Producing Your Future with Kurt Gardinier

Written by Josh Cameron '15

On Monday, The PCA department held their once-a-semester get together in celebration of the major. Tie in refreshments and successful media producer Kurt A. Gardinier, brother of Department Co-Chair and Associate Professor of PCA Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead, and you are bound for a large crowd. “Almost everyone who is majoring in PCA showed up, I have never seen that room so full,” said Dr. Juraj Kittler, Assistant Professor of PCA.

Kurt A. Gardinier currently works in Washington D.C. as the Senior Producer for “The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann.” He was born and raised in the Saratoga Springs, NY area and would later attend Siena College, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing/Management. In April of 2002, after graduating from Siena, Gardinier landed his first position as a CNN News Assistant. He would remain there for almost two years before deciding to head back to school and obtain his Master’s Degree in Public Communications from The College of Saint Rose. For the next six years, he would work for a variety of networks, including NBC, MSNBC and C-SPAN, until ending up in his current position.

Not only does a producer have to supervise an entire project (conception, packaging, development, studio and worker management etc),  but he or she has to be a quick thinker and a jack-of-all-trades. “Most producers aren’t really experts on anything, they just know a little bit about a lot of things,” said Gardinier, “Often times you don’t have a lot of time and have to learn ways to become an expert.” He would go on to explain the time where in a debate, he provided Thom Hartmann with important facts on the topic at hand, allowing Hartmann to rebut and prove his opponent false.

Today, television is dominated by ratings thanks to conglomeration and concentration of ownership. Large companies like Time Warner Cable or 21st Century Fox, two of the infamous “Big Six,” own multiple news outlets and expect to generate revenue from them. Thus, when the ratings come in at 4 o’clock every day, producers may have to make changes to or scrap certain content altogether. “Ratings trump all,” says Gardinier.

Though Gardinier is currently a successful producer, he did not get there overnight. He was open to talk about the struggles in his career and admit his failures, such as the reality show “Potomac Fever” that never made it to the air because it lost out to the current “Ice Loves Coco” series. “I’ve had some good jobs, I’ve had some bad jobs,” he said, ultimately stressing that there will be tribulations en route to a dream job, but that it all works out eventually.

As the talk came to a close, Gardinier clarified that he did not just fall into producing, but that he started liking it and was good at it. “It would be such a shame to live your life and never find that one thing you really love and that you’re really good at,” said Gardinier, leaving students and faculty alike with something to reflect on as they dispersed from the Sykes Formal Lounge.


About the author

Josh Cameron '15