Elevate Your Story with Story North Productions
Between parenting, business, and life, husband and wife duo Kevin Jacobsen and Annie Harala spend the majority of their time together. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. Together, the couple owns Story North Productions, a Duluth-based, full-service video production company.
Each spouse brings a unique and vital set of skills to the business. Jacobsen, a former news anchor and news director, provides a keen creative eye, along with most of the technical skills required, including editing, filming, and writing scripts. Harala, meanwhile, has a lengthy background in PR, with significant experience in community organizing.
Melding their talents into creating a video production business simply made sense. “My career, all along, has included helping people feel connected to communities; connected to one another,” Harala said. “And then I met Kevin in 2013, and we really connected over storytelling.”
Jacobsen is always on the hunt for meaningful connections, too. “As a former news anchor, I try to always be attuned to what’s happening,” Jacobsen added. “Storytelling is all around us.”
In marriage, as well as in their work, Jacobsen and Harala rely on one another to fill in what the other lacks. “Having Annie provide an - almost outside set of eyeballs - before I send a video to a client is great,” Jacobsen noted, before adding with a chuckle, “Typically, she’s always right.”
Many locals will recognize Jacobsen as a former news anchor and news director for local news affiliate KBJR. But many people don’t know his interesting life story.
“My parents are from Denmark and moved to the United States in 1982,” he shared. “I’m an only child. I grew up outside of New York City, in the Hudson Valley area.”
Jacobsen initially became interested in journalism in his youth. “There was a giant blizzard in New York in 1996,” he explained. “There was no school, and I was home for the day. I was watching the news and kept flipping back and forth to the Weather Channel. I kind of fell in love with it.”
Later, Jacobsen took a video production and filmmaking course in middle school and eventually created a local TV news magazine. At age 15, he landed an internship with a local TV news station, Regional News Network, and was hired part-time at age 16. His first big break was to interview NBC meteorologist Al Roker and create a news story about Roker’s new book.
Jacobsen attended Lyndon State College in Vermont, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. He moved to Duluth in 2008, when he was hired at KBJR. There, he worked as an anchor from 2008 – 2016 and was later promoted to news director of CBS3 and KBJR. He served in this role from 2017 to 2021.
Today, Jacobsen maintains dual citizenship between the U.S. and Denmark. “When other kids went to Disneyland, I went to Denmark,” he said. “It’s always been a destination throughout my life.” The couple even enjoyed a belated honeymoon in the country in 2016.
Harala was born and raised right here in Duluth, the daughter of a single, schoolteacher mother. She and her brother were raised near Chester Bowl, and Harala graduated from Duluth Central High School. She later attended St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, and earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations, with a minor in English.
After moving back to Duluth in 2008, her career took some interesting zigs and zags. “I worked for the Duluth Y, running their AmeriCorps program and managing grants,” she explained. “Then, I worked for the Community Health Board, where I managed grants to support health equity in rural communities. I served on the Duluth School Board from 2018 – 2021, and I worked for Northland Constructors from 2018 – 2021.”
Most recently, Harala was elected to serve as the First District Commissioner for the St. Louis County Board, taking the place of long-time commissioner Frank Jewell, upon his retirement. Her term is scheduled to run through 2025.
Story North Productions
A mutual love of storytelling and making connections led to the creation of Story North Productions, which opened in June 2021. Together, the couple creates corporate overview videos, TV commercials, tourism content, brand stories, and testimonials for their clients.
From their website:
“Story North Productions is a Duluth, Minnesota-based full-service video production company serving Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond. More than just great video, we are storytelling experts driven by passion, creativity and helping our partners succeed. From concept to the final edit, we specialize in video content that engages and inspires audiences and gets results. The content we produce can be seen on television, websites, social media, and in board rooms.”
Right now, Harala and Jacobsen are the company’s only regular, full-time employees. However, they recently hired their second part-time production assistant (pulled from the Upper Midwest Film Office’s talent pool), and also utilize a variety of part-time independent contractors to create video content. Harala shared that they are pleased to be the only woman-owned video business in the region.
Story North utilizes a variety of types of equipment to do its work. This includes cameras, drones, teleprompters, and a variety of audio and lighting options.
Story North serves mostly businesses, including corporations and non-profits. A few of their well-known local clients include the DECC, Northwoods Children’s Services, Northland Constructors, First Witness Child Advocacy Center, Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center, Lake Superior College, and Kern and Kompany.
While most of their projects take place in our region, they will also travel. The couple has visited places like Akron, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and the Twin Cities for projects.
Since opening, Story North has been in high demand. Thus far, the business has completed about 150 projects, with many more in various stages of development.
Interestingly, one of the first organizations to help Jacobsen promote his work was Destination Duluth. “Kevin started honing his craft through Destination Duluth with his sunrise pictures, and I watched him just ignite with excitement,” Harala said.
Since that time, he has connected and continues to engage with, a variety of other Destination Duluth photographers and videographers. In 2022, Kevin’s photos and videos featured on Destination Duluth’s Facebook and Instagram pages had over 200,000 views.
Story North Productions has been a successful endeavor thus far. It recently pivoted from a home-based, virtual business to having a dedicated office. Today, Story North can be found on the 7th floor of the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace building, located in Canal Park.
Jacobsen and Harala also shared that they are excited to roll out a brand-new initiative: their Video FAQ Toolkit. “Usually, corporate FAQs are in text format, but we are helping companies create them in video format,” Jacobsen explained. “This will really help boost their marketing.”
In addition to their professional endeavors, both Harala and Jacobsen have served on a variety of local Boards over the years.
The couple also recently celebrated expanding their family: they went from zero to four children in a matter of months. They now have custody of two teenagers and are fostering to adopt two young children. “We have quite a unique family,” Harala noted.
The couple also have a mixed-breed dog, Rory, and a cat named Misse, which is Danish for “kitty.” The family lives in Duluth’s hillside neighborhood.
In their spare time, the couple loves to spend time together and as a family. “We love time by Lake Superior – throwing rocks, and just being tourists in our own backyard,” Harala said.
They enjoy attending a variety of local events, including Bentleyville, Duluth-Superior Pride, Juneteenth, and more. A perfect evening would include watching ships in the harbor from the vantage point of the Boat Club’s outdoor patio; preferably with a delicious cocktail in hand.
Small Business Pride
Jacobsen and Harala have much to be proud of with their new business, which they have built from the ground up. “I’m most proud of our grit,” Harala said. “It wasn’t easy to jump in, but it’s led to some really great stories being told. And I’m really proud that we can do this together.”
“I’m so proud of the work we do,” Jacobsen added. “And, the fact that our clients refer us to others via word of mouth. The work speaks for itself, and we really enjoy helping businesses tell their stories.”
Ultimately, Story North has some concrete goals in mind. “We want to continue building strong relationships with our clients and telling stories that are compelling and unique,” Harala said. “And maybe we’ll even create a documentary or two someday.”
“We want to keep our business on the smaller side, but we want to get better at what we do,” Jacobsen added. “Mostly, we want to continue to be a good partner from beginning to end.”
To learn more, please visit storynorthproductions.com.