Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Rachel Holmes. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Rachel, please provide us a short bio.
I grew up in the Hamptons and planted roots in DC – my whole life I have received the comment “I didn’t know people actually lived here!?” I fell into the production world when I moved here in ’98 for an internship opportunity at the Smithsonian American History Museum. I designed curriculum for middle schools about the History of Women Inventors. My internship was unpaid and I was sick of waitressing after 10 years in the restaurant business. My family friend Kin Ellentuck introduced me to Raimondi, Kern & Co., a production company where I started working as a receptionist. There, I learned to coordinate (film) & eventually produce commercials, edit on an AVID, re-brand to ENGINE Pictures, and run a small business. After ENGINE, I spent many years freelance producing primarily with PBS Brand Marketing. I am currently lead producer and owner of Cat Eye Productions, a video collaborative whose mission is to create women-powered productions with smarts + heart.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I currently engage with DC Libraries Foundation, Hearst Elementary School, Women in Film & Video, Washington Wellesley Club, DC Parks & Recreation Co-Op. I am passionate about my work with Hope for Henry, a local non-profit that helps pediatric oncology patients and their families. I support Machik, a Tibetan education + cultural preservation non-profit, whenever possible and volunteered at their school in Tibet for a volunteer-vacation-honeymoon.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Family first – my identical twin boys. My years as a stay-at-home mom were some of the most magical and challenging times of my life.
In my work life, I am proud that I have kept busy on quality productions and continue to grow as a freelancer and now a small business owner through word of mouth for well over a decade. I also pride myself in taking care to ensure that everyone involved in a production I lead has a positive experience – whether you’re the client, talent, colleagues, crew, location, insurance broker, security guard – everyone is equally important to the process.
Who are your personal role models?
I’ve never been good at picking favorites. I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors and role models in my lifetime – starting with my mom who worked hard as a single mother to get my sister and I go to college. My Dean in college, Pamela Davis, was one of my heroes – she had an office that felt like a sanctuary – filled with art and poetry. Stephen Kern and Nancy Swenton, among many others in our community, basically gave me film school in the field and taught me countless best practices. You can find a mentor every step of the way in your career if you’re paying attention. All these people have taught me that humanity comes before anything else.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
Oprah Winfrey gave the commencement speech to my graduating class at Wellesley and I’ll never forget what she said – advice she credited to Maya Angelou. When people show you who they are, believe them, the first time. Turn your wounds into wisdom. When you’re managing groups of people and putting together productions that depend on all those pieces working together, you have to work with quality people with integrity – top to bottom.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Listen. The energy that you give comes back to you – positive or negative. Always send a thank-you note. Get up from your desk and talk to your colleagues instead of typing once in a while – sometimes it’s more efficient and you need the stretch anyway.
What’s appropriate attire for Cat Eye Productions?
Cat Eye Productions is tucked away in a carriage house in a garden, behind Heurich House Museum in Dupont Circle. It’s not a formal environment. My business is essentially a start-up, so jeans and t’s work – and I take cues from my client’s work cultures for meetings (with a dash of funky). For field production days, I rely on comfortable shoes with some flair…and jeans that you can bend over safely in. And for studio / post days, a blazer or cardigan is a must (brr.)
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to work?
As a working mom with young kids with a new business, odds are all the stores I buy from end in .com. Gap, JCrew, H&M, Anthropologie. When I had more time, I used to love going to Meeps, Secondi and Current Boutique for second-hand finds. When I was a full-time contractor at PBS and needed more business-oriented attire, I rented clothes from Gwinniebee.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Putting the right people together makes my heart happy. So much of this work is about relationships and building a puzzle out of the right combination of people, talent, skills and style. My top life goals I haven’t achieved yet are learn to play the piano, become fluent in Spanish and live abroad.