By Stephanie Okun
Welcome, new NYWIFT member Kelly Reagan! We are so happy to introduce Kelly, who has so much to offer our community. She is a four-time Emmy-nominated producer and writer who has a deep history with major networks like Nickelodeon and Oprah’s OWN. She has worked on many projects as a senior writer and producer, including one featuring great names like Michelle Obama (and she even received a letter from the First Family after filming together). We’re thrilled to have her join New York Women in Film & Television and can’t wait to see what she does next.
Kelly, what is your current position?
Senior Writer/ Producer, Paramount.
Can you give us a brief overview of your career in media?
At 19 years old I began working with comedian Jim McCue and his week-long Boston Comedy Festival. Having the opportunity to liaise with bookers for the late-night shows, and comedy greats like George Carlin, Joan Rivers, and George Wallace gave me the confidence to gain my footing in production on an International scale.
Today I am a 16-year media veteran with four Daytime Emmy Nominations from work with the Oprah Winfrey Network, Marvel, and Paramount. I also continue my work in the comedy community and am a sitting board member of The Ladies of Comedy Association.
What are three fun facts about you that others would not know just by looking at you?
1) I spent two full days hanging out with the Brazilian Soccer team and didn’t know it until I got the photos developed (yes that long ago!) and friends told me who I was with.
2) I have five siblings and was raised in a multi-racial family.
3) Former First Lady Michelle Obama sent me a personal “thank you” letter after working together.
What were the first influences in your life that led you to becoming a producer?
My career story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my grandparents, who were a tale of two cities.
In one, my grandfather Leland Stanford Dennegar, whose father was the godson of Leland Stanford of Stanford University, was intelligent, curious, caring and always there. We lived in the same town and he helped raise me. As an advertising man in 1960s Manhattan, he had stories and perspectives and marketing puzzles for me to solve at a very young age! He encouraged my living room box office performances, my writing, and my savvy. He taught me about the balance between creativity and strategy and inflated my ego in the way only a grandfather can. This in turn made me bullet proof when I began to cut my teeth as a woman in this industry.
My other grandfather Eugene Reagan was an Irish immigrant from Hell’s Kitchen who quit school in third grade to help provide for his family. He ran the crane that built the “Drive Safely” oil tanks that later starred in the opening title sequence for The Sopranos. He passed before I knew him, but his work ethic remained.
To know that my work is the wildest dreams of each grandparent, in different ways, motivates me at my core.
Describe your most recent project and then your most favorite project as a producer.
My most recent project was the first ever Nickelodeon docuseries: Life with That Girl Lay Lay. That Girl Lay Lay is the youngest female rap artist to be signed to a major record label. She is a star handling fame effortlessly at a young age. I am in awe of her talented vision for herself and her craft. She and I built a rapport launching Season 1 and Season 2 of her show created by comedian David Arnold and produced by Will Packer. As a result, this shoot came naturally to us. We spoke on a range of topics from her love of nail art to mental health. I had the chance to work with DP Khalilah Robinson, who made Mary J Blige’s documentary look like pure gold and she was able to do the same for this piece! I pride myself on creating welcoming sets that allow everyone to come to work as their whole selves and this team made that possible. Life with That Girl Lay Lay began airing on July 14, 2022 and will subsequently be available on Netflix and internationally. I wouldn’t be a good marketer if I didn’t say that!
My favorite project was a series with Stan Lee called: Stan’s Rants. We would set up a camera in front of the public face of Marvel Comics and creator of some of our favorite Avengers, Stan Lee, and let him riff to hilariously honest effect. He was a great mind, man, and boss. I hold the work we did together launching his channel with Vuguru in the early days of YouTube close to my heart.
What attracted you to NYWIFT and how might the organization serve you?
Women face a unique set of spoken and unspoken challenges. In today’s world we live in a dichotomous truth of women being promoted to CEO while at the same time receiving the devastating Supreme Court news. My attraction to NYWIFT is seeing a group of women experiencing these similar sets of circumstances. I look forward to coming together to build comradery, consciousness, and creative communities.
What kind of contributions would you like to make to NYWIFT?
I love to connect communities through commonalities. Maybe it’s my Gemini rising? I just love a crowd! I love to connect, to hear someone’s personal story, to understand how one values their self and how I can help them reach their greatest potential. It’s natural for me to liaise, connect, and keep it real. I hope I can do that with NYWIFT to get to know existing members and bring in new ones.
What do you see moving forward for the future of women as media makers?
I see us shining as brightly as ever and using media to tell stories that don’t even exist yet. And that makes me excited!
Kelly Reagan is a four-time Emmy award nominee. She is a writer, producer and director. Her work lives on Paramount, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and the Marvel Universe. Kelly is the Co-Founder of Ludus Management and collaborates with comedians for shows on Discovery Family, America’s Got Talent, PBS and iHeart radio. She is currently a sitting board member of the Ladies of Comedy Association. Her diverse background in media, promotions, talent management, comedy, and the non-profit sector drives her belief that media’s ability to both entertain and serve do not live separately from one another.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Lorena R. Valenica! Lorena R. Valencia is a Mexican writer-director based in New York. Her directorial debut and MFA thesis film, Cuanacaquilitl (Dandelion), received the 2022 National Board of Review Student Award and is an Official Selection in several international film festivals, including the Morelia International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the New York Latino Film Festival, and the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival. Lorena is passionate about both narrative and documentary storytelling and is interested in addressing issues such as reproductive rights, identity, and belonging. Currently, she is directing Mi Ranchito, a documentary short film that explores resilience and love for the land, while she is developing her debut feature film, Mayahuel. Lorena spoke to us about inspiring empathy through storytelling, the overlap of narrative and documentary filmmaking, and her latest projects.READ MORE
NYWIFT Member Elivia Shaw is a producer and co-editor of the fascinating new documentary How to Have an American Baby, which just make its New York Premiere at DOC NYC 2023. The film is a a nuanced, behind-the-scenes look into the booming shadow economy catering to pregnant Chinese tourists who travel to America to give birth in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for their babies. Told through a series of observational vignettes, and with extraordinary access to the maternity hotel industry and their clients, the film outlines the invisible contours of the underground birth tourism industry and its unexpected actors in the U.S. and China, while probing deeply into the lives of several protagonists caught up in the phenomenon. What results is an intimate and compassionate portrait of women’s reproductive journeys, family, traditions, and capitalist desires. Shaw spoke to us about her collaboration with director Leslie Tai and the unique joys and challenges of the project.READ MORE
Congratulations to NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Executive Producer of Mediha, which just took home the U.S. Competition Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC! In this immensely collaborative film, a Yazidi teen once held captive by ISIS takes us into her world of grief, pain, and hope. We spoke to Pierpoline (prior to the exciting win) about her involvement in this important film.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Eileen Wolter! After working as a motion picture lit assistant at CAA, working on the Universal lot, and writing lots of coverage in LA, Eileen brings her creativity to us in New York! She holds a BA in Art History & Film from Vassar College, studied acting as The Atlantic Theater Company and The Actors Studio/The New School, and studied writing at UCLA, NYU, Sundance Collab, Stowe Story Labs, and NJ Play Lab. Eileen tells us about her fascinating family history, covering Fashion Week for Comedy Central in 1993, and attending SNL dress rehearsals.READ MORE