The Life of a Publicist: “No Two Days Are Ever Alike.” Career Spotlight: Rachel Karten (BFA/FTV ’03)
May 28, 2019
Rachel Karten graduated with a degree in Film and Television Production in 2003. Since graduating, Karten has been working in publicity. We asked Rachel about her career and what her professional role as a publicist is like.
Q: How and why did you move from film production into publicity?
A: Honestly, I sort of fell into publicity without knowing I was heading in that direction. My intention out of college was to work in film production, but I was presented with an opportunity to work for
a talent manager within days of graduating. It was an opportunity I was not about to pass
up. I worked in management for about four years and while I was there, I met a number of publicists and became interested in that side of the business. I have been in publicity for over a decade now and I am lucky to work at a company that prides itself on a culture that is positive and supportive.
Q: Share your career path with us – how did you get where you are now?
A: For my Junior and Senior year at Chapman, I worked in the office of the Film School. One of the perks of the job was giving tours to prospective students and special guests who would visit the school. One of those guests happened to be the actress Mary Steenburgen. On the eve of graduation, Mary had asked me what my plans were after graduation and suggested I reach out to her manager, Eric Kranzler, about a potential job. I got the job days later as Eric’s assistant. I spent four years at Management 360 until I moved over to ID to work in public relations. I started on Mara Buxbaum’s desk (the President of ID) until I gradually moved up to Director. I credit a portion of my success to Mary, as she saw something in me from the first day I met her.
Q: What was the biggest adjustment you faced after graduation and how did you overcome it?
A: While Chapman gave me an overall understanding of the filmmaking process, the biggest adjustment after graduating was stepping inside the actual film business and learning the inner-workings of the system. I had to become familiar with the specific players and more granular aspects of deal making, auditions, contracts, promotion, pilot season, and much more. It took me a bit of time to figure out who the players were on that side – agents, managers, lawyers, business managers, etc. versus the roles I was already familiar with in production — directors, producers, cinematographers, etc.
Q: What has been the best experience of your career so far?
A: There have been a number of great experiences, but I think one of the highlights so far for me has been mentoring the younger staff at the company who have gone on to become incredible publicists. It is an honor to be able to pass along the knowledge and experience that I have garnered over the years to a younger generation. I do like to think however that my best experience has yet to come.
Q: Describe your current role at ID:
A: I’m a Director in the talent department at ID—a top public relations agency in the entertainment industry. I represent a variety of clients, mostly actors and actresses, and manage their media strategy by securing press that will elevate their career, whether it’s a film, a TV series or a book that they’re promoting. I also have a passion for working in the philanthropic landscape where I’ve been especially proud of the work these organizations are doing around the world – including Stand Up To Cancer and Heifer International. My job is fast paced. Each day brings something new—new challenges, new accomplishments, and new people. My days are spent anywhere from sitting in my office pitching press and mapping out campaigns, to overseeing a photo shoot or press junket for a client, or traveling around the world for press tours. Needless to say, no two days are ever alike.
Q: What is challenging about your role and what are some highlights?
A: There’s a definite ebb and flow in the field of publicity. I’ve had some extraordinary moments where the work I’ve done on an awards campaign for a client has had an impact in their win – I am incredibly proud of the strategic plan that my team put together for Tracee Ellis Ross for her work on BLACK-ISH. From working on Michelle Williams’ campaign for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, to the incredible work I do every day on STAND UP TO CANCER – I am honored to be a part of it all. I love being able to collaborate with a client’s team to shape, develop and protect a client’s desired public image, all in an effort to give them more choices in their careers and generate growth opportunities.
Q: Could you share memorable moments with your clients?
A: There are too many to count, but some of the highlights include:
- Tracee Ellis Ross winning her Golden Globe Award in 2017 for her work on the ABC series BLACK-ish. Her win marked the first time a woman of color had won in that category in over 30 years.
- Being a part of the charitable organization Stand up To Cancer from it’s inception. Stand Up To Cancer recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary and to date, more than $603 million has been pledged to support their innovated model of collaborative cancer research.
- Working on the release of Busy Philipps’ book– THIS WILL ONLY HURT A LITTLE – which made the New York Times Best-Sellers List in it’s first week. Busy’s late night talk show for E!, Busy Tonight, debuted two weeks later. We secured multiple magazine covers and broadcast appearances for Busy to promote the book and her talk show. It is a campaign I am especially proud of.
- I was an integral part of bringing the cast together for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s Special Cast Reunion Cover of DAWSONS CREEK. The show held a very special place in my heart when I was young and to be able to be a part of the cover shoot and interview process with my client Michelle Williams was something that was incredibly meaningful.
Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at Dodge College?
A: In the small spaces of time I wasn’t working in the front office and producing movies, I was a proud member of the unofficial dance troupe, The Harlem Knights. One of my favorite memories during my time at Chapman, was every Tuesday night at 10:00 PM, The Harlem Knights would gather together and host a Dance Party in the halls of the Cecil B. DeMille film school. It was wild. It was crazy. It was unparalleled. The Tuesday Night Dance Party became THE place to be on a Tuesday night.
Q: What advice would you give current students?
A: Familiarize yourself with the players in the entertainment industry. Understand the roles and the responsibilities from everyone in production and behind the scenes, above the line and below it. Know what an agent, manager, publicist, lawyer, business manager all do and what their roles are in their clients lives. Learn how to multi-task – because more than half the time, after graduation, you will most likely become someone’s assistant.
Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to share more about your journey and professional role with us!