NCAA: Ken Carlson–Goals, gumption and grit

Living and filming in such conditions were routinely fraught with peril for Carlson and his small production crew.

Playing football at Brown taught filmmaker how to lead

For Ken Carlson, the journey to an award-winning career making films began on the gridiron playing defense in high school.

Carlson grew up a small town in north central Ohio. The son of a minister father and a mother who was an organist and substitute teacher, Carlson never dreamed he would make it to an Ivy League school and play football while earning a degree in organizational behavior and management.

He credits his Brown University football experience for helping him become a leader and find his unique voice. Together, those lessons inspired him to pursue filmmaking.

“Football and having really good grades created an opportunity for me that I never thought was possible,” Carlson said. Of the many lessons he learned at Brown, he cites fortitude and resilience among them.

As an independent filmmaker, Carlson assembles and leads teams in the production of films, commercials, music videos and documentaries. He also wrote, produced and directed 275 featured segments for “America’s Most Wanted.”

Carlson relies on what he calls the “fourth-quarter skills” he learned at Brown — perseverance, fortitude and toughness — to succeed as a filmmaker. The creative process is hard work, requiring long days. Sometimes, as with his latest film project, it also can be quite dangerous.

Carlson produced and directed “The Heart of Nuba,” a documentary bringing to light the selfless work his former Brown football teammate Dr. Tom Catena does to serve people in war-torn Sudan. Living and filming in such conditions were routinely fraught with peril for Carlson and his small production crew.

For Carlson, being a Brown student-athlete began his journey to a career that has taken him around the world. For those looking to begin their career, he suggests they follow their passion and learn to express their unique voice through their life’s work.


Kenneth A. Carlson
Independent filmmaker, Carlson Films Inc.

Hometown: Massillon, Ohio

Current residence: Santa Monica, California

School: Bachelor’s degree in organizational behavior and management, Brown University, 1986

Sport: Football

Fun fact: Carlson was struck by lightning and lived to tell the tale.


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