To celebrate Women’s History Month, HUDSON is shining a spotlight on some of the incredible women that call Hudson Scenic Studio home. Today we are spotlighting three women from our Production and Project Management Offices: Carrie Winkler (Lead Production Manager), Nadine Love (Assistant Production Manager), and Palig Demirjian (Senior Project Manager). We chatted with them about their work at Hudson, favorite projects, and advice for young women breaking into the industry.
The interviews below have been edited for clarity/length.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your career path, how did you end up at Hudson?
CW: My undergrad was in theater, but I was focused in acting and that’s what I wanted to do after school; I did it for a couple of months and hated it. But I had always done run crew and props and wardrobe in undergrad, so I had somewhat of a well-rounded experience coming out. After college I worked as a Production Manager off-Broadway loading in shows and did summer stock at New York Stage and Film. I discovered I had a gap in my technical management knowledge; when there were problems or issues that needed to be solved, I wasn’t really able to constructively help people. That’s why I decided to go to grad school. I went to the Yale School of Drama for Technical Design and Production Management and then after I graduated Neil [Mazzella, Hudson Scenic CEO] was looking for a Production Manager, so I thought this would be a good landing spot for me.
NL: I went to Florida State and I have my BFA in Design and Technology. My focus was stage management and in college I did internships in props at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY, then at Disney I was a production assistant. Right after I graduated college, I worked at a scene shop in Orlando, Florida called FX Group and they made TV studios, like for the news, and there was also a Live Event division; I was the Account Manager for the Live Event division. Then I switched to teaching for ten years and I taught high school theater. Then my husband moved to New York because he is a technician and I started applying to jobs in production management. Carrie [Winkler, Lead Production Manager] was amazing and hired me and gave me the opportunity to get started in New York.
PD: So, I had heard about Hudson through my previous experiences in the theme park industry and because of [the Covid-19 pandemic] I was looking around for some local work and I thought I would give Hudson a try. I sent over my resume and it was received well! How I ended up in this industry…by pure luck! In a way. I graduated in architecture and I had taken a prefabrication course in school and I had worked for architects and structural engineers prior to getting a job with Scenario. So, I ended up in the theme park industry, just doing 3D design work and moving into project management gradually.
Q: What does a typical day at Hudson look like for you?
CW: I am the Lead Production Manager, so my job overall is to manage the shows through Engineering, the floor (which consists of the Iron Shop, Carpentry Shop, Automation, Electrics, and Paint) and then out the door. That’s the big picture and then the microcosms in that is a lot of problem solving and logistics within the shop. Calendar work to figure out how we are going to get things done on time and budget, coming up with efficiencies throughout, making sure we are planning ahead so that when we get to the work, we are ready for it so there is no time wasted. My typical day can consist of many meetings for planning or actually being on the floor helping to problem solve in the moment when things come up. It can be drawing reviews before they come to floor, where we are looking at the drawing with the Engineering Department or it could be time just spent at the computer building calendars, doing budget projections, you know a lot of paperwork.
NL: I am an Assistant Production Manager; I work in mostly three departments. One is the logistics. I ensure the trucks are loaded correctly with the proper scenery and make sure they get to where they need to go. I am also the Assistant Production Manager in the Art Department, so I spend time tracking labor and making sure we have space for all of the projects. I do [the space layout] for the whole shop. But in the Art Department I work really closely with the charge [artist] and we monitor the projects and make sure everything is going correctly. We also do designer visits and help facilitate the project and production manager’s needs. I also have a third facet, I do facilities here as well, so I handle any preventative and corrective maintenance that needs to happen on our tools and on the actual buildings for both buildings.
PD: [As a Project Manager] I basically coordinate all the different elements in the project, putting together a comprehensive schedule and budget, then try and maintain the intended scope of work with the budget and schedule that we have [while] coordinating all the different departments together to make sure that everything is on track. We are kind of the go-between between the client side and Hudson/production. [On a typical day] I go through all the projects that I have, I make an overall list of what I have to tackle in terms of the design department and the production department, and I pretty much go through the motions every day with following up with what the production needs, answering emails, and doing some business development.
Q: What is the most interesting part of your job? The most challenging?
