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For Garrett Beltis ’13, Imagination and Originality Unleashed in Role of Producer for Nickelodeon

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Keene State Today, Winter 2024 - Garrett Beltis, Nickelodeon

Garrett Beltis ’13 is a senior producer at Nickelodeon Digital Franchise Studios in New York City. He describes himself as restless and imaginative, and not always within reason, and he calls his Keene State student experience “life-changing.”

His degree in visual media was an independent major, a combination of graphic design and film production coursework and applied field experiences. He was a part of the student newspaper staff, an Orientation Leader, and for two years served as building manager for the College’s bustling Student Center.

Not bad when one considers that Keene State fell onto Garrett’s radar only because a patron at a coffee shop he was working at in his hometown of Putnam, Connecticut, came in one day wearing a KSC hat.

It was enough to capture Garrett’s attention. The rest is what one might call history, of which there is a lot for this enterprising and creative 32-year-old who lives in Stamford, Connecticut, with his husband, Kayle. After seeing the hat, Garrett added Keene State to his list of colleges he chose to visit.

It was raining on the day that he and his mother, Jan, first came to Keene State, a small but nationally recognized public liberal arts college in the southwest corner of New Hampshire. So, they made the 85- mile jaunt north again, later, and that time it was snowing so hard that Jan accidentally drove the vehicle they were in partly down Appian Way, the main pedestrian corridor in the center of campus.

Weather aside, the attraction for Garrett was immediate, saying that “Keene felt like what I might describe as existentially accessible. It wasn’t so big that I’d get lost or so small that I’d feel stuck. It felt like an upgrade from my hometown. It felt like a place where finding a community was possible, and it was!”

“Keene felt like what I might describe as existentially accessible… a place where finding a community was possible, and it was!”

Keene State Today, Winter 2024 - Garrett Beltis, Sponge Bob
Garrett Beltis ‘13 with friends.

Garrett answers some of our questions.

KST: Before college, did you know what you wanted to study?

GB: “Yes, journalism, but having to remove yourself from a story, that wasn’t me. I never would have imagined a career in the entertainment industry; that seemed like a pipe dream. I had an impression that every film production major moved to LA after graduation like some big bird migration, all vying for the same entry-level jobs. And I know many who did just that with great success! But that vision made me terrified about getting lost in the crowd. I learned at Keene State that the only person that could stop me from getting lost in the crowd was myself. Keene taught me that hard work is the key to any ambition. Keene State taught me to bet on myself.”

KST: In an ideal world, where do you want to be in 10 years?

GB: “I’d love to be producing my own original series. I’ve been able to translate my passions into many aspects of production – from on-set skills to creative development and even organizational management. I’ve even studied improv and sketch comedy with the Upright Citizens Brigade. I see having my own series as an opportunity to utilize everything I’ve learned at once. … I recognize how fortunate I’ve been. If producing a SpongeBob puppet show and seeing it air on TV is my peak, then I’ll still be super proud of how far I’ve come.”

KST: What made Keene State such a good fit for you?

GB: “The people. In my first week, I met two of my best friends – two people who made me feel like I could be my weirdest, goofiest self. They also convinced me to pursue this type of career. I found a home working at the Student Center, and another working off-campus at Brubaker’s Café. Being an Orientation Leader challenged me in ways I couldn’t imagine, but in the most supportive environment I’ve ever seen. Over time, I would have conversations with department heads that made me feel like I was talking to an equal.” “Before Keene, I never had conversations with adults where I felt so genuinely respected.”

KST: What do you most enjoy about your role at Nickelodeon and your profession?

GB: “To be honest, being a producer suits my specific brand of ADHD. During my time in Oregon, a KSC Alumni and former roommate, Kristin Greco ’13, had gotten a job at WWE. It was Kristin who originally convinced me to become a film major, along with another friend and alum Katie Bolvin ’13. Kristin eventually helped me get an interview with WWE, and I began working there for the next five years. WWE was cutthroat. They didn’t sugarcoat video feedback or anything for that matter. I owe the quality of my production skills to WWE. I met my husband there, got my MBA and even pitched my own puppet show! But when the puppet show didn’t work out, and I felt like I had conquered all of the challenges I wanted to, I began looking for work elsewhere.”

“Kristin, Katie and I all ended up at WWE at one point or another. When their former coworker Stefan left WWE and got a job at Nickelodeon, Kristin and Katie introduced me to Stefan. Stefan and my future Nick team loved the puppet show I had pitched at WWE. It served as proof that I could take a creative idea and see it from pre-production to delivery.”

“The hundreds of hours of weekly recap shows that I wrote, produced, and distributed internationally at WWE also helped … even if all that felt much less creative. After taking bets on myself for so long, Nickelodeon took a bet on me. I started work at Nick in October of 2019, about six months before the pandemic.”

“My biggest accomplishment since then is certainly the SpongeBob puppet series Pineapple Playhouse that I began with Kristin. Pineapple Playhouse is a reenactment of abbreviated SpongeBob episodes. It originated from the need to create a premium original video, at home, with less than three crew members and in two days or less. Those were the Covid restrictions we had to adhere to. Kristin and I knew we could pull it off in my apartment in Queens, New York, because we knew how complementary our production skills could be. We could only hire one additional set of hands who ended up being our main puppeteer and prop builder. I built props and puppets (like Mr. Krabs!) when the budget ran out, and with guidance from the professionals.”

“Kristin and I played multiple roles during those two days, and again when we repeated the apartment-based production for several episodes. Eventually, as Covid restrictions eased, we were able to expand our production onto an actual Paramount stage. Now the series has over 38 million collective views on YouTube.”

KST: What advice would you share with a high-schooler considering college?

GB: “Find something you care about and let it fuel you.”

“I think there’s such mindset in high school that caring isn’t cool. But apathy doesn’t get you anywhere in life. I almost flunked out of high school because nobody ever expected more of me. Even teachers would make me the butt of their joke. It was the people I met outside of high school that opened my eyes to the possibilities in life. When you graduate high school, life gets so different so fast. Don’t nail yourself down to who you are before college.”

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