2012-06-22 / Community

Neighbors

Emmy-nominated producer balances life between Cape and L.A.
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Jeff Kline Jeff Kline When Jeff Kline had the opportunity to become the executive producer for the “Transformers: Prime” TV show on The Hub network in fall 2010, he faced a dilemma.

On the one hand, Kline had the chance to build a brand new show from scratch with a brand new network. He also had the chance to work with a staff he had become familiar with over more than 20 years in the industry. And as the showrunner, he would be in the position where, as Kline put it, “the buck stops, for better or for worse.”

On the other hand, Kline’s family had moved to Cape Elizabeth in 2008. His daughter Darby had recently started school. Kline grew up on the east coast, and said he chose Maine in part because of his “sepia-toned memories” of visiting Ogunquit and Wells as a kid.

Cape Elizabeth gave Darby a chance to stay “a little younger a little longer,” Kline said. He loved the schools in Cape, the proximity to Portland and the small-town feel. He didn’t want Darby, now 9, and his wife, Cathy, to move back to Los Angeles, where his work schedule would only allow Kline to spend time with his family on weekends.

Kline’s initial thought was to start up the show and, after a time, walk away. But that wasn’t a possibility so, faced with the choice of Los Angeles or Cape Elizabeth, he chose both.

Kline, 46, spends two weeks a month in Los Angeles working as an executive producer for “Transformers: Prime,” which is airing its second season while production continues on the third. After two weeks in Los Angeles Kline flies across the country to spend time with his family and work from his home in Cape Elizabeth. And after another two weeks, he does it all over again.

Kline said his work days are actually longer in Cape Elizabeth than they are in L.A. He starts his day in Cape early in the morning and doesn’t finish up until the crew on the west coast goes home, which isn’t until about 8 or 9 p.m. eastern time.

But technology has advanced to the point where Kline doesn’t miss a beat, even when separated from his coworkers by thousands of miles. And even though his work day is long, he can always take an hour or two off to eat dinner with his family or attend one of Darby’s softball games. The only time Kline gets frustrated, he said, is when the airlines don’t cooperate.

So far, the system has worked both for Kline’s family life and his professional career. “Transformers: Prime” was nominated for four Daytime Emmys in the categories of Outstanding Special Class Animated Program, as well outstanding directing, sound mixing and sound editing, all in the animated program category. The ceremony will air on the HLN cable network at 8 p.m. EST on Satuday, June 23.

But for someone who is in charge of everything–frommediatingcommunication between studio heads, network reps, cast and crew, to having the final say on every story outline, casting decision and small design detail – Kline is quick to redirect praise for the Emmy nominations to the crew that worked on the show.

“In some ways (the nomination) is less important to me and more important that my crew and team are getting recognized. It definitely doesn’t have the glamour of the prime time Emmys, but within the industry, it’s very nice for them to get recognized,” he said.

As executive producer, Kline was also the person in charge of getting “Transformers: Prime” off the ground. He said when he started there were “no studios, offices, desks or computers. There was a desire for a new series sometime around the launch of the network, and we had a year. The craziest part of it all was that it started from ground zero.”

Even without frequent cross-country plane trips, the work schedule of a TV executive producer can be grueling. Unlike a live action series, an animated series using computer-generated imagery has a production cycle that takes longer than a year because every painstaking detail must be created and drawn out. But Kline said he prefers it that way. After graduating from Boston University in 1987, he worked in the world of big and small-budget film producing, and said the pace moved too slowly for him.

A friend suggested he try out TV, so Kline applied for NBC’s executive training program, and when he was selected, his career took off.

Kline said he always envisioned working in Hollywood. As a kid, he borrowed against his allowance to buy both a Super 8 camera and a video camera, which he used to make “horror movies that would drive my parents crazy.”

Kline’s career includes some impressive producing credits. He has worked on everything from the PBS series “Dragon Tales” to “Jackie Chan Adventures” on the Kids’ WB network.

But dig a little deeper into Kline’s bio on his Internet Movie Database page, it becomes clear why he flies from coast to coast every two weeks, and why he runs the risk of getting stranded in an airport to juggle both career and family.

Scroll past the cast and crew credits, the award nominations and the episode listings for “Transformers: Prime,” and it’s the name of Kline’s production company that makes his priorities clear. Kline named the company after his daughter: Darby Pop Productions.

About Neighbors

Neighbors is a weekly profile that features a community member from South Portland or Cape Elizabeth. Know someone you would like to see featured in the Sentry? Contact Jack Flagler at news@inthesentry.com.

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