Gratitude Entertainment: A Production Company With A Purpose
Sacrifice is a term every film and television production member understands well. From the producer to the on-set coordinator, weekends, personal activities and countless hours are donated to the vitality of a production. Christine Kolenik experienced this selfless giving in a variety of positions over the years, from public relations work to coordinating documentary production departments to producing shorts. When she encountered Mike Meeker, a Virgin Records A&R veteran and international marketing professional who had devoted to his career as a music supervisor, the two struck a chord.
“Mike was working on a film that was getting ready to be released, and he spoke so passionately about it,” said Kolenik. “I saw how much he cared about the subject matter and thought, ’wouldn’t it be great to incorporate that into a larger scale?”
Meeker had been working on a string of documentaries with social focuses he found fulfilling. He also understood what it was like to work on projects in order to sustain oneself. He encountered Kolenik periodically on sets, and as the two spoke, he became increasingly interested with the ideas she presented him.
“We had both worked on projects that were a means to an end, and had made a lot of sacrifices to achieve success,” said Meeker. “How cool would it be to have an additional, impactful meaning to our paycheck and have the ability to change people’s lives?”
Gratitude Entertainment arose from their collective desire to turn production into a force designed to inspire social change. A production company that is also a dedicated philanthropic enterprise, Gratitude Entertainment is focused on developing projects that can incorporate charitable organizations into receiving a cut of all developed projects. Meeker and Kolenik provide the service of finding appropriate charities that match the artist’s vision and content of their content, whether it’s a movie, a soundtrack, or a major event. They have spent three years refining their business model, finding the right balance between the content produced, the charities that benefit, and a revenue source that keeps their business afloat.
“We tried out different projects including television, radio projects and live events. Through trial and error we’ve narrowed our focus to a direction dedicated to film and soundtracks,” said Meeker. “It’s a fine line to navigate with every project, finding an opportunity for creativity and figuring out ways to make money while helping a community.”
After three years refining their focus, the first film project Gratitude Entertainment became attached to is the Afghanistan war documentary “The Hornet’s Nest.” Shot by Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalists Mike Boettcher and his son Carlos and directed by David Sizberg and Christian Tureaud, the movie provides and unflinchingly real account of the experience a solder undergoes on the enemy line. Meeker and Kolenik were able to get to know many of the families with loved ones affected by the war, and discovered a number of charities that assisted vets through the family members. The duo studied the various charities and found several that were effective in their practices and resources, such as Gold Star Families, a charity that helps families who have lost loved ones not only to battle but other effects of military services.
Working as music supervisor on the film, Meeker culled four songs written for the film onto a soundtrack. He then reached out to other professional musicians in an effort to put together a compilation that would raise funds for the charities benefitting from “The Hornet’s Nest” including the USO, Infinite Hero and Fisher House. Contributors include Wynonna Judd, Kid Rock, and Stevie Nicks.
“We wanted to get artists excited to contribute; we sent rough cuts out to artists. This gave artists the opportunity to really add a personal angle,” said Meeker. “Creating a ‘songs inspired by the movie’ soundtrack was really exciting. Seventy-five present of the artist we reached out to were receptive, the others were too busy with their schedules to provide a song for this album.”
With “The Hornet’s Nest” in theaters now, Meeker and Kolenik are searching for their next project. They bring different sensibilities to their company as well as different focuses, so the first course of action is finding a project they both feel equally devoted to. While they both have backgrounds in film and television, they both have different areas of expertise: Kolenik in performance and theater, Meeker in music and production which they use to their advantage in all stages of production.
“It’s hard- we are two passionate, intelligent people,” said Kolenik. “We’ve butted heads, but at the end of the day we figure it out, and use our different backgrounds to make the collaboration work, and find what project is best for us to focus on.”
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