Karlee Reynolds – Digital Marketing Strategist at Blink
Karlee: Mark, give me a quick background on where you hail from. Born and raised in Pittsburgh?
Mark: Yes, Pittsburgh. A little town north east of Pittsburgh, called Vandergrift. Not far from where Luann, Kevin and Bob grew up. We were all drinking the same water, you could say.
Karlee: That explains a lot! (Laughing in unison). Are you still in Vandergrift, or did you plant roots somewhere else?
Mark: I am in Forest Hills, now.
Karlee: How long have you worked at Blink?
Mark: Four years in December. I came on right before the onset of the Pandemic.
Karlee: Can you give me a brief background on your education, career, and what drew you to this line of work?
Mark: I went to Gannon University from 1978 to 1982, so I am dating myself, but so what.
Karlee: You wouldn’t know it!
Mark: Thanks! I studied Communication Arts, where in my Junior year I started working at the NBC affiliate in Erie as a Control Room/Studio Director. In 1982 I moved to Nashville, and became a news videographer for the ABC affiliate (WKRN). I did that for two years, and then moved back to Pittsburgh in 1984 to work for Channel 4. I worked there for 12 years: six in News and six in Creative Services & Programming.
In 1996 I went to work for a production company called New Perspective Productions, (no longer in business). I worked with them for 19 years. For thirteen of those years, I was the head of Production, like I am now at Blink. Then, from 2014-2019 I worked for Phenomenon Post, owned by an ad agency in DC, where we did a lot of political work. That ship came and went, and brought me to Blink. So, I have been shooting, directing, and producing since roughly 1995.
Karlee: Were you drawn to this line of work your entire life?
Mark: Photography for sure. I had a cousin who worked in the television industry, on the management side, so I was always exposed to that type of work. I was kind of in his shadows, and that is where my interest was sparked.
Karlee: What did you like about the broadcast side?
Mark: Well, working in TV news was an education all the time. It really was a graduate degree in life. You could interview the Mayor in the morning, a hockey star in the evening, and a criminal the next day. You were always learning, and getting a sense of the world. The pace of the newsroom was exciting. The heartbeat of that type of industry gets in your blood, and is addictive.
Karlee: Listening to you talk about that gets me excited! So, your current role is likely much different than what you just described. As VP of Production at Blink, what about this new role makes you get up in the morning?
Mark: The biggest thing right now is building the department. The challenge as a Manager is to build a team that isn’t under the same roof everyday: teamwork, water cooler discussions… we are up against a lot with the new way of remote/hybrid work. Creatives and Artists tend to work on their own island, so it’s difficult to navigate having the team in the same headspace, when they aren’t under the same roof everyday.
Karlee: Feeding off the energy from your coworkers is so important.
Mark: Absolutely. So, to answer your question, what gets me up everyday is trying to build a team, and keep them together. I heard the other day that there is a difference between leading artists and managing artists, and I can confirm that is true.
Karlee: That is the perfect segway to my next question, Mark. You have often described yourself as a “servant leader.” What does that mean to you?
Mark: Leading from the back. Set people up to be successful, and shine the light on them. Provide them with the same tools you would want to get the job done.
It is like herding – like a big old English Sheep Dog, in a soft way. Don’t cast commands, or pound the fist. Learn what makes someone tick, and how to respond to that, rather than imposing your way of doing things on them.
Karlee: What are a few significant changes in the production industry that have impacted your career? For instance, your Drone Pilot Certification. I am assuming those haven’t been around forever.
Mark: Oh, heck no. You used to have to rent a helicopter for like $800 per hour, at a 3 hour minimum! The drone has revolutionized the industry, not only aesthetically and creatively, but as a utility. It is another camera that just happens to be in the air. The drone has given us another perspective on shooting, and how we can visually tell a story.
