Q: What do you currently do within the media industry?
I am a Producer/Director at Studio Kate, a video production company I founded in 2010. As you can see from the business name, the branding process was very extensive.
Q. What first inspired you to work in media?
In 2010, my family and I were living in Santiago, Chile, when the country was rocked by a 8.6 magnitude earthquake that, in turn, triggered two tsunamis. At the time, I was volunteering with an international NGO that supported women-owned micro-enterprises. Dozens of businesses owned by women were demolished by either the earthquake or the tsunami or both, so we had to kick into high gear to fundraise for these women to help them rebuild. Because of the overwhelming need for donations all over Chile, we had to send the story worldwide to generate funds from other countries. I picked up my son’s video camera, recorded interviews with the women, edited a short video on iMovie, and shipped it out through the NGO’s social networks. At that moment, I realized the incredible power of digital storytelling for sharing voices across borders to galvanize support for important issues. I have not stopped since.
Q. How do you feel your experience as a woman has impacted the way you approach film-making?
Do male directors tear up when interviewing someone? I wonder. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I am very comfortable with that. I care deeply about the people I work with and their stories move me, sometimes to tears. I only work on issues I care passionately about. When a story moves me, I know it will move others. I think directors have to be comfortable with emotion, because it is our job to capture and share it. Women rock the emotion. That’s the number one reason why I think women directors need to take over the Academy Awards.
Perhaps another way I am different than other folks in this industry is that, on set, I have no ego. My productions are so not about me. My productions are a way I can gather great stories, in partnership with the talent I have collected for the job. My goal on every shoot is to create a climate where every single person on set can perform at their highest level — a level of performance that satisfies not me but them. I see it as my job to create that environment. I do that by being organized, clear, empowering and grateful. My crew has heard me say, many times, “We ain’t doin’ a shoot of the Queen of England.” That means: Leave the stress outside and maintain your perspective. We are all here by choice, doing what we absolutely love to do, and our number one goal is to enjoy this day, right now. This is the moment we live for. Success — and beautiful stories — will follow.
I used to think, to succeed in this industry, I had to act stereotypically male. We can interpret that in many ways. To me, that meant acting really serious, hiding my weaknesses, and memorizing the technical names of codecs and color something-or-others. Guess what? That’s not true. I don’t have to be male. I can be female, in all of its glory. I now bring myself and my life’s experiences — as a child and family therapist, a political strategist, a writer, a daughter of a single mom, a teacher in Africa and Guatemala, a wife and a mother — to every table. This is what you get. It’s enough, and it’s a lot. Took me a while to learn that one.
One of my most recent personal professional victories was being selected as one of five businesses invited to join the inaugural class of the Oregon Storyboard business accelerator program. This is a great honor for me and it validates years of hard work building my video production business. I have a strong vision for Studio Kate: I want to bring to the nonprofit world all of the digital storytelling assets being masterfully put to use by for-profits: powerful video + community building through social media et al. Why should waffle-soled sneakers have all of the fun? I want the world to care as much about ending childhood poverty as they do about the latest and greatest from Apple. And I want viewers to consider spending $349 on health care in Liberia instead of a watch. Oregon Story Board will help Studio Kate get there, and my brilliant peers with whom I will cavort for the next three months will help me do it in cutting-edge ways that are already blowing my mind.
Q. In your opinion, what steps must be taken in order for the media industry to make room for more females voices?
That’s a great question. I think about this in terms of What can I do? I plan to use Oregon Story Board as a jumping off point for me to be more out there, in front of groups and in front of women to say, Take risks! Do it yourself! Be loud! Have a voice! I knew nothin’ ’bout ‘nothin when I started in this biz. I just knew there were a heck of a lot of voices in this world that needed to get heard. I made some pretty shitty videos back in the day. So if I can do it, anybody can. If I can, in any way, push a female out of the nest and make her test her wings, bring it on.
Q. What would you say to any aspiring female filmmaker (or media professional) out there?
We really need to hear your voice. We really need to see — and feel — stories only you can tell. You see the world differently, so please share that viewpoint with the world. Please come join us!
Q. Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Is raising three children a creative act? Perhaps. They are, of course, my finest works of art! (Insert kudos here to the sweet father, my husband Tim.) I write poetry, I’ve painted, I’ve knit several parts of several sweaters, and I have shot a billion photographs. I’ve changed the paint color of the walls in my house a few hundred times. But, honestly, my favorite medium of all time is the moving image, combined with the human voice, set to music. That incredibly powerful combination makes my heart sing. It took me a while to find it, and I’ve never looked back. Anybody need an arm for a sweater?
Q. Why are you a WIF member? How does WIF fit into your life and media work?