This article, written by Erin Zimmerman, was originally published in the KC Film Blog on February 6th, 2024. To read more of their articles, please click here.
We are chuffed to bring to you this month’s spotlight on KC local crewmember, Karen Foglesong! Karen as fulfilled many roles on-set – or, as she puts it: “I like to make things happen on the film set!” But, don’t take our word for it. Read on to learn about her history, what’s most important on set, and what’s next for Karen! (could it involve…you??)
Tell us about you, Karen!
My first job in Film, on the motion side, was for Coca-Cola at Arrowhead Stadium, crewed as Swing G&E by Kathie Krieger. I was elated to have a foot in the door, as I had high hopes to ‘transfer’ and develop my skills to become a Cinematographer. I have been a Grip, Best Boy, Genny OP/Tow Plant Driver, boomed in the Sound Department, and even do Stagehand work…but I’ve found my niche as an Electrician (so far). My desire to be behind the camera slowly melted away over the years…there was just so much to learn about Lighting, and Electricity! I’ve worked with hundreds of production companies, and way too many jobs to start listing – I have a BLAST!
My dad, Frank, was a Union Carpenter and received his 40-year pin before he passed. I grew up with a love – and deep appreciation of – tools. My mom, Kay, was a Graphic Designer and Artist – so, early on, I learned the value of detail. And, my two brothers – shout out to Trip and Trenton – instilled a sense of adventure in me, and are still my adventure buddies to this day. Working in Production brings me joy, and often can be a lot of fun. But, it can also be a lot of work – HEAVY work.
Came into motion…from the still side
I received a bachelor’s degree from CMSU in Photography (thanks to Dr Bonsall, Jerry Schmidt, and Dick Kahoe). While in school I was accepted and completed two summer internships. One internship was for the City of Independence Department of Tourism, photographing all their historical sites with an unlimited supply of 35mm film and processing. The following summer was spent at Vedros Studio with nationally acclaimed photographer, Nick Vedros, along with first assistant, Mike McCorkle and their incredible support staff.
Immediately after receiving my college diploma, I headed to the airport to meet up with Steve Hix as his First Assistant. He was an Assignment Photographer who had just been featured in Communications Arts, a trade journal for visual communications, and we stayed busy traveling on assignments for stock photos. Stock photos brought BIG money back then.
I’ve worked on live events, movies and TV (in-studio and on-location), documentaries, commercials…the list is EXHAUSTIVE. I’ve spent hours rigging locations and laying wire on the ground – even digging trenches to bury distro cable so horses could gallop over it! But I love it. Along with this taxing work comes the question of safety – and it MUST come first.
A sound man once told me, “I’m not here to make friends,” and I used to laugh when I thought about that. But there’s truth in that humor. As budgets and crew sizes have shrunk over the years, I’ve seen safety measures loosen – especially on smaller sets. But all of these big rigging jobs take the effort and time to be made as safe as possible. I have years of experience to be able to anticipate what could happen, and I work through all scenarios, so we are ready for whatever comes next. It takes a little extra time and effort. I bet I didn’t sit down for the first 15 years of my career! Some productions appreciate the sentiment, some don’t. I will not budge on safety (so, hire me, if that’s your prerogative!).
The film production – our business – relies on the creation of good habits, and then repeating that sequence over and over again – rain or shine, sleet or snow. I am also a BIG question-asker. I ask questions to be as informed as possible. To be prepared out of the rental house or pass along BTS. Because it’s not about me – it’s about US. All of us.
“Speed to get a job done often leads to mistakes. Never discount the value of relationships or having another set of eyes on a project. Having another set of eyes, someone that can occasionally stand back, and look for and think ahead, for potential problems, is actually invaluable.” – Jack Toellner, of Toellner Consulting, Professional Engineer/Senior Safety Professional (and my mentor since 2020)
My end goal is to play a part of each person on set getting home safe – every crew member, talent, client, check-writer, and day-player. Yep, I’m already thinking about going home, or back to the shop to put the Genny to bed for the night – all while getting the shots we need! No injuries. Real Simple – that’s it. Safety is my passion, and if your production needs safety instruction or consulting – I’m your person!
What’s next for Karen Foglesong?
I’m excited to see what happens in Missouri, now that the state film incentive has passed (finally – and HUZZAH!). I have been approached by several women that would like to shadow me on set. I’ve also been going through all my old photos and videos and creating a library for safety discussions. I’ve been working with a few Non-Profits for years and am navigating how to blend my set experiences to work with young adults. Recently, I was even approached to see if I’d like to be part of an all-female set for a music video! The possibilities are endless – and I’m excited to collaborate on whatever fun projects come my way that I can work on right in my home region!
I’d like to thank the Academy…
Love the Grips! You all make it look easy, even when it’s grueling in the most extreme of elements.
Love the PAs! Not only do you show up to set, never knowing what you’ll be doing for the day… you give us a hand in the heat of the moment! You EACH deserve a tip jar.
Electric Gentlepeople: Thank You. You have taught me, with patience and kind repetition, what NOT to do, why, and easier, safer ways to do it. I can’t thank Prime Light enough for sourcing me with equipment I need – Thanks Troy!
Nothing better than Besting for my fellow local Gaffers. I have mentored under – and greatly respect – TP, GE, MG, SC and JB. Most importantly: Mr. Bill Gilbert, my first and main Electrical mentor. I call you on that red push button Hotline-to-Heaven all the time!
MB-rip GK-rip ES-rip
And last, but not least, thank you to the Grip that instantly grabbed me by the forearms while striking a camera platform on the edge of a cliff during my first movie shoot (Ride with the Devil). I lost my footing in dry summer dirt, and about went down…way, WAY down. I remember you, and you are deeply appreciated, always.
Thank you for sharing with us this month, Karen. We are so happy to have you as part of our regional filmmaking community and are excited to continue to follow along and support you in your journey!