In recognition of International Women’s Day, we wish to celebrate some of the amazing women involved in our Chaldea production. I asked each of these women to tell me what they find interesting or challenging in their work on Chaldea, offer some insight into a job or activity they pursue outside of Chaldea, and for advice they would give to young women trying to compete in today’s market.
Gin is our lead accent coach for Chaldea. Accent coaches help actors speak in the accent required by the role. To prepare for this assignment, Gin designed fifteen different accents, including German, English, Arabic, Old Norse, and so on. Because she was in such high demand, she couldn’t do all the coaching herself, so she coordinated with several other Seattle accent coaches to make sure everyone was coaching actors in the same accent.
Outside of Chaldea, Gin loves working with actors more than anything else in the world. Recently, she had an opportunity to do exactly this when she was invited to help translate a French video game, Post Human War, into English. This involved casting several voiceover actors and directing them in a sound studio.
When I asked Gin about advice she would give to young women, she said, “Being a sane professional who’s easy to work for is underrated.” She went on to explain that by sane she means, “keeping your life in balance, always showing up on time, not being someone who’s always explaining why they were late or spouting about their personal life.” I asked her if it’s ever okay to discuss your personal challenges at work. Her response? “Don’t let your home drama be your opener. You can bond later over a break.”
Gin also stressed the importance of getting as much experience as you can in different related tasks within the industry you’re interested in so you know how everything fits together.
Jo has two jobs on the Chaldea project: on set at our film shoots, she is our script supervisor, and during post-production, she serves as our editor. These jobs pair nicely with one another because as we’re filming, she can oversee the continuity in the shooting to ensure there aren’t the errors or lapses that are so fun to pick out in films; she can make certain that locations are the same on film; she can be sure that it’s filmed consistently with the script; and she can guarantee we shoot all the shots necessary for the edit. For our most recent Chaldea film, Jo particularly enjoyed the opportunity to edit an action sequence.
Outside of Chaldea, she is especially excited about a documentary she’s been working on since 2012: Personhood will mark her directorial debut for a feature. A slew of laws are being passed to restrict women’s access to healthcare, so she chose to explore the growing fetal rights movement and how this impacts women’s ability to keep their own constitutional rights. “The film looks at this intersection of the anti-choice movement, our mass incarceration complex, and our drug war,” she said. “When you put these three things together, you have a state that’s taking giant leaps toward policing women’s behavior before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Jo has finished filming Personhood and will be spending most of 2017 editing it. She hopes to be submitting her work to festivals by late 2017.
Jo’s advice to young women: “I started learning every aspect of the job I was involved with. So, for filmmaking, I’ve run sound, done script supervision, shot with a camera, edited, done sound design, and done color correction. Know as many roles as possible while mastering the area you’re interested in—the more knowledge you have, the more confident you’ll feel in making suggestions that help take the product to a better place. Know more!”
On the Chaldea production, Julie was one of the audio engineers working at Bad Animals, who were collectively responsible for recording all the voices for season one. She was primarily responsible for monitoring the quality of the recording, which was particularly challenging because we recorded up to four actors at the same time, which means, of course, keeping track of up to four recordings simultaneously. Julie added, “The big part of my job is to allow the actors in the room to play, to allow you, Peter, and Steve to play in your directorial way, and to help myself make sure we don’t lose any of it and that it all sounds good on the other side.”
“The most challenging part,” she added, “was the range of characters and types of voices we were getting. One day, it was elves; the next day, it was orcs, who are big and brassy and literally screaming into my microphones. And then we’d go into playboy-soft bedroom voices. It’s all about making sure we maintain the range of these voices without making them sound uniform, taking each voice and its particular qualities and saving that digitally, and then converting these into signals our brains process as noise.”
Julie’s advice to young women: “It’s very easy to get discouraged. Be an empowered woman, and don’t give up your womanness but also don’t be a victim, which is a tough thing to ask. It’s a tough world, but if you get an opportunity, don’t ever be discouraged by someone saying it’s too hard. Just do it.”
Leila Blue Aram-Panahi
Leila is our production art director for Chaldea films. What this requires is working closely with the production designer, the director, and the creative director to build, commission, or purchase set decorations, costumes, props, and the film sets themselves.
