What’s Your Process? Q&A with Kelly Shoff
Bringing positivity and passion to video production
The moment you start talking to Kelly Shoff, you’re immediately welcomed with a purely contagious smile and a sense of warm familiarity. It’s like talking to that friend you haven’t seen in months, but you can seamlessly pick up wherever it was that you left off. She’s grounded, considerate, a lover of nature, quick to laugh, and incredible at her job. Immediately these things seem unrelated—but it’s her one-of-a-kind personality and perspective that leads me to believe that’s exactly why she’s adored by the people around her and why she and the rest of our production team can craft images, videos, and storylines that stick with you.
Kelly Shoff is a Producer on EPIC’s Video, Motion, and Photography (VMP) team. For people new to EPIC or employees that spend a lot of time at the office, there’s a good chance you’ve only run into her a handful of times because she and the rest of the VMP team are on the road… a LOT. Imagine flying to Indiana and working a full day, then flying to Texas to work a full day, flying back home (arriving at 1:00 am), then driving into the office for an all-staff meeting… All in one week! It’s all part of the gig working on the VMP team, but it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. The VMP team has an unmatched synergy; they’re a tightly knit unit that sees the world in 4D, creating photo and video content that leaps off the screen with beauty, humanity, and prestige. The following are excerpts from some of the riveting conversations I had with Kelly about her introduction, inspirations, and insights surrounding photo and video production.
Tell me about how you discovered your passion for production. Was there a moment when you realized that this is what you wanted to pursue?
For almost my entire life, I knew that I wanted to be either in front of or behind a camera. Since I was a kid I always loved watching the news, especially watching the weather and tracking storms. I remember reaching out to a local Detroit news station for a grade school report. I was SO EXCITED when my mom told me that local meteorologist Jerry Hodak was on the phone and wanted to talk to me.
That school report sparked my interest, but it was my high school’s amazing media program that really fanned the flame. With a fully operational radio station AND a TV station, I remember my friend and classmate, Steve Inskeep (famously of NPR’s Morning Edition) spent a lot of time in radio classes, while I gravitated towards the TV classes.
The first time I did TV news, I was hooked. I remember being in TV class and being in the middle of interviewing the Indiana teacher of the year, when all of a sudden somebody comes running in and says, “Oh my God, the space shuttle blew up!” My TV instructor came in and pressed a button in the control room, and we all watched the footage of the Challenger exploding, absolutely stunned. Then the bell rang and we had to go to our next class. The rest of the day I was telling everyone around me ‘The space shuttle just exploded—I just watched it in TV class!!” From that point on I was hooked—I just love being the first person to know something. (Side Note: Her oldest son now works at NASA on the team that oversees hazardous gases on the Artemis missions!)
How important is teamwork in your position? Do you mostly rely on your own shots and ideas to create content, or is it a more collaborative experience?
I could not do the job that I do without our incredible team of videographers and photographers. You couldn’t have more teamwork than we do and, if we didn’t work well as a team, it would be really obvious when you see the final product. Before and during the shoot we’re always bouncing ideas off each other and, once the shoot is over, they’re the first people I turn to in order to make sure we’re not missing something. When we’re traveling, they’ll grab the luggage while I get the rental car. Or if I forget something, somebody else will grab it on their way to the shoot. Everyone is always asking what they can do to help because we know that in the end, it will make the shoot go more smoothly. I always know that when I go out on a shoot with one of those folks, I’m going to come back with great stuff. We’re constantly working together and I could never do what I do without them.
Do you find that it’s a hard balance between coaching and directing subjects, versus allowing them to be natural and authentic?
Having a background in TV news has helped, considering I’ve trained dozens of people to talk about traffic on-air, along with coaching reporters to help them sound natural and relaxed and like they’re talking directly to me. While I could never get in front of the camera and do what I want them to do, I know how to coach them, and I can listen closely to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.
I don’t know what it is, but the camera takes away people’s natural energy and enthusiasm and can make what they’re saying seem uninteresting or extremely boring. I always tell people when I’m trying to get something out of them, to speak as if they’re asking their dog if they want to go for a walk or as if they’re reading a Dr. Suess book to a child, bringing excitement and animation to their voice. Every time people do those takes, they think that they sounded absolutely ridiculous and over the top, but it almost always ends up being the best take.
Are there any people, producers, or content creators that you’ve drawn inspiration from?
I often turn back to my roots in TV news, specifically the deeply human and profound stories gathered by legendary Minneapolis reporter, Boyd Huppert at KARE-11, a station in Minneapolis where I used to work.
He’s won more Emmys than you can even count. He’s a great storyteller and so good at listening to what people have to say … taking those golden nuggets and finding ways to reveal them throughout the story. He’s also a good teacher. And when you watch and listen to his stories, you’re struck by the most perfect phrasing and writing paired with brilliant and intimate shots.
People respond to people—so whenever I can, I try to include that humanity in our work. It’s emotion. It’s people telling their stories and speaking from the heart, accompanied by beautiful pictures—that’s what makes compelling content. Getting people to places they’d otherwise never be able to go.
What’s your outlook on the future of videography? Right now, video is king. Do you think that will always be the case?
Video is still universal because you see people on screen and often think to yourself “Oh, I’m just like that person,” or “Wow, I want to be like that person.” And while technology continues to evolve and make video easier to create and share and use, you’ll always need people to put that footage in an order that makes sense, while making it compelling and interesting. Where video goes from here? I’m not sure, but I think there will always be a need for someone who is a professional who’s spent their life telling stories with video. Anyone can fly a drone, but are you going to get the shots that we get? No.
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