NAME: Erin Sarofsky
COMPANY: Chicago’s Sarofsky Corp. (@sarofsky)
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
I always say we are a design-driven production company… but that’s my way of trying to consolidate a bunch of information into four words. The long and the short of it is that we produce work using live action, visual effects, 3D development, design, animation and editorial. We have clients in both the commercial and entertainment arenas. Ultimately, though, we are a collection of artists and producers that are problem solvers. Every day, clients call us with a task: to come up with the fastest, cheapest*, most innovative and beautiful way of producing their project.
* I’m not saying we are cheap. Actually, we are quite pricey, but budgets are what they are and we need to maximize the money clients have. We like to make sure the money winds up on screen and is not wasted.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I am the owner and executive creative director. I am also live-action director, which is technically a small part of my job if you look at it by time spent, but it is a big focus as we become more and more entrusted with that aspect as a part of the studio’s capabilities.
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My role is essentially to oversee the creative development of our jobs.
That probably seems like a lot of work, especially because we have multiple jobs of varying sizes happening simultaneously. Luckily, our projects are always in various stages of development. The beginning of a job tends to take up the majority of my time. It’s important that the client and I are on the same page, so that translates to a lot of communication and previsualization. We then kick it off in the studio with the right producer and artists attached. My executive producer Steven Anderson and I spend a lot of time discussing our teams and who is appropriate for what project.
After that, it’s really just keeping an eye on things and making sure the team has the resources and guidance they need. Luckily, I have a very talented group here. Our communication is better here than at any other company I’ve worked, which is essential to being flexible for our clients, and also supportive of each other.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think that the most surprising thing is that I can never really focus on anything. The most intensive work I do happens after hours at home or on a plane (which, now that we have Internet, is sort of a wash). There are always people needing to talk through things… clients, producers, artists, lawyers, accountants, contractors, business development, etc.
As the ECD and owner, I have the big responsibility of managing not only the day-to-day projects but also the company’s bigger strategy, which includes making sure my employees’ careers are on track and that we are making informed business decisions.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love my team. We collaborate all day… and there’s always a lot of laughter.
Really, it’s just amazing that we all make a living in the arts. I imagine that as we all went to art and film school we wondered if we would ever be able to balance the need to make a living with the desire to produce work that fuels our souls. Luckily, everyday we get to do that.
I also love that I can snack all day. I’m a bit of a grazer.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
When one of my artists is struggling and I know how to fix it, I have to give them the information, support and direction for them to figure it out themselves. I think as a CD, it’s important to embrace your role as a mentor, but sometimes all I want to do is grab the mouse and a pair of headphones with some cheesy ‘80s channel playing and do their work for them. Though, at the end of the day, that would make me a terrible CD, so I don’t.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I love the moment before I fall asleep. When I am cozy in bed, feeling like the day was rewarding in some unexpected way (usually prompting a silly giggle) and thinking about tomorrow… and how it’s going to be crazy, wondering how are we going to get it all done.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I love, love, love American crafts. I am a knitter… not professional, but I can hold my own. All of my baby-making friends get little sweaters for their munchkins. So I think I would be doing something in the crafts, like pottery or woodworking or pattern making or even basket weaving. I love using raw materials and making stuff.
I’d like to think that my work would be shown in museums, but I’d probably be rocking a corset (begrudgingly) at a Renaissance festival selling my wares.
HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I began as a graphic design major but started folding in more technical courses early on. By the time I was a senior, I knew I wanted to stay to get my Masters in computer graphics, which at the time (1999-2001) at Rochester Institute of Technology was a combo of early After Effects, directing (LOL) and 3D. The second I could animate my designs, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. I honestly had no idea what that even meant in terms of a career. I just knew that I loved that there could be a narrative aspect to my designs.
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The last couple of years we have been producing main title sequences for Marvel. That work has really invigorated the studio and increased our visibility.
Our first project with them was Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. When Anthony and Joe Russo went to Marvel to direct Captain America 2 they introduced us to the executive team there and asked us to pitch on the main-on-end. I had been working with the Russos since we produced the Community main title for them in 2009. Even though we had a great relationship, we knew we were the dark horse, having never worked with Marvel or been through their intensive security process. Ultimately, they loved the creative we presented and we got the gig.
Shortly after that project, we were asked to pitch again on Guardians of the Galaxy. We did the typography for the main title sequence as well as some fun locator cards. It was so wonderful to work with James Gunn. That movie was really, really special.
The last project we finished for Marvel was the main-on-end for Ant-Man. That was for sure the most challenging, because the development process ate a lot of our production time away. As a studio, we are so proud of the work we produced. The look is so unique and our process was so well developed that we really hold it in high regard. Also, for me personally, I know director Peyton Reed was really happy with the final piece. It’s really rewarding when the director is just super excited about the work you create for their film.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Whatever I am working on at the moment.
This may be terrible, but as soon as I deliver a job, I am over it. I am already excited about whatever is cueing up. I am very “in the moment” when it comes to my work, and it doesn’t matter if it is a big feature main title or a commercial for a new herpes cream. I love the challenge of making something as amazing as it can be… so if someone is excited to work with me, and willing to pay me, I am all in.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My car (I love driving).
My remote control (I am lazy).
My laptop (I got work to do).
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Honestly, just Facebook. It’s basically a collection of photos of my dogs and some PR about whatever my latest work is. I have to be very careful about not being political or religious. I don’t limit my friends and I assume everything is public. When you own a company you have to understand that your opinions and behavior reflect on the company.
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
When I focus and do design work, I like to choose a song and listen to it on repeat. It is crazy, I know. When I write or do admin, I usually have a Harry Potter movie on in the background. I’d like to believe my patronus would be a honey badger.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
If it get’s overwhelming, then a weekend where I just run errands with the cell phone left at home does the trick. But I find that the day-to-day stress can be easily managed when you have a lot of fun people around you who naturally laugh a lot. We all take our jobs seriously… but we certainly know how to make a joke about anything.