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Experiences that made me Michael Kellerman

26 January 2024

In this series, we ask Imagination talent all about the experiences that have made them who they are. This month we spoke to Michael Kellerman, People & Culture Partner at Imagination Americas.

A bit about me…

I was born and raised in the heartland of the US, in Cincinnati, OH. I grew up in the funeral industry. My father owned a hearse manufacturing company in Ohio from the late 80’s until 2006, called Eagle Coach Company. He has a couple of new family hearse businesses now. You can see a number of my family members, including my Father, who narrates, my Sister, a few cousins, and an uncle here, in a short history and intro of his current ventures. The factory in the background was my work home for quite a long time.

A fun story about growing up in the funeral industry, my Father once picked me up from a friend's house in a hearse. He turned on the beacon light on top and he and my friend’s parents carried me out under a blanket. All of the neighbours were peeking out of their blinds. Funeral industry humour, I suppose. We all had a good laugh.

I’d also be remiss not to point out something many know about me - I’m a Golden Girls Superfan. My favourite episode is “Triple Play.” Blanche rents a Mercedes and puts a for sale sign on it, in front of her home, to meet new men to date. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for her. If you were to ask me what character I am, I would definitely say Dorothy, although I’m not always as good with my quick-witted zinger replies. I have the dry humour down though.

The creative experience that’s influenced me the most…

Music has always been my biggest inspiration, particularly when it comes to the intersection of writing, music and visual art. 60’s Psychedelic Rock and Soul were huge inspirations growing up, in addition to Pop and Rap artists like Madonna, Bjork and Missy Elliott. They took music videos to an entirely new level - Missy Elliott’s The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) and Bjork’s All is Full of Love videos will forever be creatively formative to me.

I’d also say the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit - King Pleasure - that was in NYC in 2022. He is my favourite artist. Seeing so much of his work up close along with videos of his family and personal mementos showcased his humanity and development as an artist. Learning about his interest in Gray’s Anatomy really gave me further insight into an important aspect of his work.

My industry hero is…

I haven’t been in this industry long enough to be able to define a specific hero. I worked in Publishing for quite a while before joining Imagination in Spring of 2022. However, I would say I’m immensely proud to work for Imagination. The experiences we create are exceptional and that can’t be done without the exceptional talent of the people that work here.

The piece of work I’m most proud of…

I always find it hard to talk about my personal creativity, but I do have a side creative venture, a streetwear line. Below are a couple of examples - my Husband (1 & 4), Me (2) and Friend (3). I would also say my wedding, which included an incredible vocalist, a Guyanese Drummer, and a Drag Queen performance with a dance-off. It was a hit!

The piece of work that makes me cringe…

I would say our last holiday party when the caterer sent all of the food cold with no sterno canned heat devices. Thankfully, the magician and after-party were great!

The experience I wish I had created…

The interactive Van Gogh exhibit that has been travelling the world recently. I was incredibly moved by it. I felt as if I had been transported into his frame of mind, a man who was incredibly misunderstood and whose only outlet was the art he created. It was in that exhibit I learned that his last painting was “Tree Roots.” The exhibit provided a further understanding of his struggles up to that point. That additional insight made “Tree Roots” no longer just interesting but also moving and heartbreaking. It put into perspective the universality of mental health struggles and made me thankful we have so many resources today for those who need them.

Advice to my 18-year-old self…

I would tell my younger self - The time is NOW. Authenticity is a long game that will lead to your ultimate success. Live, Be You, Be Free.

What’s next?

I’m really looking forward to visiting my Sister-In-Law in Sint Maarten this year, hopefully. And possibly getting back to Ohio this summer. I miss Midwestern humidity and thunderstorms. And upstate visits. Upstate New York in the summer is breathtaking.