We had the good fortune of connecting with Emma Kragen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emma, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
“Jack of all trades, master of none.” The creative multi-hyphenate is alive and well! I’ve always had a diverse array of interests from early on in my life, and I think this is an enriching way to build a film career. Why not understand multiple facets of the film industry from different perspectives? This gives truer meaning to the concept of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. A good leader is created from someone who knows what it’s like to be led. The producer who used to work in grip and electric has a different understanding of budget and schedule than one who has never worked on set. There is certainly benefit to first developing expertise in one thing, but the film industry, and I would say the creative industry in general, thrives when people bring different perspectives to the table. That’s the beauty of it. Film and TV is about life, so it’s all the more important to live it.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I want to help people through filmmaking. The definition of “helping people” is always shifting for me, and I still feel like I have a ton to do to further this idea for myself. Film and TV can be a safe haven for people in difficult times, and a window to fresh perspectives. Even with client work, my partner and I primarily work with entities that are serving a greater good.
I’m always pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable. That tends to be a good gauge for me at this juncture in my career. If something makes me more nervous, it’s generally an indicator that that’s a direction that I need to explore. I’m constantly trying to break out of my comfort zone, especially since there are increasingly more things that make me feel too comfortable professionally.
Doing my MFA in Cinematography at UCLA was a major jumping-off point for me. It set me up with relationships that I still maintain, and gave me the opportunity to explore a number of creative opportunities because I was a student. I also interned/PA’d on shoots and at studios starting at age 17 during school breaks. That said, nothing about the film industry is easy! There are so many talented people in film and TV, but only a small percentage actually stay working in it. Everything is constantly changing, and the financially lucrative projects are usually not the creative ones. I’m still learning to ride the ebbs and flows, but I wouldn’t trade it for a more “normal” job. I love working for myself. Originally my partner and I started Zemma Productions to give ourselves more work opportunities, but it has given us so much more than that. We have created an online course (Videogym Training), a feature film (Where She Lies), a plethora of commercials, music videos, trainings, and are in development on more.
One of my favorite things about Zemma Productions is that we’re silly! We don’t take ourselves seriously at all. We put our cat on our website as our post-production supervisor, and people sometimes cold-email him. We also love working with friends. We have clients who have become friends and friends who have become clients, and everyone we hire for crew is someone we love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh man, I am well versed at this one! I always try to do the least touristy things while still giving people a good sense of the city. I’m a big LA hiker, and I love to showcase some views and points of interest. Some faves are Los Liones off of Sunset, the Nike Missile compound (any spot on dirt Mulholland really), Sullivan Canyon with and without Murphy Ranch, and of course the classic Griffith hikes behind the Hollywood sign or to the Observatory.
I love to incorporate an event if the timing is right. Maybe a show at the Pantages (mandatory dinner at Musso & Frank), or the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic. I’m also always down for a Disneyland trip– I’m a lifelong Star Wars nerd and absolutely a fan of the new attractions down there. As far as the beach goes, I’m a proponent of biking the Santa Monica beach path, probably with sandwiches from Bay Cities in tow. I am a massive fan of the Magic Castle. I’m not a member, but when I can score an in, it is one of the most wonderful classic LA establishments. I recently took an out of town friend to Med Men, which is an experience in and of itself. Nate n Al’s and Canter’s Deli are both extremely important, and Wurstkuche is fun. Boss Sushi on La Cienega is my favorite sushi in the city, and wonderfully understated. And Two Bit Circus!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My number one mentor, my dad Ken Kragen, passed away recently. He encouraged accomplishing the impossible, recognizing “life as a contact sport,” and the concept of doing what you love for work. He loved my first article in VoyageLA, and unfortunately won’t get to see this one. He was also verbal in his pride and excitement for my career, and I look forward to carrying on his legacy and the advocacy work he was doing in the climate change space.
Instagram: @zemmaproductions // @ekraykragerz
Other: Video course @ videogymtraining.com Feature documentary @ whereshelies.com