October 5, 2023
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The Evolution of the Creator Community with SLMBR PRTY

Anna Keizer
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“It’s who you know.” Cliche? Maybe. True? Most certainly. 

The extent to which you grow and nurture your creative community can have a direct impact on the success of your professional life. And there’s no better example of that than SLMBR PRTY.

A little more than seven years ago, co-founders of SLMBR PRTY had an idea to bring together the many talented female creatives in their professional circle. Today, they’re running a women-led production company that provides work and livelihoods for hundreds of people each year.

Let’s find out how it all happened.

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Meet SLMBR PRTY

Friends and production professionals Sarah Donnenberg and Kirstin VanSkiver are the co-founders and partners of SLMBR PRTY, an independent filmmakers’ collective turned production company. 

Founded in 2016, SLMBR PRTY began to bring together female creatives and technicians across the entertainment industry. Over the last three years, however, SLMBR PRTY has also expanded into the production space with a focus on commercial work.

The Evolution of the Creator Community with SLMBR PRTY - Wrapbook - Founders
The women who got SLMBR PRTY started… Sarah Donnenberg and Kirstin VanSkiver. SOURCE: SLMBR PRTY

With this expansion, Sarah now carries as well the title of executive producer, while Kirstin wears the hat of head of production. Throughout this article, we’ll showcase a sampling of the incredible commercial work some of their directors have achieved with SLMBR PRTY.

The genesis of SLMBR PRTY

Based in New York, the duo were already both working in the industry – Sarah on the agency side and Kirstin as a line producer – when the idea for SLMBR PRTY first formed in 2016. Sarah notes:

“It was a really interesting time… We were in our late 20s, women who had been in our careers for a few years. We had a really great group of girlfriends who were really talented up-and-coming filmmakers. There was something about it that made us think, ‘Well, we should get together.’”

The original idea was simply to have the female creatives in their lives gather occasionally for informal meetups. But quickly they realized the incredible latent potential for these gatherings.

What started as ‌periodic happy hours rapidly morphed into industry-focused, programmed events such as screenings, panelists, Q&As, and live performances. Others in production and entertainment were also taking notice of what SLMBR PRTY was so swiftly and successfully achieving in creating this professional community. 

Soon, companies like Company3 and The Mill were providing sponsorships for these events. Without meaning to, they became professionals.

Who would you find at these events? Everyone from editors to DPs to colorists and more. Sarah and Kirstin made a point of keeping the list of invitees broad so that professionals from every sector of the industry could meet.

SLMBR PRTY’s women-led creator community

SLMBR PRTY began because Sarah and Kirstin had a stacked friend group they wanted to build a strong community around.

However, it was also an opportunity to provide focus and offer support to the women they knew in production who hadn’t yet broken through what has been a traditionally male-dominated space. Says Sarah:

“There was definitely a huge void. Free the Work was just a seedling of an idea at the time. There was very little focus on it. This was also before the #MeToo movement… One of the first events we did was female DPs, and we had a really hard time curating that showcase. Now it’s completely different… At the time, though, it really wasn’t being done.”

While SLMBR PRTY has since evolved into a production company, it has remained faithful to its roots as a community-minded organization with events each year. Kirstin notes:

"We do quarterly events where we pick different themes and highlight areas within the industry that feel important to the people who come to these events. It’s a fun thing for us. It’s where we started… We want it to be a good time.”

Did we mention that these events are absolutely free? Sarah emphasizes:

“Community is very important to us. Our programming is free to everybody. The commercial production company subsidizes that. We brought on somebody specifically to run the community and organize the events so that they do get a lot of attention… That’s how we keep it alive.”

To that end, SLMBR PRTY brought on Carly Reicho to head up its film and community programs so that these events remain a vibrant part of the SLMBR PRTY ethos. 

SLMBR PRTY hears opportunity knock

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was a life-changing time for pretty much everyone on the planet. For Sarah and Kirstin, it was the chance to jump into the production world.

A pandemic pivot

While the pandemic certainly presented challenges for production, it also, as Sarah and Kirstin state, “leveled the playing field.” Meaning, it became an opportunity to enter the commercial production world.

It was not a calculated move on their part, but rather one that evolved organically from the community of creatives and crew they were growing through their events. Sarah explains:

“The growth was quick right away because a couple of things happened in 2020. People were very eager to work with new people. There was a shifting of tides. People were open to new partnerships. Also, we’re a female-owned business, which is important to some people. We also signed with representation, so that also opened a lot of doors.”

Given the‌ daunting circumstances of trying to run productions during the pandemic, how was SLMBR PRTY able to achieve so much so fast?

Kirstin expands on exactly how SLMBR PRTY could grow so quickly within a historically competitive industry, a pandemic notwithstanding.

“For us, it was a bit of a smaller operation that could come in and have a big impact. The way we thought through productions was very nimble. We had a lot of resources through our community of people who were located all over the country. That was really helpful for remote productions, so the pandemic gave us kind of a launching pad.”

