A Career Behind the Camera: James Kerry

Mar 24, 2021

C&IS alumnus James Kerry working on the set of the TV show “The Office”

For James Kerry (Telecommunication and Film ’02), working in the production industry was something he had dreamed of from an early age. Inspired by classic movies such as Star Wars and The Terminator, he knew that production work was exactly what he wanted to do but was not certain how he would make his way to working on the big screen.

As a young boy from Alabama, Kerry was convinced that his dream job wasn’t attainable and, after contemplating alternative enjoyable career paths, he decided to pursue a degree in graphic design. Not long after he began working on his degree, his mother passed away unexpectedly. This marked a turning point for Kerry, and he decided to turn tragedy into a life-altering transition.

“I decided that life is too short,” Kerry said. “I knew I had to be a director or producer in film and television.” With this renewed mindset and outlook on life, he set out to do just that.

He left his graphic design degree program and immediately enrolled in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) to earn a degree in telecommunication and film. It was during his senior year in C&IS that he was introduced to well-known producer Tom Cherones.

Cherones invited Kerry and four other students to Los Angeles prior to graduation and introduced them to various producers, helping them form some initial connections in the industry.

“[Tom Cherones] introduced us to two producers. He introduced us to Tim Kaiser, who was one of the producers of ‘Will and Grace’ and ‘Good Morning Miami’ at the time. He also connected me to Kent Zbornak, who was one of the producers of ‘Golden Girls,’” he said.

Although he didn’t realize it at the time, that trip would launch his future career. Less than six months after graduating, Kerry moved to Los Angeles and was reconnected with Zbornak. He was offered a job as a production assistant and the production career he had always dreamed of began to take off.

Kerry first started his career working alongside Zbornak on the set of the hit television show “The Office.” He spent seven years on set for the show and worked his way up to serving as co-producer, and eventually producer, for later seasons of the sitcom. In addition, he also worked on the set of numerous other shows including “Anger Management,” “Casual,” and various pilots.

Along with his work on notable television programs, Kerry has also had the opportunity to be a part of various film projects. His work on movies such as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “About a Boy” allowed him to expand his production goals even further.

While he notes that life on set is exciting, he readily admits that it is not for everyone. In order to be successful, you must have two things – “a strong work ethic and an agreeable attitude,” he said. With these two skills, Kerry believes you can achieve just about anything in the production world.

His work ethic, optimistic attitude and extensive production knowledge have provided him with a successful career in the industry for almost 20 years now. But to Kerry, there is still so much more to accomplish. He currently works as a production executive at Showtime and oversees the production work for a number of the network’s shows.

Working hours on set can be long, and the job isn’t always easy, but he believes that the benefits far outweigh any downsides to the job and that’s what keeps him going. The opportunity to build relationships and watch both actors and shows evolve bring Kerry some of his most memorable moments.

“I love it. To see the actors get the roles and develop over the seasons as individuals is so fascinating to me. It really makes it worthwhile when you get to witness that growth and be a part of those moments,” Kerry said.

In addition to watching the actors grow and evolve in their roles, Kerry says he is equally as moved by watching how shows he helps produce make a difference in the lives of viewers.

“I still get choked up talking about it sometimes,” he said. “I really enjoy being a part of something that brings so much happiness to people. It gives people a break and this sense of happiness and lets them forget what is going on in their life and escape.”

Sometimes it’s still hard for Kerry to believe that all of these experiences and memorable moments came to be because of one leap of faith.

After taking a chance and living out his dream, Kerry encourages other to do the same. Whether it’s moving across the country or pursuing a career in production or any other industry, you just have to remember that “life is too short,” and you have to go for it. Evolving from a young boy watching the classics in front of the screen to a successful production executive behind the screen was something he believed at times would always be a dream – but now it’s his reality.