Kirsty Jennings – Interview

Continuing the series of interviews with professionals operating at the intersection of Culture and Digital, my guest this week is Kirsty Jennings, Executive Producer at Anagram, a company dedicated to creating interactive and immersive experiences. Here’s her input on several issues related to her work.

What would be your short job description?
My job is to create the strategy, manage the business and develop the studio to enable the team to make their work and get it out to audiences. I work across partnerships, funding, business strategy, finance management, comms, HR and operations. I always say the “non artistic” parts of the company, as demonstrated by my terrible graphic design skills.

What main characteristics must a professional working in Digital and Culture have?
In short, resilience and curiosity.

What one project do you find defines your work best?
I would say Goliath: Playing with Reality. It is a 25-minute animated documentary virtual reality experience about schizophrenia, gaming and connection. For us, the work was really about breaking the stigma around mental health and particularly psychosis. It was one of the first projects I worked on when I joined Anagram, and it felt epic in scale in terms of team, partners and ambition. It was also something that really put social change at the heart of the experience, using the form of VR to play with the concept of how we experience our own reality and how quickly our minds can play tricks on us. Furthermore, it explores the stigma ‘Goliath’ experienced and the way he finds relief from this through gaming. In many ways, particularly given the pandemic at the time, it is a global story about the individual beneath the label and the importance of connection. It went on to win many awards and, more importantly, incredible comments from audiences and a really positive impact on the life of ‘Goliath’.

Walk us briefly through the process from brief to presentation of a project
We spend a lot of time in R&D at the start of a project, researching the subject area + characters. We then look to establish what the question is at the core of the project, what we want people to leave thinking about / feeling about, what is the action/s that we want them to do to better embody this question. While exploring this, we will be thinking about the form of the work – where will the audience experience the work; what technologies might be the most appropriate form for telling this story; how will it interact with the location etc. We agree the budget, scope, schedule and amazing team for the work, and it goes from there. I’m skipping through the long part of the creation process, as it very much varies from project to project. One thing that is important and worth noting for the creation period is the development of partnerships (including workshop participants, testers, funding and presenting partners) and audience engagement plan. The audience is at the heart of our work, so we look to develop engagement wherever possible from the formation of the idea through to the live presentation.

How do you measure success?
Good question. Engagement from audiences is our big one, this is what we make the work for. This is measured through feedback, comments, audience numbers, demand for work etc. Another form is assessing demand for the work from other sectors and new partners. We’re currently taking Goliath to the healthcare sector as a teaching aid for trainee nurses; and another of our projects, Ghosts of Solid Air, we are consulting with teachers to create teaching resources around the work.

What’s the first thing a company needs to do to embrace innovation?
I think, in many ways, we all accept innovation without necessarily realising it. Innovation has always been part of our lives. I think the thing to do is understand what it is you want to achieve, who you want to be making work for, for what purpose and then go from there. There are many places to seek inspiration from, be true to what you want to achieve, and you’ll find an innovative way to do it. Don’t start from the technology, start from what you want to achieve. Innovation is always risky – it means trying something where you can’t really guarantee the outcome, and so sometimes you have to accept that and build it into your process, and take the learnings with you to the next project.

What main lessons have you learned from your time so far as Executive Producer at Anagram?
It takes time and energy to make good work, but it is so worth it.

What is your typical day like?
It’s very meeting heavy at the moment as I’m in planning season. Generally, it varies so much but usually includes team meetings, writing pitches and applications, testing/feedback, developing strategies and budget wrangling.

Image: Goliath project

By | 2023-07-24T15:39:13+01:00 July 24th, 2023|Interviews|0 Comments

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