Kat Torina says she loves everything Maine offers her and her family. She talks about how our unique helpful people, the vast outdoor areas, and low population is so appealing, especially during the pandemic. Jetting frequently from coast to coast for her fascinating work, she says she is grateful to land back here in Maine, where her mother’s ties have lured her.
Some of us were given the gift of being born in Vacationland. She wasn’t raised here, but knew she was home when she arrived from Los Angeles with her husband and young son.
Kat thinks that Maine is the perfect backdrop for her family’s life.
Mary: Tell me about yourself. You’re originally from Boston?
Kat Torina: I’m originally from downtown Boston, but my mom was raised in Cumberland Foreside. So, I have a lot of roots in Maine, but it’s exciting that we now live here because being raised in Boston and then living for twenty years in Los Angeles, we were looking for a new place. Portland was really interesting to us and having a really good public school system was important. We’re really, really happy that we found Yarmouth. We just love it here.
Mary: You worked with American Idol?
Kat: Yes, American Idol. That came full circle. I went to Boston University, and I had already been working in TV because during my senior year of high school my dad encouraged me to sign up for a job at Cable Vision. I started off by having a teenage talk show, a live call-in show run by an educational programming executive, and it was meant to encourage kids in high school to call and talk about educational issues like SATs. This was in the ‘90s, so you certainly weren’t talking about things you would today.
I dipped my toe in television and I worked for them all four years of college. I ended up doing a lot of camera work for them and I actually got an Emmy — a New England Chapter Emmy — for a piece that we did on the Alvin Ailey Dance Club in New York. I was technically a film student, and I had an amazing internship opportunity with Kodak, the film company, and they brought aspiring filmmakers to the Cannes Film Festival. And that was an eye opener for me to understand the marketplace and the business behind films, not so much the creative side of it. And that’s when I was inspired to move to Los Angeles.
As time went on, I got a job at a company that started a poker tour, and they didn’t know what they were doing. I knew poker through my mom playing petty poker with friends, but I’d never even been to a casino. I started running the actual tour around the world and I managed all the events. And then after a few years I got a little tired of traveling. I literally spent my twenties in a suitcase accruing miles and had some really great experiences and decided I didn’t want to be in the poker world anymore.
I met my husband Chris and he had just started his company. I eventually left that company and started working at Fremantle, a global production company best known for Idol, and Got Talent, and X Factor. This is my ninth year there and I ran the revenue partnerships division, which is just sort of a fancy way of saying that we licensed shows. You see it on Apple TV or Netflix. So, I’m tasked to work on whether it’s finding those Coke cups for the judges’ desk on American Idol, or most recently I launched a stage show in Las Vegas on the strip. They had looked to license the America’s Got Talent brand and to bring-in former contestants from the show to create a really exciting big show.
Mary: That’s fascinating, Kat.
Kat: It was probably one of the harder things that I’ve done just because I didn’t know stage shows. I only knew television and it’s a different beast. We just launched that this November and that was really also hard to do in the middle of a pandemic.
Mary: We’re all trying hard in this difficult time.
Kat: Through the first few months of American Idol, I called up Apple and asked them to partner with us and send us a lot of iPhones and we never went dark. We immediately came up with some cool technology to connect our contestants at home with what we were doing and filmed the entire show remotely, which took about twenty hours a day, seven days a week for the last ten weeks of production. It was really hard.
Mary: That must have been an unbelievable challenge.
Kat: Truly the hardest thing to pull off. It was so nice to have that show come to an end and there was a little bit more flexibility in the Los Angeles area to film America’s Got Talent, which was the in the summer of 2020. We had learned a lot of lessons from Idol, and we were able to carry them into Got Talent, so we never went dark on that show either. Our company, by the way, is run by all women and they’re all really successful family women who believe in success at home translates to success at work.
They are very in tune with their employees, making sure that we have that quality of life. I approached our HR and asked for permission to move, and they said yes instantly. So, we’re here and super excited. And that’s my story in a nutshell.