The challenge for Leila is to create fantasy content that has a Chaldea brand to it, material that’s not just generic fantasy—for example, designing female characters in a believable way. It’s easy to objectify women, especially in fantasy. I asked if it’s possible to hit the sweet spot where you have adult content but you’re not objectifying your female characters. “It can be done,” Leila said. “A lot of media mixes the mark. I think Game of Thrones does a good job of hitting that point. There are characters who objectify women, but there are also women who aren’t objectified. A medieval world is going to be that way—there will be sexist characters, so I would expect to see that in a fantasy story. It’s an interesting character flaw, and it’s an interesting way to show the problem [of sexism].”
Outside of Chaldea, Leila is heavily involved in the Seattle Knights, a performance troupe that dresses in medieval armor, arms themselves with medieval weapons, and fights! I asked what it’s like to be a female fighter. “I’m fortunate in that our troupe doesn’t operate on gender bias,” she explained. She notes the Seattle Knights usually turn down performances if the client doesn’t want women as jousters or fighters. “I love that we use real weapons and real armor, but it’s all stage combat. The goal is to make it look as real and gritty as possible.” And, she added, “the most touching compliments I get after a show are when I get women or little girls who come up to me and say ‘You’re my favorite,’ ‘Are you a real knight?’ and ‘Can I do that when I get older?’”
Leila’s advice to young women: “Perseverance is invaluable. In Seattle, we’re very fortunate because we can act for equal pay, but there are many places in the world where it’s difficult to find ground where you can have that equal opportunity. No matter what your situation, keep trying to move forward, always try to improve, and always try to be the best version of yourself.”
Rosalie is a filmmaker and a video content producer in her own right. And for Chaldea, she served as the line producer for both of the Chaldea films we’ve shot to date. “I end up line-producing a lot, which is really overseeing the logistical piece of production and sometimes post-production on a shoot,” she said. “Most of the time, the line producer works with the producer or creative producer, but I’m the one who does most of the heavy lifting, which includes crewing and hiring people. Still, that’s a lot of fun. For Chaldea productions, the interesting part is that I get to step into a very unique world, which I don’t get to do often because I work mostly in documentary and the commercial world. So, it’s very different—there’s never a dull moment. What’s challenging is trying to fit all the pieces together and hire the right people and take into account personalities in addition to skill sets. And, of course, there’s budget—money is always a challenge.”
Rosalie is one of the busiest people I know. In addition to working on Chaldea and producing commercials for Amazon, Rosalie is the producer for Personhood, a feature documentary that examines a widely unknown system of laws that treats pregnant women as an underclass. The film follows a new mom as she fights to change a Wisconsin law that stripped her of nearly every constitutional right while pregnant. Rosalie notes, “It was filmed over four years. We are currently in post-production and plan to release the film in 2018. Our site is http://personhoodmovie.com.”
Rosalie’s advice to young women who want to work in filmmaking: “Seek out mentors and have mentors in your life. Community is one of the biggest things that creates a successful product over time, because it takes a village. So, garnering support, creating community, and finding your tribe are part of the process of having success as a filmmaker in the long run.”
Wendi served in two roles on the Chaldea project. As the studio manager at Bad Animals, Seattle’s legendary sound studio in Belltown, Wendi helped us come in and have a great experience, facilitating all the scheduling of studio time and managed the budget. She also served as our casting agent for voiceover talent, which she does for clients who need someone with strong relationships with voiceover actors and knows the various agencies in Seattle.
“The number of characters we were asked to cast was unusual,” she pointed out, “given how many there were. Typically for something like, say, a video game, we may be looking at anywhere from five to twenty, but I think from September to December for Chaldea, we cast over a hundred characters. It became easier as we went along, and I thought we had a great experience with the agents, and the actors were great, so it all worked.”
Wendi’s advice for young women: “I’m fortunate because I work with people who are players—it doesn’t matter your gender. I’m empowered, they understand my strengths, and they help me when I need help. But to young people coming up, I’d say be yourself, be confident about who you are, and make that work for you. Try not to be somebody else, someone you’re not. Believe in yourself first. And everyone has flaws, so know when to ask for help.”