Karina Holden

Karina Holden

Meet 1994 Bachelor of Science graduate, Karina Holden
Studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney, Karina specialised in zoology and history and philosophy of science (HPS). Since graduating, Karina has spent 20 years working in science journalism as a producer.

We spoke with Karina Holden, a Bachelor of Science graduate and now a 4 time Emmy award winner. Karina shares how her degree in science made her stand out amongst other aspiring journalists eager to break into the field.

Karina Holden

Why did you choose the University of Sydney?

I was excited to be on such a beautiful campus and was inspired by my mother who studied there in the 1960s. Although I wanted to pursue a career in film making, I chose to study science so I would have a unique perspective as a documentary film maker. It helped me stand out when I went for my first job at ABC TV. Everyone else had Arts and Journalism degrees. Science set me apart.

Tell us about your role and what does it involve?

Over my career, I’ve made more than 100 broadcast films for: National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, ABC, SBS, BBC, Arte, History Channel and Netflix. Currently, I oversee the creation of all non-fiction content for an Australian production company, Northern Pictures. In the last few years this has included documentary series, such as ‘Love on the Spectrum’ (Netflix), ‘See What You Made Me Do’ and ‘Asking for It’ (SBS), and live event television such as ‘Southern Ocean Live’ (ABC). I’ve also been working in the realm of immersive film, using emerging technologies and exploring new forms of storytelling for Australian Geographic.

What key skills did you acquire from your degree that you continue to use in your role?

Studying History and Philosophy of Science helped shape me as a journalist and storyteller. Having scientific literacy has helped my work have an impact and cut through. Currently, I’m working on a feature documentary about the misinformation and deliberate obfuscation being fed into the discussion of Climate Change by the fossil fuel industry and global governments. In the age of ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts’, programs that promote critical thinking and help audiences recognize and understand the tactics used by those who seek to confuse or deny science are more important than ever.

Studying History and Philosophy of science helped shape me as a journalist and storyteller. Having scientific literacy has helped my work have an impact and cut through.
Karina Holden

What is your most significant career achievement or highlight?

Last year was rather monumental, as I won 4 Emmy awards and was recognised by the Producer’s Guild of America for advancing the portrayal and employment of people with disabilities in media for my work on ‘Love on the Spectrum’.

Perhaps my biggest pinch me moment was presenting to the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York at the inaugural Oceans Week summit back in 2017. Having studied marine science at the University of Sydney, it felt like a lifetime of passion carried me to that extraordinary moment.

Karina winning an Emmy Award.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your role or industry?

With the rise of reality television, non-fiction film making is under threat. Even the public broadcasters are reducing the amount of documentary programs that tackle “issues”. There’s a push to keep things light, entertaining and funny, rather than interrogate subjects that are difficult or deemed depressing, such as the state of the environment or social injustices. If we keep burying our heads in the sand, I do wonder where it’s going to end. Case in point the satirical film on Netflix, ‘Don’t Look Up', it’s not actually satire. It feels pretty real. Which makes me want to fight harder to tell the stories that matter.

What advice would you offer to students considering a career in your field?

Whenever I am having a bad day, I think about how my job is bigger than me. How it can change mindsets and make people see the world from other points of view. Having a job that serves something greater can get you through tough times because you’re not just in it to make money, you’re there to make change. When considering the path you take after your degree, think of impact and legacy. Will the work you do create noise, distraction, promote consumption, greed or inequality? Or will you make the world a better place through innovation, promoting understanding and empathy and contributing to solving some of the biggest challenges we face? You choose.