CW: I think the most interesting part for me is that no day is ever really the same. It is sort of the same in structure, but I don’t know what challenge is going to be thrown my way. Like ‘ok, what are we going to solve today?’ I know what my expectations are for the day but those will get thrown out the window at some point and this new set of expectations will arrive. That is the part about my job I enjoy the most, is working it out with people. So like on the floor if we hit a road block, getting everyone around it and talking through it, or if we have a calendar snag and it seems like it’s not possible to get to that finish line, getting everyone together to say ‘which of these tasks can we do simultaneously, what other way can we orient these things to happen quicker’; that to me is the part I like. I think it is one in the same actually [the most interesting and most challenging]. I mean a lot of time the people are the most challenging, we just work with a lot of different personalities. Knowing how to interact with the different people so that we can get the results we need in the shop is always a challenge, but I think my experience – because I’ve been here now for almost 17 years – I know a lot of the people and I know how to interact with everyone to get us all to a good place. The joy and the challenge are one in the same.
NL: I think the most interesting part is really the Art Department and logistics side. In the Art Department it is fascinating watching the artist’s work and being a part of their process. When the designers come, and we get to show them what we have done so far and get their feedback and talking to the designers -- that is one of the really interesting aspects. And then in the logistical side, when Broadway was open, and we are loading out trucks and dealing with production carpenters, I love getting to talk to them about what their needs are, especially last minute requests or like ‘we need a truck now, super important’ that’s a really fun and exciting part of the process as well.
PD: An interesting part for me is when you get a new project, trying to figure out how to make it in the most efficient way possible using the latest technology, as much as you can, to bring basically a new edge on how to build something. And just learning through both the design and the production teams and getting their inputs on how things will get made; it gives me a better insight for the next project. That is the most interesting. The most challenging part is meeting that budget and that schedule and getting it all installed without any major hiccups.
Q: What is your favorite project you have worked on at Hudson?
CW: I have always liked working on the Aladdin’s, especially when I got to see it transform into the various incarnations of the tours, that was pretty exciting. Also, the [Shanghai Disney] Clock Tower, that was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had from a management standpoint here, both on a day-by-day basis, organizing the crew and figuring out how we were going to get all of these people to work together in a single tower, and then also the long term challenges of getting it done and packed up. I feel like that was almost a turning point for me, with my confidence and with my abilities to manage a project through to the finish line. It was a great project. We got to do this amazing thing and it gave us an ‘Aha!’ moment like ‘oh we can do this kind of work’ and we have been ever since.
NL: Before it probably would have been Mrs. Doubtfire [the musical] because that was the first one that was really big that I was loading out and our previous Associate Production Manager had just left, so I really got to step up and have a more active role in the loading out process for that. Currently we’re building a TV set that I am really involved with in the paint department, and it’s been fun. It’s been really great getting to work on that show.
PD: Our big theme park projects, of course! I do like working on Disney stuff but if I can dabble into a little bit of the theatrical work, I find that very interesting too. Hudson has all of that down to a science at this point.
Q: Any advice for young women looking to get into this career or industry?
CW: I think they should, if they are in a school setting, try to step up and take as many different classes as possible even if they don’t think it is what they are interested in or what they might do in the future. If it is something they might remotely have to deal with in the real world, they should try and take some classes. [Additionally] to not be afraid to step up into leadership roles; the earlier the better. Learning how to run meetings and get the attention of the room is so important. A lot of people struggle with that, being able to get everyone to focus. Not being afraid of conflict and getting used to it. Making yourself uncomfortable in order to get to a resolution because it is going to be a part of the job. The earlier you can get comfortable with uncomfortable situations or tension: that’s part of the job. It’s not a bad thing, it is a necessary thing.
NL: It is the same advice I gave my students when I taught for ten years, I think it is twofold: It is never too late to make a change. This is the third major career change I have made, and I am only 35. It is never too late to make a change and you can still pivot and go for what you have always wanted. Secondly, you need to make sure you leave doors open. You need to be friendly and nice and a hard worker and people will be willing and wanting to work with you.
PD: I would tell them you are just as qualified as anyone else here and just don’t let anyone else try to steer you or try to make you think you are doing something wrong just because you are doing it in a different way than they would. Trust yourself.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
CW: Just feeling confident. The other day I was in a meeting and, I was the only woman in the meeting, and I was running the meeting and I was like ‘Wow, could I have done this ten years ago? What has changed about me now?’ I wish I had this confidence ten years ago to feel this comfortable, to engage the men in an organization and be vocal about what I think needs to happen, and then also be ok if it doesn’t always work out that way.
NL: I think that it is amazing working in an environment where everyone is really respected, and it is wonderful being at Hudson where my boss is a woman. At one time in [the Production Department] there were more women than there were men! I think that just allows for a collaborative working environment and everyone here is just really respectful and pushes us and helps us be the best version of us.