Mary: That’s wonderful. So, tell me about how your husband. Did he have a business in LA as well?
Kat Torino: We sold the company that he originally started. And then he had a lot of other consulting projects lined up, but they immediately shut down when COVID hit and so did (our son) Carter’s school, and Carter’s School never reopened. So, I feel really fortunate that we were able to divide and conquer and Chris really spent all the time with Carter while I worked seven days a week.
Mary: What’s your schedule now? How often do you have to travel?
Kat: I oversee a team of people and most of us have actually left the LA area. What we did to promise our employer that we really are still here banded together is we’re going to once a quarter go back to Los Angeles and have a two or three day in-person, but I fly to sets all the time. When I was launching the show in Las Vegas I spent a conservable amount of time there in October and November. And we moved here the first week of August and I have already gone back to LA two or three times.
Mary: I really applaud what you have done. What shows are you currently working on now?
Kat: I oversee all of our projects — America’s Got Talent, Family Feud and Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal. And then more recently Supermarket Sweep, a big project that over the last few years translates our television shows into stage experiences on cruise ships. We were working with the Carnival Corporation right before COVID hit to bring Family Feud to their largest ship. It literally was supposed to launch in March of 2020. You can imagine that never happened, but then in August they called us saying, we’re ready to, the CDC is allowing us to get out there. So, we hustled to get that out there.
But what I’m excited to share is that we just signed on with Norwegian Cruise Lines five game shows as part of a game show experience in their largest ship that’s going to be launched this upcoming summer.
Mary: I can sense you have incredible vision. Good for you!
Kat: It’s fun. I mean, the projects we work on are super fun and you always learn something. There’s also a part of me that secretly wants to take a long nap and just rest for a little bit. And Maine is very inspiring because I feel like the Maine work ethic is just you pick yourself up and figure out what you need to do. I’m excited to see what this new chapter is for us as a family and for me as a working mom.
Mary: Do you want more children or, I don’t know how you’re going to have time for that?
Kat: My husband would really love to have another kid and I just turned forty-two this past weekend. So, I’m not totally excited about hitting the reset button all over again, but I’m quite happy with our son. He is a vibrant, smart little whipper snapper and I’m so happy with being his mom.
Mary: Has your husband had some crazy jobs too?
Kat: Oh, my gosh. My husband’s story is fascinating. He was an undercover narcotics detective in Florida for ten years and he also trained the SWAT teams down there. He left that job to start his own poker company, so he is an entrepreneur way more than I am. I also had some interesting failures in my twenties and thirties with startups, one of which was actually a formal bankruptcy, which was very humbling.
Mary: I hear you.
Kat: And so, he just jumps right into this, and I sit back, and I say I’m glad to have the steady job with the health insurance and you can go off and take some wild risks. This year he started a real estate investment fund project with a friend, so he has great exciting projects coming up that he’s working on and it’s nice to see him back at it because he was truly Carter’s caretaker for two and a half years. And my mom? She retired but she’s busier than she was when she was working. I mean, it’s exciting to see that energy. I think it’s a New England thing.
Mary: Coming from New England, then going to Los Angeles and coming back to Maine, have you noticed anything about the area or the people that have made you just glow inside? What is it about Maine?
Kat: When we really circled Maine on the map for us to really look at, I didn’t want to move out to Boston. And at first, I was a bit cautious about the lack of major cities in Maine, but Portland was just so sweet, and has come a long way in the twenty years that I’ve not been in New England. With Maine it felt like it had this incredible amount of energy complimented with peace and a sort of outdoors energy. It was really lovely to find that Maine offered so many great communities and the public schools here are just so good. But my biggest thing was that I knew Maine as a kid and what I’m blown away by everyone here is how kind and welcoming everyone is. And so that has been I think my biggest eye opener. Everyone is so happy to help, and happy to share.
Mary: It’s an amazing place and I am so glad you made it your home. Maine is lucky to have you.
Kat: Thank you.