I think the biggest change has been the democratization of the industry. In the 90’s we would have to spend upwards of 100K for an HD camera. And, an editing machine was upwards of 70K. That led to barriers of entry for many people. Fast forward to today: Everybody is doing it! There are no more barriers, which I think is a major difference from 20 years ago. You can also distribute your work anywhere, as opposed to putting it on a DVD and mailing your work out. Technology has enabled us to be more nimble and responsive.
Karlee: Are you in support of this ease of access now?
Mark: I think I am. How do you fight technology? Any process that enhances or improves a medium is good for humanity. It’s cool to sit back and watch all of the creativity out there. I can do without cats singing on YouTube, but I just love to see how talented people are.
Karlee: How about dog videos?
Mark: Oh yeah, I could watch dog videos all day long.
Karlee: What skills would you consider to be the most crucial to success in this industry? What type of person do you need to be?
Mark: I would say probably across the board on all business disciplines and market spaces: building relationships, integrity and trust. Good communication skills are also vital. Truthfully, you either have the talents to work in production, or you don’t. What is left when we all have access to the same tools? What we have left to separate us is who we are and how we build relationships.
Karlee: What is the best advice for someone that wants to work in production?
Mark: It would be a combination of four or five things:
Karlee: Would you say that you achieved a number of the goals you have set for yourself so far? Obviously, you’re not done.
Mark: (With a laugh) Well, at 62 I took this VP job, and I thought, “What have I done?” One of my dear friends, Sally Wiggins said to me, “How lucky are you to go out with a bang, instead of fading away at a desk.” She is right.
I think I have been successful, but there is still so much I would like to do. Not just in video production, but writing novels and screenplays.
I have a subscription to Master Class. I feel like that kind of ‘liberal arts exposure’ to anything and everything, as long as you’re breathing, is a great way to live. You can always talk to someone at a cocktail party! Exposure serves you well.
Karlee: Mark, you give off such good energy. It is very easy to tell you are passionate about telling someone’s story. With that said, which project has been your favorite? Which message has been the most important to you? What has been your favorite story to tell?
Mark: Wow. There are a lot of them:
Not one project has more weight on it than another one, especially to the client.
Karlee: If you could give me one phrase that embodies who you are, what would it be?
Mark: This is tough! Let me think about this for a beat…
I read a bit, and know enough about the Stoic Philosophers – enough to be dangerous. There is a contemporary author, Ryan Holiday, who wrote a book called, “The Obstacle Is The Way.” In that book, there is an underlying theme that we should not run from, around, or pass obstacles; but rather, we should run to them. I run to the obstacle now. I think that is what you could say: I Run To The Obstacles.
The lessons you take from the last battle, you take into the next battle. By running to those obstacles, you build the habit of attacking them. It gives your life perspective.
Karlee: Wow. That really is an impactful perspective on life, and so true.
Karlee: Where is the most breathtaking place you have traveled?
Mark: Hmm. Probably the little bit of time I was in Vienna, but I was just on a layover and didn’t get to travel through the area. I love wine country in Napa and Sonoma. I would say the California and Oregon coasts.
Karlee: If you could pick another city to live in, where would you be?
Mark: New Orleans
Karlee: What are you doing when you have down-time?
Mark: Watching videos about drone flying.
Karlee: What are you currently watching?
Mark: Midnight Diner on Netflix
Karlee: What are you currently reading?
Mark: Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin
Karlee: Do you have a favorite streaming service?
Mark: Outdoor TV
Karlee: Football or Hockey?
Karlee: Pick a season.
Karlee: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Mark: Most people would be surprised that I take boxing classes.
Karlee: What is your next passion project?
Mark: I want to become a really great cook. I am studying to do that. I am trying to perfect the art of searing the perfect scallop, so I make scallops every week! I am sure my house smells by now.
Mark’s 40 plus years in the industry are nothing short of impressive. His servant leadership and hunger to learn and succeed is an inspiration to all of us at Blink. We are looking forward to many more successful years of work with Mark, and hopefully a seafood feast in the near future.
You can check out Mark’s most recent work demo here
Mark Fallone, Director / DP / Producer / FAA Certified Drone Pilot / Photographer