Film student started own company while still in school
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
At 19 years old, Krystina Owens started her own production studio while attending Arizona State University. Now the 21-year-old, who is a student at Barrett, The Honors College, manages 11 employees, is expanding her company into two divisions and is graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in film and media production from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre.
“The studio is called Innovelore Entertainment, Inc., and was founded by myself and my business partner on May 31, 2016 — my 19th birthday, funny enough,” she said. “I knew it would be challenging trying to get a company off of the ground while I was still in school, but I had lots of ideas and passion for what I wanted to do as a filmmaker for my career. I wanted to get into the industry in a different, innovative way and I wanted to get started.”
The company began as a commissioned illustration company, but in 2017, Owens and her partner shifted focus to animation and grew the team to work on bigger projects, Owens said. With nine full-time employees and two part-time employees, both of whom are current ASU students, Innovelore is now splitting into two divisions. Innovelore Entertainment, Inc. will focus solely on developing original content, and the other division, Velorean Productions, will be taking on client and advertising work.
“I think ASU has taught me a lot about live-action production, which I hope to incorporate more into our studio's capabilities as we continue to grow,” Owens said. “What's more, ASU has helped me gain the leadership skills I need to run a business and direct a production.
"I hope with what I've learned in college and as a business owner the last three years that I can lead my team to success, and with that we'll be able to bring more of the film industry to Phoenix.”
Owens is also in the early stages of launching a TV series based on her capstone film called “The Author’s Daughter.”
The short film combines live action and frame-by-frame animation similar to Robert Zemeckis' "Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” In a time where fiction is illegal, a young girl accidentally brings magical creatures out of the fiction world and into reality and must deal with the consequences.
“This film is serving not only as my capstone film, but as a concept film for a larger TV series,” Owens said. “It is my hope that we can find distribution for the series and produce it as the studio's first original series.”
Jason Davids Scott, assistant director of film in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, called Owens a leader in her class of filmmakers and said her film is unprecedented for a capstone project.
“We have never had any student undertake a project of this size,” Scott said, “and the work is going to be truly amazing.”
Owens answered some questions from ASU Now:
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I think that my “aha” moment came in my junior year of high school. Up until that point I had always wanted to be an actress in film, as I had been captivated by movies and entertainment since I was 2. But that year, instead of acting in a play, I got the chance to be the student director for the school’s production of “Noises Off.” It was then that I realized the real magic of telling stories, for me, was making them happen behind the scenes, and I knew that I wanted to pursue filmmaking from a directing and producing side.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I believe that my time at ASU really taught me how to be a strong leader — both in the classroom and outside of it. When I first began ASU, I felt shaky in my self-confidence and unsure about my artistic talents. But during my four years at ASU, I learned how to successfully lead a group project, how to direct a film and how to run a business. Because of my time at ASU and the encouragement and opportunity the school gave me to be a leader, today I now have the confidence and experience to manage a studio of 11 employees daily, and I can now say that I’ve directed a major film project that’s involved over 100 people in its course of creation. Without my time at ASU, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to change my perspective on just what a student like me is capable of achieving.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because it allowed for me to be close to my family, my home, and gave me the flexibility to take what I learned in my classes outside of school and apply them to the studio I was looking to start. And I felt, with ASU being the No. 1 school in innovation, that I might be able to apply some of the innovative principles I’d learn through my education to my career and filmmaking goals.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: I think both Professor Janaki Cedanna and Professor Greg Maday taught me to tell the stories I really want to tell in my films and writing and to not worry about what everyone else is doing or what might be the “typical standard rule.” Ultimately, they both encouraged me to blaze my own trail and create my own unique identity as a storyteller and a filmmaker by letting me know that it was OK to do things differently and to go with my instinct as an artist. Break the mold to find your own success.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I would say that the best piece of advice I’d give to those still in school is to be open to change in all aspects of your life. Before starting college, I had a very different picture of what I thought my life would be like by the time I graduated, and nothing worked out like I planned. But I wouldn’t trade my life now or the last four years I’ve experienced at ASU for anything. No matter how much you may plan out the path you’re going to take, sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you think it will. But if you work hard, if you’re open to change and other perspectives and you never give up on your goals, then things have a way of working out in the end, and often in a better way than you could have ever imagined. They did for me. Have a little faith.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus was always in the basement of the Hayden Library, where I would often take work down to one of the quiet corners with the little gray chairs with desks attached. I’d grab an iced chai latte from Charlie’s Café and go down to the basement to work on homework, projects for Innovelore, a new script or sometimes I’d meet my friends down there for a brief catch-up session.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I plan to continue running my studio, Innovelore Entertainment, Inc., and working with my team to create quality original entertainment content as well as work on building the new division of the studio, Velorean Productions, where we’ll be taking on client commission work and outsource animation and film projects. I’ll be wearing multiple hats in the company, acting as a producer and story-lead for the three original TV show concepts we have in development, serving as the projects director and production manager, working directly with client relations and marketing in the other branch to help build the studio’s brand identity, and working overall in big picture projects to help continue to grow the studio. So I definitely hope to keep busy!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I had $40 million, I would try to solve some of the unemployment problems on our planet and hope that this first step would lead to solving other issues, like working conditions, homelessness and hunger. With $40 million, I would take steps with my company to hire more employees to create more jobs. As with our current employees, I’d be sure to provide a nice, livable wage with good benefits for those working at my company, so as to hopefully increase the quality of life for those employed and their families. With the company continuing to expand, I’d hope to serve as an example for other corporations on how to treat and compensate employees fairly, both domestically and internationally, so as to hopefully decrease the poverty seen throughout the world and create a better standard of living for the homeless, the hungry and those either unemployed or employed with poor working conditions. This is an actual goal of mine with my company, and the $40 million would help me to get started providing good jobs for good, hardworking people.