Pam Huling is an entrepreneur and proven catalyst for growth in creative organizations. Prior to Blue Chalk Media, she led business development at MediaStorm, an award-winning multimedia studio, and advised clients in Switzerland and New York City through Gaslight Media Consulting. She served on the Executive Board of FotoDC, a non-profit in Washington, DC, for its first five years and also founded and managed--for more than ten years--two consumer cloud services that were focused on archiving family memories. As the director of photo services at Discovery Communications, Inc., Huling oversaw all aspects of photography for more than 100 television brands worldwide, starting as an intern and developing the department over 15 years of rapid expansion. Huling holds both a Bachelors degree in Bassoon Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and a degree in graphic design.
How did you get into the industry?
Although my background is in music, I was always more of a visual person, painting and drawing when I was younger. That interest led to a degree in graphic design, which led to photography at Discovery before transitioning into non-fiction video at MediaStorm and now Blue Chalk Media. Looking backward it all makes sense but living it was a step-by-step evolution. I just kept moving toward the opportunities that excited me the most.
Any emerging industry trends?
You hear it everywhere but I think it’s true: This is a new Golden Age for storytelling. With Netflix, HBO, Amazon and others producing smart, high-quality content delivered directly to online audiences, there has been an amazing explosion of possibility for storytellers of all kinds.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
Basically any industry that relied on paper-based print products previously is re-inventing itself in video right now. That could be everything from newspapers and magazines to books and print advertising. It’s a huge sea change in the way content is consumed and has resulted in strong demand for those who know how to tell a compelling visual story.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
My business partner, Greg Moyer, and I started the company with the belief that there would be an almost inexhaustible need for quality storytelling as the combined forces of the internet, low-cost cameras and shifting consumer behavior took hold. Video was rapidly becoming the coin of the realm and, we wanted to stake our claim in the non-fiction, real people part of the revolution.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Blue Chalk Media has been a success from Day 1, but we are entering a period of rapid growth right now that far exceeds anything we’ve experienced to date. In the next 18 months we will double the size of the company, and will produce hundreds of new videos that have been commissioned primarily in the higher education space. We’re adding people, edit suites and new systems that are set up for volume production.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
The secret sauce in any organization is its people. Hiring well is job #1 for management. EVERY person counts. At Blue Chalk, we assume that each job candidate knows how to run a camera or edit well. What we look for in an interview are the intangibles—do they demonstrate kindness? Teamwork? Integrity? If we don’t see those qualities, then the interview is essentially over.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
We have made forays into areas we thought might have potential for our business but fell short on getting the response we hoped for. That to us was a sign that we needed to focus our energies elsewhere. There are those who will tell you that you need to stand by your beliefs and stay the course, but I’m not a fan of that when it comes to business development. To me, if you are providing a service no one is interested in paying for, then you should take the hint and find something they do find useful. Listen to your clients!
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
The key to providing a service worth paying for lies in problem solving. Are you truly helping your clients by making it easier for them to do what they do? Are you doing that better than anyone else? When they have a reason to hire you over your competition—and it is win-win for everyone—then that is the ideal experience all around.
How do you motivate others?
Motivating others is a natural outgrowth of passion and enthusiasm. It’s infectious! My goal is to do the best job I can possibly do and that has a way of motivating others to do the same.
Career advice to those in your industry?
The absolute best thing you can do to advance your career is to build and nurture as wide a network of friends and colleagues as you can. Be good to people and they will help you find opportunities down the road. Actually, just be good to people anyway, even if they never help you. It’s just the right thing to do.
What do I do best?
What I do best is something that I had nothing to do with: I feel good almost all the time. I wake up happy in the morning and pretty much stay that way until it’s time to sleep again at around midnight. I can’t explain why this is—whether it’s because of a naturally positive outlook, generally good health or because that’s the way my parents were. I have no idea. But, because this is the way it is, I get a lot done without thinking about it.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am the best version of myself when I pay attention to the little voice inside that is my conscience. Not doing right by others or taking shortcuts out of convenience stick in my craw, and the voice then forces me to ask myself why I am doing that when there is a better way. I ignore those warnings at my own peril.
What are my aspirations?
My greatest hope in both my personal life and in business is to achieve as much as I possibly can in the time I have. Personally, that means that I show up for my grown children and granddaughter whenever they need me. That they want for nothing that I can provide to them. In business that means that Blue Chalk will reach heights I can’t even imagine right now. And it will bring everyone along with it who helped make it so.
My Biggest Success?
Even with all of the sweet victories and cherished moments I’ve enjoyed already, I really feel like my greatest accomplishment is still ahead for me. There’s a sense that the best is yet to come.
My Most Challenging Moment?
There are challenging moments in everyone’s life. For me that has included divorce, loneliness, cancer, job loss and financial struggle. If I had to pick one notable moment in my life it would be the year that all five of those things happened at the same time. There was sadness and despair at first, but in the end it became an opportunity to change everything. It’s like resetting a broken leg so that you no longer just hobble along as you have been doing—you can run!
My all-time favorite saying is this:
“The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite people are actually a compilation of the best attributes of all kinds of people put together. It’s my brother’s courage in sailing his boat across the Atlantic. It’s my business partner’s vision for how we might help reinvent education. It’s my children’s defense of animals who can’t speak for themselves. It’s the parts of people that represent all that is good in this world, rolled into one.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I’ve been to snowy Vermont and tropical Aruba. A new town center in a Virginia planned community and an ancient structure in Morocco. But, my favorite place is in my bed, under three heavy blankets and propped up by fluffy pillows, with a book in my hand. No better escape than that.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Like so many others in the world, I am hopelessly addicted to my iPhone. It is never more than a few feet away from me, and I go into a slight panic if I reach for it in my purse and come up empty. On rare occasions, a frantic search reveals that it really isn’t there and then it is all I can do to hold it together while I retrace the steps in my mind to see where I might have left it. The relief upon reunification is both profound and terrifying. How did a person who has never done drugs, doesn’t drink coffee or smoke and rarely has alcohol get so hooked? Of course, I could always just unplug and go off the grid on weekends if I wanted to. Yeah, no thanks. I kind of love it.
My Current Passions?
In a few weeks, I will be moving into a co-op in Brooklyn Heights. This is not only the first place I will own since moving to New York. It’s the first place I have ever purchased completely on my own, having always shared houses when I was married. I’m excited about the adventure of designing it to suit my lifestyle, and I’m excited to fill it with my favorite things. But, what I’m most excited about is being able to call it home.