REEL WOMEN: 3-time Emmy Winner Sarah Kunin

(Reel Women’s Sarah Kunin)

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2021 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready, they are making “Herstory.”

Sarah Kunin is a three-time Emmy and Edward R. Murrow Award-winning television producer, and is currently Supervising Producer, Development at Riverside Entertainment. With over a decade of experience in the news and entertainment industry, she has worked closely with top celebrities, athletes, chefs and newsmakers to deliver compelling content to millions of viewers across the country. 

Sarah recently sold her first show idea alongside Riverside Entertainment. She is now also the showrunner and executive producer of the upcoming series, an untitled home renovation docu-follow, which is expected to premiere in July 2021 on Discovery+.

She is currently developing a number of unscripted projects and continues to work as an independent senior producer and media consultant.

Previously, Sarah steadily rose through the ranks at ABC News to become a supervising producer at Good Morning America. For over ten years, she has produced hundreds of exclusive and competitive interviews for nearly every ABC News platform, including GMA, World News, Nightline, 2020, ABC News Live and the primetime specials unit. Sarah was also Michael Strahan’s anchor producer at ABC News for five years.

Sarah currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Luke, an active duty Air Force major, and their dog Bruce. 

What’s Your Origin Story?

I grew up in New York City and we used to drive by the ABC News headquarters on the way to high school; I dreamt about just getting into the building. In college I landed an internship at ABC News Radio, and over the course of a decade I rose through the ranks to become a supervising producer at Good Morning America.

In 2019 I moved to Nashville, TN and set my sights on television development. I teamed up with Riverside Entertainment and just sold my first show idea to a major streaming network.

I’m currently the EP and showrunner of that untitled home reno series, expected to premiere this summer.

How Did You Get Into TV Production?

I always knew I wanted to work in television, but it wasn’t until I went on a college field trip to ABC that I experienced the true adrenaline rush of a live television environment. I was thrilled by the pace of the control room, the energy of production teams and the front row seat to some of the most important stories of our time.

Once I got into the building, I learned quickly that as long as I raised my hand, there was never a shortage of work to be done. During my 10+ years at ABC I worked in breaking news, politics, food and lifestyle, special events and more. There was never a dull moment.

Who Were Your Mentors?

There are so many producers at ABC News that supported me from day one, and I continue to seek advice from them to this day. As a young PA I was lucky to have some senior producers edit my scripts, allow me to shadow them in the field and teach me how to get the most out of an interviewee.

I’m confident that my early days in the newsroom set me up for success for the rest of my life. These days I’m inspired by anyone who seeks out a compelling story and brings it to life on screen.   

While There Will be Others, What Do You Consider Your Greatest Achievement To Date?

’ve had plenty of exciting and rewarding assignments at ABC, but I think my proudest career moment happened last year when I sold my first television show with Riverside Entertainment. I stepped completely outside my comfort zone, but realized that I could apply some of the same storytelling techniques I used at GMA to develop, pitch and sell shows.

Outside of work that I’ve produced, it feels very rewarding to see my former interns and PAs excel in their own careers. I love following former mentees on social media to see all of the incredible things they’re accomplishing today. 

What’s Your Biggest Disappointment?

In general, I’m disappointed anytime that I let fear get in the way of an exciting opportunity. I often have to remind myself that we all have imposter syndrome from time to time, and that it’s always better to attempt something with confidence and ask for help when needed than to not try at all.

How has Your Super Power of Being a Woman Helped You?

I don’t want to generalize this trait in all women, but for me the most important quality of a storyteller is empathy. I think for many women who are creative producers, our curiosity, compassion and empathy help to connect us with subjects and bring their stories to life.

What’s Your Kryptonite?

This is probably the result of crashing news stories overnight for so many years—but I love a deadline. If I’m working on a project without a delivery date, I can get a little restless.   

ALSO READ: Susanne Preissler, EP Independent Media

How Did a Combination of a Pandemic, Black Lives Matter and QAnon affect you?

In many ways I’m grateful that the pandemic forced me to slow down and prioritize my goals. I was lucky to be able to work on projects remotely, so I kept momentum going in my career without having to travel for work or wake up at 3am for live shots.

I also think we all became acutely aware of the power of social media during this time. It was so inspiring to watch the country unite through stories of BLM, and also terrifying to see the rise of misinformation through QAnon.

I am definitely more aware of how important it is to produce meaningful, factual content for all platforms, not just linear television.

What Can the Industry Do Better to Promote True Inclusion?

Leadership has to come from the top down, so rethinking executive staffing is a great place to start. I also think true inclusion will come from a combination of transparency surrounding workplace conflicts, open dialogues with staffers across all levels and access to resources for people who feel they are lacking support.

TV crew members often work long hours, late nights, weekends and holidays, so it’s important to make sure that every person involved in production feels supported and valued, and mental health should always be prioritized.

If You’re Batwoman, Who’s Robin?

I have a text thread with a group of badass women in media; we all love and support each other through the highs and lows of this business. Also, my dog Bruce.

What’s the engine that drives you?

I think my curiosity and creativity keeps me competitive in this business. I always want to try new things, meet new people and collaborate on unique projects. With the expansion of so many digital and streaming platforms, the opportunity to produce new and compelling content is more attainable than ever.

Step Into a Time Machine and Tell Your 15-Year-Old Self Something

Never let fear get in the way of an exciting opportunity. Showing up and stepping outside of your comfort zone is usually the hardest part!

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