Maura Kelly is an Emmy Award-winning Producer and experienced Media, Marketing and Business Development Executive. Her career spans leadership positions in broadcast television at PBS/ WNET (Executive Producer) where she built successful media franchises and helped raise over $15 million for programming and EdTech initiatives --- to working with top-tier media companies, such as The Jim Henson Co, Tile Films, Tribeca Film Institute & PBS Kids -- to field work in Ethiopia and Peru.
Currently, Maura is a principle of Purple Mountain Media, a consultancy practice and helps creators and entrepreneurs develop and launch media products and cultural initiatives. At times, she participates as a partner, advisor or consultant and provides start-ups with creative and strategic direction, partnership development, and impact marketing plans. A current endeavor is developing and pitching a competition-reality TV series with a leading aerial arts studio in Manhattan. Recently, she provided market insight and advice to a multiscreen OTT service (in beta) targeting the Irish American market.
Maura was elected to the Board of Directors of NY Women in Film & TV (2013-2016) and served as Co-chair and Director of Programs. With her team, she oversaw 50 panels/ events a year on digital trends, media distribution and financing. She is a frequent moderator and speaker at entertainment and business events. Maura is a contributor to the Huffington Post where she covers women innovators, tech and entertainment. She has a Masters in Media Arts from New York Institute of Technology where she was also an adjunct lecturer. She likes to connect with Irish media companies /creators who are looking for partners and want to gain traction in the US.
Can you tell us about your background and why you decided to pursue a career in the media industry?
In college, I developed a knack for making things happen and getting projects off the ground. In my final year, I had the chance to work with a media consultant at the UN agency, UNDP (United Nations Development Program) where I was exposed to purpose driven media and storytelling. I was hooked. Upon graduation, I decided to get a Masters and immerse myself in the business of film and television. At the same time, I got real world experience by working on commercials and corporate videos in Wall Street. I eventually networked my way into a management position at WNET/ PBS when I honed my skill set. The environment was very mission driven and entrepreneurial.
How do you foresee the digital economy impacting the future of digital media and entertainment?
The media industry has been transformed by digital innovation since the 1990’s with Napster and file sharing. As mobile, social and the cloud grew in importance in the mid-2000’s consumers began to expect their music, eBooks and videos anywhere, anytime. Now we are seeing the Internet of Things give media enterprises more opportunities for expansion. Data collection and analytics allows studios to get consumer insights. Leaders like Netflix take the data to write algorithms to create content. For creators, digital advancements in film/TV have made it easier and cheaper for amateurs and low-budget producers to create content. I could go on.
What has been you most challenging professional experience?
For the past few years, I’ve partnered with an entertainment colleague to create and pitch original media properties to the networks and the Netflix’s of the world. The biggest challenge is getting into the agents or network executives office before someone else does with the concept and then raising the financing. Program executives want the next big hit, take fewer risks and have less development money for pilots. Sometimes you have to fold the project or sell the assets/concept to someone else if it’s stalling. We’ve done both.
What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Working at UNDP early in my career has influenced me in many ways and I like to stay involved in international development work. For the past few years, I’ve worked with non-profit organization, HOPe –Helping Other People on strategic direction and fundraising. I’ve traveled to Ethiopia and Lima, Peru to evaluate HOPe grantee projects and created several media assets for the org. to share with funders. I’ve also done pro bono work for Irish agencies, GOAL and CONCERN USA. While working with GOAL, I met my future husband so giving back does pay off.
What does success mean to you?
I measure success by my ability to help people, be it clients or friends in meaningful ways. Sometimes success is personal. For example, in 2012 when I was in Ethiopia with a non-profit I worked with an Ethiopian journalist. He later had to go into exile for writing articles about human rights violations and government corruption in his country. I watched the censorship unfold when I could no longer access his articles online. Two years ago he asked for my help. With the aid of some other supporters and over time, we presented a good case to The UN Refugee Agency for his relocation. After months of no news, he recently informed me that he and his wife were settling in Michigan. Although he is suffering from PSTD from the ordeal and life in a refugee camp, I know he is in a much better place. For me, this is a highlight of 2016 and a success story for freedom of the press.
What would you like to do professionally in 2017?
I’m interested in helping start or grow media and digital technology companies that are mission driven. I’ll look into angel investing more especially with female entrepreneurs. Explore innovation in the arts and culture in Ireland more to identify opportunities that could be adapted for the US market. And, I look forward to contributing to the IIBN NY Board.
What advice would you offer your 21-year old self?
Find role models who have achieved what you want in life, and use their life stories as sources of inspiration. Today you can ID virtual mentors online and download their podcasts, read their blog or subscribe to their newsletter.
Incoming Board of Directors member, IIBN NY