Kennesaw State graduate thrives in film industry

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 20, 2020

In a Savannah movie theater 22 years ago, a 4-year-old girl sat, entranced, watching the blockbuster Titanic with her mother. It was an event that would make a lasting impression on her life and career.

“It was the first movie I sat through and watched the whole thing – and it was a long movie – not saying a single word,” said Katie Boaen, now working in the prop and set decorating departments of Georgia’s thriving film industry. “I was captivated by it at that age – the scale of everything coming together; I remember it to this day.”

She continued, “How do you convey a historical event – a huge ship going down – and make it into a story that people want to see? I just thought it was incredible that you could create stuff like this.”

Katie Boaen

Boaen is “a huge movie buff” who has always liked storytelling and mixing it with art. She graduated from the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program at Kennesaw State University in 2018. Her end goal was to turn a hobby into a profession and earn some income in the process.

“My major was in communication with a media and entertainment concentration, and I also had a film studies minor,” Boaen said, adding that the Katz program initially emphasized the music business but shifted towards adding film courses and hands-on film work as the state became a hub for it. “They started to see there were people who wanted to learn the tools of the trade for having a career in the film industry.”

Georgia Film Academy
The university then teamed up with the Georgia Film Academy: “GFA and the MEBUS program, as we called it, were two essential tools in my tool belt,” she recalled. “We would go to Pinewood Studios (now known as Trilith) a few times a week and take classes. There were industry professionals such as directors, producers, writers, prop makers, set decorators, set construction workers and all kinds of creative content folk, and they explained to us the business side behind everything. They also helped us get connected with a lot of great internship opportunities; it was a really neat program.”

“Just being able to work behind the scenes and on the stages was amazing – like a dream come true,” she added. “I always loved learning new things and making them come to life.”

Boaen’s internship turned out to be on The Walking Dead, and she was hired by the show's art department a few weeks later. It allowed her to see what goes into making a successful television series and perfect her craft while doing so.

The set decorator on The Walking Dead became a mentor to Boaen, who, for example, was asked to create felt fabric banners that would hang on the sides of buildings in each community of survivors. “Fans really love them and it was a cool thing for a little PA (production assistant) to make,” she said. Boaen told herself, “I can actually be happy and make money doing this.”

Working on the ninth and tenth seasons of Walking Dead, Boaen enjoyed helping out in the prop department “because you're in the apocalypse, creating these weapons to fight off ‘walkers’ or whatever it might be... it’s so creative. So, it was really cool taking things from the characters’ environment and putting it all together.”

“I did want to be an actor for a while, and I still would love to if that was ever an opportunity,” she said. “That's mostly what I did growing up in theatre performance; I did a lot of stuff behind the scenes as well but I've always loved acting and I'd like to find the time to go and take classes and get more involved with that.”

On the day we spoke, Boaen was informed that a short film she worked on called Bloom had won an award for Best Drama/Thriller at the Sandgrounder Short Film Festival in England. The director and cinematographer both received nods as well. “I just got an email this morning about the awards. We did it a few years back and it took a while to get all the ducks in a row. It was a great little shoot and my very first legitimate gig.” More recently, Boaen has been working on the fourth season of the hit Stranger Things.

I asked her if Atlanta had been good to her since moving to the city from Savannah in 2013. “Oh yeah, definitely,” Boaen replied. “I didn't really want to move to New York or LA. It's just so awesome that everything is here and – knock on wood – I haven't had any trouble finding work. I hit the ground running a week or two after I graduated college. I love it. I'm definitely fortunate.”

On the last day of Boaen’s Walking Dead internship, she got hired. “It happened to be my birthday, and they said, ‘join our team!’ I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for GFA and that internship.”

– Kevin C. Madigan

Submitted photos

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit