From an early age, Hillary Cutter -- the Founder/President of New York-based Cutter Productions – the full-service production company specializing in advertising and branded content for an array of A-list clients such as Under Armour, Johnson & Johnson, ABC-TV, Colgate, MTV and many others – knew her future lied in television and film. Only she thought she’d be in front of the camera.
“Peter Jennings was my idol growing up,” Cutter remembers. “I had my heart set on going to the Newhouse School at Syracuse University where I would join the likes of broadcast alum Bob Costas, Ted Koppel, Mike Terrico and Sean McDonough. Although my initial goals were on the broadcast journalism track, after discovering the behind the scenes production work that went to creative TV and Film I decided that was the path for me.”
So while the sports broadcasting world may have lost the next Erin Andrews or Mary Carillo, the production community gained a smart, savvy entrepreneur whose 11-year old company has built its well earned reputation as a full service studio that that can expertly produce a wide variety of video and film projects from start to finish, including TV commercials, network promos, documentaries, docu-series, web series and branded video content.
“Cutter Productions prides itself on providing focused and loyal attention that clients expect from a boutique shop, while also offering the resources and elite talent pool of a much larger production company,” Cutter says. Of course getting to her current perch of solid cred from peers and earned respect from her clients was a journey that began in Wakefield, MA, a suburb of Boston, where Cutter was raised along with her twin sister and brother. Her mother was a speech therapist, and father a lawyer who worked as criminal public defender in Boston, as well as ran his own law practice with her grandfather – a firm that would remain in business for 45 years.
“I grew up in a very entrepreneurial spirited family,” Cutter recalls. “My dad and grandfather practiced law together for 30 years in Boston and my maternal grandparents owned a wholesale costume jewelry business in New Haven, CT. I loved hearing stories about my grandparents’ business growing up. I know I get my hardworking, honest and loyal work ethic from my dad.”
Coming out of Syracuse and looking to move to New York City, Cutter envisioned putting her degree in Television-Radio-Film into action working on documentary film productions, but after landing her first job as office manager/production manager at Firm Design Group, New York, Cutter was introduced to the world of advertising and network promotion.
It was there she got her feet wet in some of the most important facets of film production -- project development, project budgets, contract negotiations, marketing and publicity initiatives and overall production support from pre-production through final delivery. She soon found herself immersed in the world of online branded content at a time when the advertising industry was wrestling with online and mobile advertising and how best to creatively harness it.
From there, Cutter would move on to several other companies before she was ready to hang her own shingle in 2005.
“Looking back on my career, each job I had before I launched Cutter was essential to getting me to where I am now,” Cutter explains. “At my first job, I was in an office/project management role, but then took on tasks in the sales and marketing areas. I took that sales and marketing experience to my next job where I was a sales rep for a traditional commercial production/post-house. There I learned so much about client services and account management. That helped me greatly in my next job at a startup company that was producing long and short format content primarily for cable networks. I loved working in all those facets, but I knew ultimately I would be most successful if I could utilize all those skillsets for something I truly was passionate about.”
Cut to 2005 and the launch of Cutter Productions.
“A Very Particular Set Of Skills”:
For Cutter, launching her company was about the actualizing of all the real world experience she gained from her past career stops. Whether by master plan or simply rising to the challenges as they came at her, Cutter, not unlike Liam Neeson’s character in “Taken,” possessed a very particular set of skills” -- specifically creative matchmaking and project management. The next logical step would be to launch her own production company.
“The company grew organically as I built a team of loyal directors, editors, designers, as well as trusted agency and TV network contacts,” Cutter says. “I was lucky to enter the marketplace at a time when many agencies were beginning to produce digital content and they knew we could provide broadcast quality production to their online campaigns.”
However, not wanting to cut herself out from the broadcast world she knew so well, Cutter focused on building a talent roster that could compete for bigger agency campaigns. In 2011 she rebranded the company in order to attract both broadcast and digital creative teams at agencies.
“Over the past 6 years we’ve deliberately kept our roster of directors diverse and small,” Cutter explains. “It is important for me to have a strong relationship with all my directors and make sure there is an open dialogue between us so they continue to feel like their careers are supported and talents well represented.”
The Cutter Productions roster features the distinct talents of Aubrey Smyth, the comedic and colorful visual style whose reel includes branded content spots for Lipton Ice Tea, Klondike Ice Cream Bars and Glamour Magazine; Chandler Kauffman, selected as one of ten notable new directors by The Commercial Film Producers of Europe his recent work includes broadcast, web and interactive spots for such clients as ABC-TV, Clorox, Gerber, P&G, Subway, USA Today and an online spot for the OWN channel, featuring coming and current Saturday Night Live cast member Melissa Villaseñor; Jim Fabio, a director known for his unique ability to communicate enthralling and heart-warming stories such as his sports, Emmy-winning, short for the NFL Network titled “Immaculate Remembrance;" Marcelo Bukin, the multi-award-winning director known for his deft touch with documentary, fiction and commercial storytelling who in addition to his work for such brands as Starbucks, Citibank, Intel, Olympus and Sony, his documentary “Dreaming Nicaragua” won the prestigious Gold Award at FIPA in France, the FIDH Award in Belgium; and Sheldon Candis, whose powerful visual style is on full display in the co-branded doc series ‘I Will What I Want’ for Under Armour Women and Macy’s featuring a cinematic portrait of ballet phenom Misty Copeland.
For a sense of the creative diversity found on the Cutter roster, consider just two of their projects and the spectrum of emotions represented: first, the effortless charm of Aubrey Smyth’s Colgate spot “Brushing After Breakfast,” which features one particular cute kid making a mess at the kitchen table and learning about dental care from a cool app. Contrast that with Jim Fabio’s dramatic and heartwarming short for the NFL Network called “Kemoeatu Brothers: Gift Of Life,” which tells the story of two brothers who made it to the NFL but soon faced career ending choices when one brother learns the other desperately needs a kidney transplant.
”We’re known for being nimble and lean when we have to be, but no matter how big or small the project is we always deliver top quality work,” Cutter says. “I’m sure that is a line in every production company’s mission statement, but I know that every one of our clients would confirm that statement.”
Equally important as the company’s creative reputation is Cutter Productions designation as certified Woman Owned Business, which was received in 2010 and remains a badge of honor for Cutter.
“Becoming certified as a Women-Owned Business has become a huge part of our company messaging and branding,” Cutter offers. “We want to be a voice to female entrepreneurs, female artists and female filmmakers. Since becoming a Women-Owned certified company, I’ve mentored several other female business owners in the certification process. I want every female business owner to be able to waive the WBE logo and feel proud of her accomplishments.”
Of course being the type of person Cutter is, that was not enough for her always-ambitious nature. About two years ago Cutter Productions launched Cutter Connections, a mentorship program created by women for women in the entertainment industry. For the past two years, female professionals from various fields ranging from TV production to commercial audio to film editing, and job titles ranging from producer, to composer to marketing executive and beyond
have donated their time to provide guidance and advice to aspiring young women looking to enter the advertising/entertainment industry.
“Women in our industry aren’t afraid to speak out and say ‘we’re here, we’re ready and we’re not going anywhere,’” Cutter says. “I’ve personally made it my mission to seek out and partner with other women-owned production/post-houses and freelancers. I want to be an advisor, supporter and cheerleader to any woman who is taking the leap to launch her own creative business.”
No doubt that Cutter's father, a Boston public defender and a champion of those in need, would be proud.