Executive in Charge of Production, Shaw Media & Founder, Productions Without Borders, Toronto, ON. Born: Trinidad & Tobago.
Karen King is the founder of Productions Without Borders (PWB), an online community dedicated to supporting the film and TV content industry in reaping the benefits of diversity and inclusion. In 2010, PWB organized an unprecedented event showcasing diverse writers directors, and producers co-presented by NBCU, CBS, FOX and ABC.
In 1995, Karen became the first Black woman in Canada to produce a full-length feature film, Rude, by Clement Virgo, which premiered at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals. Her short film, Variations on the Key to Life, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and Dead of Winter, premiered at the Halifax Film Festival. She is one a few executives of colour who have worked in conventional network television in Canada, and is the founding Vice-President of the Black Film and Video Network. Karen is also the first, and, so far only, person to win the Gemini’s Canada Award twice and is a recipient of the African-Canadian Achievement Award for Excellence in Media.
Background: 2003-05, member of the team that launched a new TV station, Toronto 1 (now SUN TV), and was Executive Director of the New Voices Fund, for producers of colour and the Priority Program Fund for prime-time programming. Prior to becoming a broadcaster, Karen was a member of the National Film Board’s (NFB) Special Mandate Team for Cultural Diversity; produced films and developed strategies for the NFB to be more accessible to filmmakers of colour; developed the Reel Diversity Competition, ReelWorld NFB Prize and continued the annual diversity open-house; produced several award-winning films reflecting Black, Chinese, South Asian, Latin American and Jewish realities. Earlier in her career, she produced commercials, short films, magazine TV and music videos; for two seasons hosted TVO’s hotline show, Issues in Education.
TV & film credits: Include Executive in Charge of Combat Hospital, Da Kink in My Hair, Shattered, XIII, Blackstone, Befriend and Betray, The Toronto Show, The Guard, The Jane Show, Aboriginal Achievement Awards, The Best Years, Exchanging Vows, Hooked up, Hogtown, El Contrato (2005); Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story (2003), about a Japanese baseball team (later inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame); Bollywood Bound (2001), recipient of critical acclaim in NY, LA and New Delhi, about South Asian actors travelling to India with the hope of making it in the film industry; Raisin’ Kane: A Rapumentary (2001), which looks at hip-hop culture and won the HBO Documentary Prize at Urban World Film Festival in NY; Journey to Justice (2000), which pays tribute to Black Canadians who challenged racist policies; the Gemini Award-winning Unwanted Soldiers (1999), which tells the stories of Chinese-Canadian soldiers in WWI & II; Some Kind of Arrangement (1998), looks at arranged marriages among young Indo-Canadians; and Black, Bold, and Beautiful (1999), which looks at the politics of Black people’s hair.
Affiliations: Chair, Productions Without Borders; Director, Canadian Women in Communications; Ontario Panel, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council; Board, Founding VP, Black Film and Video Network.
Honours: African Canadian Excellence in Media Award (2005); CAB Fiction Prize for Da Kink In My Hair (2008); inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada 2 (2006); International Rockie Award; Best Sports Program, Sleeping Tigers (2004); Raisin’ Kane, Documentary Prize, Reel World Film Festival and UrbanWorld Film Festival (2001); Best Documentary, Journey to Justice, Reel Black Award; Unwanted Soldiers, Canada Award, Gemini Awards (2000), Best History Documentary, Hot Docs; International Documentary Festival (2000); Chris Award, Best Social Issue Documentary (2000); Special Jury Citation, Rude, TIFF (1995).
Education: BA, Simon Fraser University; Canadian Film Centre.
Favourite book? The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles. Whenever I start to lose hope, this book brings me back to the place of possibility.
Favourite quote? “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? I’d like to create the process that ensures every film and television production in the world has an inclusive team who know how to make diversity matter, from the writing team to the sales team. I’d like to have a role in taking diversity and inclusion to the next level, from being tolerated to being valued. I’d love to have a successful speaking career inspiring audiences to be and do their best with diversity and inclusion. I’d like to write a bestselling book. I’d like to own my own TV station.
Who or what inspires you? The impact of negative media images on young Black men, and our society, inspires me to encourage more people of colour to get into the business, so that our truth can become part of the picture. Oprah inspires me to do more. Doing work that enables us to be a stronger nation by valuing all of our citizens inspires me.
Why do you do what you do? There is a lot at stake. I work in the most powerful medium in the world, and if we could just increase the quality and the quantity of engagement of our diverse populations in mainstream television as an audience, a workforce, a talent pool, and as clients, we can change the portrayals in meaningful ways and improve the future for generations to come.