Senior spotlight: Kendall Saulsby’s creativity knows no bounds

After two summer internships with Blue Ox Films in Portland, plus three years overseeing social media content for The Burlington School’s championship-winning boys’ basketball team and promoting Elon University’s football program, the cinema and television arts major is ready to take her creative talents to the next level.

Kendall Saulsby ’23 bet on herself.

Kendall Saulsby ’23 compiled one experience after another during her time at Elon, interning with Blue Ox Films in Portland, while also working with Elon University’s football program and The Burlington School’s boys’ basketball team. “It’s hard to imagine anyone having a greater balance of talent and passion,” said George Marshall, head basketball coach at The Burlington School, regarding Saulsby. Photo courtesy of Saulsby.

As she settled into her sophomore year at Elon, the cinema and television arts major received an offer to edit podcasts for Blue Ox Films, a Portland-based film production company. By this time, Saulsby was already established as a go-to graphic designer with the Elon football program, and her skills in video and photography were expanding. But she had no experience in podcast editing. Yet, she accepted the gig anyway. She figured she would just have to learn what she didn’t know.

Within a month, Blue Ox flew Saulsby to the Pacific Northwest to serve as an editor and behind-the-scenes photographer on a Nike Training Club app shoot. Nearly three years later, following two summer internships and numerous freelancing assignments with the company, the Elon senior continues to be a sought-after creative. Her talents, hard work and personality have paved the way for work trips to Los Angeles, Tampa, Portland and Utah, handling editing assignments for Blue Ox’s notable client list – Nike, ESPN, LIV Golf, RocNation and the NBA.

“I’ve even been on set with Megan Thee Stallion twice,” Saulsby shared excitedly.

And following Elon’s Commencement ceremonies, the Charlotte native will begin a full-time position with Blue Ox. For Tay Ross, an editor at the film production company, Saulsby’s hiring made perfect sense. While she might be on the cusp of getting her diploma, Saulsby has been producing professional-quality work for some time.

“When I think of Kendall, I think of a high-energy, ambitious, hard-working filmmaker beyond her years,” said Ross, who Saulsby counts as a mentor. “We knew Kendall was a special person the first time she came around.”

That is an impression Saulsby has left on many during her four years at Elon.

Yet, the senior credits Elon for giving her opportunities to showcase her skills and develop more. Saulsby admits that before she arrived at Elon, she had never used a cinema camera, or even considered that “working in the film/sports industry could even be a real job for me,” she said.

“Every day I’m so thankful I came to Elon because I know I would have had a much harder time finding opportunities to work within athletics at other schools,” Saulsby added.

‘No project too big’

Before photo shoots and editing assignments featuring A-list sports celebrities like Ja Morant and Megan Rapinoe, Saulsby began her sport media journey in the Creative Arts Living and Learning Community in Elon’s Global Neighborhood.

Inspired by Brian Aimerich ’23 and Jacob Meyers ’23, friends she met in the LLC, she joined the Elon football team as a graphic designer producing recruitment materials. Her eye-catching work garnered attention right away.

Saulsby celebrates The Burlington School’s 2023 boys’ basketball championship with good friend and frequent collaborator Brian Aimerich ’23. Photo courtesy of Saulsby.

Peter Fortunato ’21, who coordinated video from the football program, spotted Saulsby’s potential immediately. And he marveled at her willingness to develop her skills and seek out solutions to problems.

“Kendall can figure anything out that she needs to,” said Fortunato, who now serves as a creative content producer for the Wake Forest University men’s basketball program. “No project was too big for her during my time with her at Elon. If she had an idea for a video or graphic, she went out and made it. If she needed to learn something new, she went out and learned just that. Kendall took – and takes – great pride in her work and wants to be the best creator she can be.”

While the pandemic paused the sports calendar in spring 2020, Saulsby continued to work anyway, spending day after day editing previously recorded content to sharpen her skills. She was driven by a need to improve.

Around this same time, Fortunato connected Saulsby, Aimerich and Meyers with Elon alumnus Ryan Bernardi ’19 who needed support handling the creative content for The Burlington School’s boys’ basketball team – an independent power on the court but lacking a comparable online presence. In his role as the program’s head coach, Bernardi gave the trio what every young creative needs – opportunity.

For three years, Saulsby led the Spartans’ social media content, gathering video and photography at games, practices and group outings – racking up millions of views and impressions along the way. She traveled extensively with the team as part of its competitive schedule and conducted media day shoots to supplement her game footage. Call it fate, coincidence or luck, but TBS won the state championship all three years Saulsby was on staff.

