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Creativity Squared: Why Talking to People Is the Best Idea Tool with Kath Tolentino


Across the Pond San Francisco's creative on an aspiration for routine, suffering from perpetual FOMO and starting a tech-free hippie commune in the woods

Creativity Squared: Why Talking to People Is the Best Idea Tool with Kath Tolentino

Kath Tolentino initially joined Across the Pond’s San Francisco team as a Producer at the beginning of 2021, responsible for delivering live action and animated films for clients including Google, Anglo American and YouTube. Her shift to the creative team came 18 months later – a move that takes her back to her first love, telling stories, allowing her to do something she finds truly compelling: taking complex information and turning it into clear, human-focused messaging.

Prior to arriving at Across the Pond, Kath ran her own film company called BorderWoman Pictures, writing and directing films including the festival hit Parachute. Before this she worked on various productions, including HBO shows and big budget movies (feel free to ask her about babyproofing Kate Winslet’s house for a film shoot when you meet her).

Kath’s career began in radio journalism in 2010. But arguably her passion for storytelling dates back to her childhood in San José when, aged just nine, Kath began her lifelong journaling habit. In her spare time, Kath continues to write, direct and produce her own short films, with the aim of bettering humanity.


There’s order in the chaos, I swear. And yes, those are blank sheets of paper sitting on top of my printer.

I would describe my personality as driven, cripplingly perfectionistic, and extremely messy. I aspire to have a routine in life. Seeing the world as a glass half empty type of person, I find creativity is something that is innate in all of us. I refuse to believe that some people are ‘more creative’ than others, only that some people are more tuned into their creative energies than others are.

I believe I am an extroverted introvert. I love social situations, but there inevitably comes a point whenever I’m with people where I just fully check out and let my mind wander while other people talk.

When it comes to creative stuff that I enjoy, I love so many genres and forms of expression, that I suffer from perpetual FOMO. Music, dance, performance art, painting, sculpture, poetry… you name it, I can get lost in it.


Prosciutto and Melon. V creative.

I take umbrage with the idea of assessing whether an idea or piece of work is truly creative. 

All work is inherently creative, as all work comes from a creator. And judging a work based on its ‘originality’ (which we conflate with ‘creativity’) always says more about the judge than the creator. 

Nothing is truly original, the whole universe is just atoms being reorganised and repurposed into new forms, all the time.

But given those caveats… what makes some work ‘more’ creative than other work?

I’d say it has to do with combining elements that would otherwise have nothing to do with each other, or elements that fall outside what we perceive as the norm, into an arrangement that feels fresh and new.

Like prosciutto and melon. Who came up with that idea? There’s nothing new about prosciutto, or melon. But the two of them together… Now that’s creative.

I don’t think that criteria has shifted or evolved over the years. Even though we may not know it or know how to verbalise it, humans are always moved by things that feel unexpected or surprising.

Though I wasn’t actually the creative lead on this campaign (Nick Alden was) I’m really proud of the film series we created to chronicle the world’s largest clean energy vehicle conversion - a mining truck the size of a two-story building! 

Corporate communications can so often come out dry and boring… but I think we were able to turn this tech story into an engaging saga that actually has the potential to spark change.

When I think about the industry’s creative output, right now there are more platforms than ever to tell stories and shape culture. The diversity of opportunity is really exciting. 

But then when I consider how flooded we are with content on a daily basis, it makes me want to quit this industry altogether and go start a tech-free hippie commune in the woods.


I am an actual Luddite.

I find the best way way to start a campaign or creative project is to turn off my notifications, sit in a café with my journal, and think. A blank sheet is the best way to start every new project.

Talking to people is the best tool to help gather ideas together. I generally try not to watch too much of others’ work, and instead get inspiration from other sources. Industry veterans may think me crazy for this, but just like in the film world, watching too much of each others’ work can lead to making content only for ourselves, and not for our audience.

I like to start projects alone, and invite collaborators once I’ve had a chance to digest. When it comes to the hard bits of a project, I ask the team for help, and jot down stream of consciousness thoughts, no matter how bad they are.

I know when a piece of work is done when I hit the deadline.


My cousin and I used to host gallery openings in the backyard and sell our artwork to relatives.

I grew up in San Jose, California. My cousin and I were always making things growing up - putting on plays, writing songs, drawing cartoons and selling our artwork to our relatives. She didn’t have a TV so any time I was over there we were making stuff.

Before working in advertising, I worked in the film industry and got my MFA in Film Directing. By making short film after short film and having each one ripped apart by my peers, my visual storytelling skills really improved.

External factors can be frustrating. I definitely need quiet time away from phone and computer notifications. If I really need to generate ideas, I’ll put on some mantric music like Floating Points or Burial. Sometimes I’ll light a candle. And I need deadlines. If I have too much time to do something, it’ll never get done.

If I was to give advice to clients looking to get the best out of the teams and agencies they collaborate with I would say 'You’ll always get our best work if you’re invested in the project, too! Your passion helps spark ours'.

Agencies can best facilitate creativity through culture and design by not giving too much credence to hierarchy and division of labour. Yes, those structures are useful for efficiency but they kill creative energy. Get to know your individual team members and what their hopes and dreams are… then help them get there.

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Across The Pond San Francisco, Mon, 12 Sep 2022 13:23:17 GMT