company, a crew coordination company for production studios.
Henthorne began her television career in Hollywood producing shows like Hard Copy, The Leeza Show, and Marilyn Keagan before returning to field production to work with several documentary-style programs for the Discovery Channel, TLC and other syndicated productions. Her unique perspective as a producer–somebody who must organize and coordinate resources in order to achieve the final product–has driven her company excellence in the market under her expertise.
As Henthorne highlights in her interview, higher education is sometimes just as much about the experience within the college community as it is education itself.
Describe your path from FLCC to founding your own company. What do you find most rewarding about your career?
Between the work experience at FLCC, internships, awards and my GPA, I not only was accepted to Emerson College, but was given a scholarship. After just two years at Emerson, I earned a degree in mass communication with a minor in speech. I was accepted into Emerson’s Los Angeles Program for my final semester. While there, I held three internships (Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures and a talent agency) and took 16 credit hours of classes. I landed my first job on a sitcom (“The Mommies”) at Paramount and started the week I graduated. For the next four years, I worked on several different shows including Hard Copy (SYNDICATED), The Leeza Show (NBC), How’d They Do That? (TLC), Paranormal Borderline (FOX), Amazing Tails (Animal Planet) and a Disney test pilot show. I was a production assistant, story coordinator, a writer and a producer.
In 1997, while still living and working in LA, my husband and I founded a company that pulled together my experience as a producer and my husband’s experience as a production manager. Our company is called The Crew Company, a boutique booking agency that connects production companies with the field crews all over the world. We have worked on everything from American Idol to Dr. Phil and award shows like Kids’ Choice Awards to The Grammy Awards. We do behind the scenes for all motion picture studios for their DVD releases; and we also work with top corporations like Yahoo! and Merck Pharmaceuticals. Sometimes I look at our long list of shows and clients and I pinch myself… I mean, I am this small town girl from Waterloo, New York and look at what I get to do every day! Sure, part of my job is putting out “fires” (this is a very intense industry filled with all kinds of personalities). Not every day is one I want repeated. But owning our own business, working together and being able to choose who we want to work with is its own reward. We have had some amazing opportunities because of our business – meeting an impressive list of talent and being on some really amazing sets. It never gets old to me, I love the energy of this industry and I love the friendships I have made along the way.
We moved to Phoenix in 1999, a year after our oldest daughter was born. We can literally run this business from anywhere, and we felt Phoenix would be a better place to raise our family-yet we would still be close enough to LA for business trips. Even still, our two daughters have practically grown up in Los Angeles and are very comfortable on any set and around talent (celebs). They especially love exploring the Paramount Pictures backlot (their “playground” as we call it) — which holds a special place in my heart, since that is where my husband and I met. How many kids do you know WANT their parent to go on a business trip? We are a family business…and those girls have gone on every business trip we have ever had. It shouldn’t surprise me that our oldest daughter wants to go into the industry for her career.
Who was your favorite faculty member, or what was your favorite class at SUNY FLCC and why?
There were so many wonderful faculty and staff members while I was at FLCC, but the one person who stands out the most was Professor Ruth Legg, the mass communications/ theatre department head. When I first started in the entertainment industry in the early 1990s, it was a field dominated by men, we certainly didn’t have female role models like we have now. She gave me the self-confidence to know that I could hold my own and be successful with anything I wanted to do with my career. She encouraged me to try things I was afraid of. She helped me get a job working in the AV/media department at the school, where I learned so many skills I actually wouldn’t have otherwise (editing and shooting video). The staff in that department were also very influential in my life – even wrote letters of recommendation for me to continue my education at Emerson College in Boston. The bottom line – I truly feel that Professor Legg believed in me. She told me once, “I don’t need to worry about you…you are going to do very well.” I hope she knew that she was right.
What is your favorite memory of your time spent at SUNY FLCC?
I felt as if I was growing up while at FLCC — I was away from my high school friends, away from home (but still close), having new experiences with down-to-earth people from all ages and different walks of life. I remember sitting in Psychology 101 one day, and I was looking around the room at all the different people in the same class room. There were students who got their GED and wanted to advance their education; there were students new to the workforce; there were young mothers who wanted to make a better life for their children; there were professionals who wanted to earn a degree after so many years being away from school; and then there was my age group – those of us just starting out on a traditional path. Here we were, all in this same class, sharing all of our different experiences with each other-because no matter how old we were, or how we got to this same point in our lives, we all had a common goal – to become better at something. Even after I went on to a four-year school and then in all of my years in my career, I have never had that feeling or experience again.
How did your time at SUNY FLCC prepare you for your career?
This industry takes a lot of confidence and perseverance – you will get knocked down… and of course I didn’t know or understand that while I was in college, but I was given enough support and belief in my own abilities starting at FLCC to be able to endure the punches this business can bring.
What advice would you give to current students?
My advice is simple: Never turn down an opportunity that is put in front of you. It was put there for a reason. Sometimes, you just need to go with it and amazing things just might happen for you.
This is adapted from Alumni Update: Hometown to Hollywood.