By Carla Carlton
Emily Carroll laughs when asked for her job title. “It's so funny,” she says. “None of my family can ever really tell any of their friends what I do. They're like, I don't know. It’s something to do with filming people and celebrities.”
It can be hard to pin down. For the past 11 years, the Communication
and Business Administration
graduate has used the skills she honed in Bellarmine’s liberal-arts environment to create a career in Los Angeles, serving in various roles. Starting as a production assistant, she has steadily moved up through the ranks to production coordinator, production manager and finally field producer. She’s spent the past four years working with Boardwalk Pictures; when she’s had a break between television productions, she helps out as manager of music clearances.
Because of Wrexham, I got to run around Wembley Stadium in London before anybody else was there. I'm kicking soccer balls—excuse me, footballs—on the pitch and walking around in the VIP area. It was just wild.
As a senior production supervisor with Boardwalk, she spent two years in Wales working on Welcome to Wrexham, a 2022 docuseries chronicling the purchase of the professional football club Wrexham AFC by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Risk-taking seems to be part of her DNA. Carroll’s first job out of college was with LeapFrog Interactive (now LEAP), a pioneering digital agency in Louisville. “I was working in digital marketing at a time when the iPhone was just kind of taking flight and when iPads became a thing,” she says. “They were such a future-forward company that we were developing content in a world that just didn't exist.”
After volunteering at a film festival in Louisville and working as a production assistant on a film and two commercials locally, she made the “leap” to Los Angeles. When we spoke*, she was preparing to serve as a field producer for an upcoming travel/food show on a major streaming platform.
“I don't think that I'd always had plans to go to LA necessarily, or even work in entertainment specifically; I just knew that I wanted to do something creative,” she says. “If you had asked me when I was 10, I would have said, ‘I'm gonna be a singer.’ But I have a terrible voice. Bellarmine helped me really fine-tune the idea of possibility.”
Why make the move from digital marketing to movies?
Part of LeapFrog’s philosophy was community outreach: Get out there and hone your skills, start volunteering with other people—you never know what kind of business you can bring in. I didn't go to film school, but I wanted to see what it's like to be part of a film festival. There were a couple of festivals that happened in Kentucky. I emailed one and said, “I'm in digital marketing. I would love to volunteer doing whatever you all need.” I was just going to do social media, but I ended up taking on way more. I was a talent liaison; I was recruiting and managing the volunteer base; I was doing donor relations and working with the vendors. And they were like, You have to come to LA. So in June 2011, I visited LA for two weeks as a trial run. I was 25 at the time, and I remember saying to myself, If you're gonna make a move, it's gotta be now. I wanted to do it before I turned 26 for whatever reason.
I guess the trial run was a success.
I came back and told my mom, “That's it. I'm gonna move to LA.” I gave six months’ notice at LeapFrog. I drove from Kentucky to California by myself in my little 2008 RAV4. I left the day after Christmas 2011 and arrived right before New Year’s. That first year, 2012, I had something like 13 or 14 gigs, so I remember tax season in 2013 was absurd. It was a very rough start, but I had friends coming out to visit me and lots of care packages from home. It was a little crazy. But Bellarmine definitely prepared me for that.
I didn't have the traditional college experience. I didn't stay on campus, so I didn't have that immersion in dorm life. I didn't do the partying college experience. I did the ‘try everything, do everything, be everywhere’ college experience. Those smaller class sizes gave me more intimate relationships with friends and, more importantly, with faculty like Dr. Gail Henson, who kind of took me under her wing. On a smaller campus, you have access to more things, and there’s just so much opportunity. For example, they said, We’ve got this radio station but it's kind of fledgling and it's not really doing much. Do you want to help revive it? So here I am, creating this pitch to go into SGA [Student Government Association] with a couple of other people and ask for $20,000—and they gave it to us. And we picked the station manager and the music director. Bellarmine gave me opportunity—and more importantly, the ability to recognize opportunity.
What is the most exciting project you've worked on?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one. But the Welcome to Wrexham project was great because I worked with major celebrities and got to travel. That show saved my butt during the pandemic. We shut down in March 2020. But entertainment is one of the only industries where not only did we come back, we boomed, because everybody was at home consuming content faster than the studios could make it. They were like We need to do this entire show that would normally have 15 to 20 people on set every day, and now we need to do it with less than 10. Again, opportunity, right? I was able to do so much more than I normally would have been asked to do or allowed to do.
What advice would you give someone about pursuing a career like yours?
There are two big things for me. One of them is super-straightforward and easy to do: volunteer. I have gotten more opportunities through volunteerism than I have from any job I’ve ever worked. You learn so much more about yourself. You discover so much more flexibility in this idea of what you can and can’t do.
The other one is more like a life motto: If you want to try something new, do it. I don't know how else to say it. Some people get stuck in this kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of, Yeah, I want to do that, but I don't have any money. I don't have any time. I don't have any experience. I don't know the people. There are other ways to go about it. Stop putting boundaries on yourself. Just try little steps—create those opportunities for yourself. I know this is so much easier said than done but stop putting limitations on yourself. Because it really is amazing what you're able to do.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.