Sarah adds:

“And 2021 was a really busy production year because all the money had been held from the 2020 spend of clients. It was weirdly a great time to launch.”

All to say, SLMBR PRTY found success in this new space by capitalizing on the pandemic-revealed gaps in the production world that it could fill. 

Cross-country growth

Since that shift into production, work has been booming. While SLMBR PRTY may have started in New York, Sarah and Kirstin have run productions across the country on account of their extensive community.

SLMBR PRTY’s current nine-person roster of directors is exclusive to the production company, which means that Sarah and Kirstin have a talented, tested, and trusted group of creatives they can tap for their production work.

Trust and familiarity help to facilitate the usual break-neck speed with which commercial production is often done. What also keeps SLMBR PRTY dynamic within the industry is that robust and ever-growing community that was first launched less than a decade ago. Kirstin notes:

“We have key crew that we love to work with over and over, but it’s always nice to mix it up. That’s what’s nice about the community. There are always people coming in and wanting to be involved… It’s nice to have the different perspectives and talent brought to the table. Keeping things fresh."

It’s this embracing of both new and old within SLMBR PRTY’s ever-growing community that has allowed for it to put together dynamic production teams no matter where the job takes them.

A multi-faceted & expanding SLMBR PRTY community 

At the time of its founding, SLMBR PRTY was addressing the void for female creatives and crew. They had no place to grow their community together.

Opening doors

But with both time and that growth comes the opportunity to expand beyond previous barriers. 

Sarah states:

“As we evolved and as we shifted and as we matured ourselves, as times have shifted, SLMBR PRTY has shifted with it. We’ll always be a 100% women-owned company. That will never change. It’s nice to know our origin of how we started, but we’ve definitely matured and grown beyond that.”

The only constant in life is change. It’s a mantra SLMBR PRTY has fully embraced – and not only through the creation of its production company arm. Sarah and Kirstin’s inclusion of all like-minded individuals who support and believe in SLMBR PRTY’s work continues to underscore its mission of being dedicated to craft while transcending tradition.

That meant embracing the fact that many creatives beyond women filmmakers were wanting to make connections. Through SLMBR PRTY, they could expand everybody’s reach for the benefit of all. 

But Sarah and Kirstin also made sure to honor those early-on connections by listening to their community and adjusting according to their wants and needs.

Exploring new mediums

This expansion has also allowed SLMBR PRTY to support its community in the narrative film world.

One of SLMBR PRTY’s directors, Abby Horton, recently enjoyed the premiere of her feature film debut, Blow Up My Life. Co-written and co-directed with Abby’s husband, Ryan Dickie, the film was made possible in part through the executive-producing involvement of SLMBR PRTY.

While commercial production work remains SLMBR PRTY’s bread and butter, it allows for this venture into narrative filmmaking and support for its community members in it.

Embracing what comes next

For SLMBR PRTY, it’s that involvement that is both highly rewarding and an indicator of more possibilities. Kirstin explains:

“SLMBR PRTY’s been this entity that’s been able to support so many different things for so many different people, and I think that’s the most rewarding thing at the end of the day. We’ve been able to create work and jobs and financial livelihoods for people, and that is such a great feeling as a business owner. And through the events, we’ve been able to give back to the community and help people come up through the industry but also push forward.”

Sarah adds:

“It’s always been really cool to see talent grow whether we had anything to do with that or not. To see the rise of everybody… Growth is always exciting. Progress is always exciting.”

And as for the future? Par for the course, Sarah and Kirstin are open to wherever their creator community may lead them.

“We want to be open to any possibilities… Pushing forward with our community. Making sure our commercial roster is getting the most amount of work. Building more relationships with clients...” 

And Wrapbook is thrilled to be there as SLMBR PRTY continues its meteoric rise.

A little help from Wrapbook

Sarah notes that SLMBR PRTY was an early adopter of Wrapbook’s payroll services.

Kirstin adds that there came a point where every single one of SLMBR PRTY’s line producers were saying, “Are you on Wrapbook? You gotta get on Wrapbook.”

The Evolution of the Creator Community with SLMBR PRTY - Wrapbook - Invite Member
Being able to simplify the demands that come with production payroll has made SLMBR PRTY “big fans of Wrapbook.” Music to our payroll service ears. 

For a production company like SLMBR PRTY where time-saving strategies and user-friendly services are key to keeping their projects as streamlined as possible, it’s a huge benefit.

“That’s exciting to us.”

It’s exciting to Wrapbook as well!

Wrapping up

A huge thank you to both Sarah Donnenberg and Kirstin VanSkiver for their time and insights. For a deeper dive into all things SLMBR PRTY, check out its Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Looking to build your own creator community? Check out these posts on film networking events and commercial meetups.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Anna Keizer

Anna Keizer originally hails from the Chicagoland area. After receiving her B.A. in Film/Video from Columbia College Chicago, she moved to California and finished her M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University. She has also graduated from UCLA’s Writing for Television Professional Program and is currently in post-production on the short She Had It Coming, which she wrote and is executive producing.

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