The S.B. Questionnaire: Harlene Conlin

Talking Video and Family Business with the Cofounder of YTS Films

Harlene Conlin flanked by husband Gary (left) and son William (right). (Jan. 12, 2016)
Paul Wellman

Harlene Conlin is a very nurturing individual and always appears oh-so-calm under pressure.

In 1986, way before the advent of reality TV, she and her husband, Gary, started a company called “You’re The Star” that was dedicated to creating films about ordinary people. Soon they were busy making videos for weddings, private events, and consumer products. They also dabbled in music videos, including those especially made for karaoke.

In the early 2000s, Harlene co-produced the TV show “Discover Lompoc,” which led to her current projects on KEYT, namely “The INN Crowd,” “What’s Cooking with Arthur,” and “Design Santa Barbara.” Their company is now known as YTS Films, and has become quite a family affair, with their son William on the team. She finds that fantastic, despite the “artistic disagreements once in a while.”

During SBIFF, you can see Harlene interviewing all of the honorees arriving on the red carpet, an experience she finds exciting and rewarding.

Here, Harlene puts down the camera to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Cue the dramatic music: to be a great film actor. I wanted it from the time I was a child. I persuaded my family to move to California so I could pursue an acting career at 17. My life took a different turn, however they were still happy to be in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.

What do you like most about your job?

The artistic freedom. Having come from a family of artists and studying acting growing up I have always wanted to be a part of creating great film. In our own small way, our business and my job allows a form of this expression.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Curled up on our big couch with my Yorkies, Chloe and Tiffany, in front of the fireplace with delicious food and watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and ‘American Pickers’ on TV.

What is your greatest fear?

Loss, in any form. Several years ago I lost my dear mother which was the biggest loss of my life. I have a hard time letting go.

Who do you most admire? 

This is a hard question as I deeply admire so many people for many different reasons. I can’t limit it to one person, but rather I will have to lump it together and say my two sons David and William. What an amazing thing it is to bring someone into the world and watch them grow. I am so proud of these guys on a daily basis. They have grown into people that enhance the world. 

What is your greatest extravagance?

Louis Vuitton bags. The big brown box tied with satin ribbon, the oversized shopping bag, and the salesperson with world class sucking-up abilities — does it get any better?

What is your current state of mind?

Anticipation. With the new year just starting I know there will be new adventures coming. I want to work on being calmer in the face of change.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Loyalty. You have to know when you can really count on someone to have your back.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Selfishness. People who only care about their needs and desires are a total turn off.

What do you most value in friends?

Commonality. Shared interests and experiences. To have “history” with someone is fun.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I think fast, sometimes talk too fast and can be way, way, way too anxious about things. Boy, I hope I’m doing okay on this questionnaire…..

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Whatever the current catch phrase is, but I usually get it turned around and everyone laughs at me! I guess I’m not dope.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To be thinner! Hey, new year’s resolution, it could happen!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

YTS Films, my family business. My husband, Gary, and I started from ground zero to build a business that would sustain our lives. We have faced many challenges but continue to have the most amazing experiences, meet incredible people, and create special work that we hope will endure.

Where would you most like to live?

Right where we live, here in Santa Barbara County. I love London, Venice, and of course Paris, but no matter where in the world I visit I love coming home to this special place. It would be fun though to live in certain cities for short periods of time. If I had

the chance I would love to have a second home in New York City. Oh wait, and then there’s Vegas!

What is your most treasured possession?

A music box my mother gave me with a very special inscription engraved inside the lid.

Who makes you laugh the most?

Funny, really funny, movies and my son William. He is so fast with satirical comments and observations. We can easily get a comic riff going on a minutes’ notice.

 What is your motto?

“Follow Your Bliss”

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Oh wow, I should say Mother Theresa or Susan B. Anthony, both of whom I deeply admire, but I have to say Marilyn Monroe. As a child growing up in Brooklyn and Queens, NY, I would read every biography I could about her. She personified Hollywood in my young mind and that was the golden ticket to me.

On what occasion do you lie?

Never, it always comes back and bites you. I do believe in sometimes shading the truth so you don’t hurt someone unnecessarily.  


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