“I’m a believer that the more you do something, the better you’ll get at it,” Fortunato said. “It was a no-brainer for me to recommend those three to Ryan. It was an avenue for them to get reps, try new things, and learn from failure.”

George Marshall, who replaced Bernardi last fall as The Burlington School’s head basketball coach, raved about Saulsby and Aimerich’s contributions, noting the positive impact their work has had on promoting his players, increasing their visibility with college recruiters, and engaging the community.

“I believe that Kendall, along with Brian Aimerich, have set a standard for high school creative content that cannot be beat,” Marshall said. “The quality of her work is diverse and is consistently done at the highest level. Compared to other high schools? She’s the best … period.”

‘A superstar on set’

Saulsby’s resume is hard to digest in a single glance.

The Elon student successfully juggled roles with the Elon football team and The Burlington School boys’ basketball program, while also supporting the Elon softball program for a year. In addition, she completed short-term internships with the NC State and UCLA athletic programs – the latter conducted during her semester in the Elon in Los Angeles program. Plus, she worked for The Phoenix Club during the past year.

In addition to working together promoting the boys’ basketball team at The Burlington School, Saulsby and Aimerich created content for the Elon Phoenix football team for three years. While Saulsby started out creating graphics, she continued to build her skillset in video and photography. Photo courtesy of Saulsby.

Saulsby’s summers were just as demanding, spending the past two years living in Portland and interning with Blue Ox.

As Saulsby’s supervisor at Blue Ox, Ross saw first-hand how her intern’s skillset has developed over time. Ross applauded her mentee’s ability to capture graphic elements, craft a story and evoke emotion. Additionally, Saulsby’s personality and professionalism always have separated her in a positive way, Ross explained.

“Kendall’s already become a superstar on set with clients as big as Nike, has built up an ability to meet deadlines, and can communicate professionally with coworkers,” Ross said. “These are hard skills to build for anyone and so she’s far beyond her years with her progress. The most exciting thing is that although Kendall has already made immense progress, she’s truly just getting started and the sky’s the limit in terms of her future of being a masterful editor and filmmaker.”

With Saulsby producing great results, Blue Ox hired her to freelance remotely during the school year, adding another level of complexity to her already hectic schedule. Ross commended Saulsby for her willingness to sacrifice nights, weekends and free time to develop her craft.

“Every time we bring Kendall on for a project, it never fails to impress me that she does this work in between/on top of class, homework and extracurriculars,” Ross said. “It’s a complete nod to her amazing determination and ambition.”

Yes, the work has been challenging, but Saulsby explained that she can see how her past efforts have led her “to be where I am today,” she said. “I learn something new about editing and filming from my coworkers on every project, and my coworkers always push my creative ability to the limits.”

An unmatched passion

In the hours before The Burlington School’s championship game in late February, the team’s van fell silent as it rumbled west on Interstate 40.

“Our players, coaches and our social media team were all locked into the game,” said Marshall, recalling the nervous energy leading up to the title game against the Greenfield School.

During the team’s hourlong commute, Saulsby worked diligently in the van’s front seat putting the finishing touches on her final project for the season – her final contribution. When Marshall inquired about her work, Saulsby shared that she was creating a hype video for the team. “I’ve been working on it since 4 this morning,” she told Marshall.

“I was at a loss for words … but after seeing the video it became clear that Kendall had just created the last piece of motivation our players needed,” the coach said.

Saulsby shared the inspirational video moments before warm-ups, energizing the Spartan squad one final time. Marshall credits her video edit for helping power the Spartans to a 13-point win, clinching the program’s third straight NCISAA state title.

“What separates Kendall from her peers is her obsession with doing her work to the best of her ability,” Marshall said. “Her grit and passion toward her craft is truly unmatched. I knew she was different, but that moment will live in my memory forever to show just how special she was as an artist.”

Becoming an artist doesn’t happen by accident. It took time and dedication.

Saulsby called her time at Elon “a whirlwind,” filled with hundreds of hours of editing videos and photos, while also creating graphics. She doesn’t even want to consider calculating the hours she spent collecting all her digital assets.

Beyond the work, she said she cherishes the friends, collaborators and mentors she gained working the sidelines, camera in hand.

“The friends I have made here at Elon have always supported me and pushed me to be a better creative with every piece of content I make,” Saulsby said. “The friendships I have made doing these jobs would never have happened if Elon didn’t offer these types of opportunities for students, and create jobs and spaces for them to grow in their craft and as a person.”