32 Under 32: Kirsten Harkonen

By Egotist / /

Ok, we’re on the last week of 32 Under 32 interviews and we’ve got some good ones for you. Here’s our chat with Kirsten Harkonen, producer at John McNeil Studio over in Berkeley. Check it out and then don’t miss the final few interviews this week.

Congrats on being chosen as one of the top 32 advertising and marketing professionals under 32. We selected people who really go above and beyond in their work. How do you think you approach your job differently than other people?

I stay calm and positive. Production is fast-paced and can be stressful. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos on set, but I constantly remind myself to take deep breaths and roll with the punches. It’s important to remember that I’m here because I love to create beautiful work and I enjoy the crazy process. I also am a photographer, and I think my ability to understand what it takes to get the right shot enables me to be a stronger producer.

What kind of accounts/projects are you working on these days?

I am producing TV commercials for CA Technologies that will air during the election coverage this fall. The scripts present new production challenges for me, and I’m excited to see how they turn out. I also recently produced a spot for a Cisco product launch and a DocuSign anthem video.

What is it about where you currently work that really pushes you to be better?

John McNeil Studio provides an extremely supportive work environment. The best part is the people I work with. They are my friends and family and always strive to creatively push boundaries, go above and beyond what’s expected of them and collaborate to come up with creative solutions. I’ve been at JMS for six years, and I’ve enjoyed the journey of growing with the studio.

In thinking over your career so far, what work had made you the proudest?

I’m proudest of the work that has given me the biggest challenges to solve while also being the most visually stunning. The Cisco product spot was technically complex, with the slow-motion camera and high-speed rigging set in multiple locations. It’s the new challenges that keep work exciting! I am also a basketball fan, and was thrilled to work with Luke Walton on a CA Technologies commercial earlier this year.

Outside of JMS, I’m really proud of an exhibition I recently curated with my friend at the Leeds College of Art in the UK.

You used to curate a few art galleries. What from that job helps you in your current one?

There are a lot of similarities between running a gallery and producing. You need to find creative solutions to pull together either an exhibition or a production. You support creatives and artists in showing their best work. In both jobs, I work with a lot of people and help them bring their creative visions to life. I also turn to art as a source of inspiration in the advertising and production work we do.

Here’s a ridiculously clichéd interview question for you: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Such a tough question! In 10 years I hope to continue to find new challenges in video production and drive more creative direction. I also see myself continuing my own art practice—and, hopefully, finding a way to blend the two disciplines.

This might be tough, but here’s your chance to give a shout out to one person who has helped you get to where you are today. Go.

My mom! She’s always supportive and always pushing me to do better (and reminding me to take vacations). She was a key role model for me growing up, and she taught me the value in hard work. She’s also the first person I call when I need some work advice.


  1. Anonymous August 29, 2016

    She’s the best. Great job KH
    She’s the best. Great job KH