Female Filmmaker Friday with co-Director Karen Disher
Hi Karen, thank you for joing us today - especially on the first day of Women's History Month! Can you tell us what you do here at Blue Sky?
It's a pleasure to be here! I'm currently the co-director of Blue Sky's 2021 film "Foster" (working title).
When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker? What is your earliest memory of feeling gravitated toward storytelling?
I always loved to draw. I was raised on "MAD" magazine and the classic "Looney Tunes" shorts, and discovered early on that I could make my friends laugh by making funny, gross-out drawings for them. I loved to write and record spoofy versions of radio commercials (complete with dumb voices and parody songs!) - anything to crack myself up. But I never thought these were useful skills for a Serious Career.
After high school graduation, my family took a trip to Disney World in Orlando. We did the "Magic of Disney Animation" tour, where you could look down into "The Fishbowl" and see actual Disney animators at work! I saw a bunch of people who looked a whole lot like me - artists wearing t-shirts and flip-flops hunched over drafting tables and listening to music on headphones. Suddenly everything clicked! Next thing you know, I'm at NYU Film learning traditional 2D animation.
Right on! So, what were some of your first jobs in the industry?
My first "real" job was as a layout artist on "Beavis and Butt-head". I was hired a couple of weeks after graduating from NYU. I thought I had died and gone to heaven - I was already a huge fan of the show, I couldn't believe someone was going to pay me to draw those guys all day! I was there from Season 3 through the end of the show's run, and then helped create and direct a spin-off called "Daria".
Who were some of your female role models? Why do you feel its important for young girls to see more female representation behind the camera?
Yvette Kaplan was my first boss and mentor, she was the supervising director on "Beavis". She was always so encouraging, and she never talked down to me even though I was young and inexperienced. There were a LOT of amazing women in power at MTV Animation, it was the norm! It never occurred to me that women directors were an anomaly since that's what I was seeing at work every day. Hopefully the more women we have out there directing, the less of a "thing" it will be. Nobody should have to think twice about their gender affecting their goals.
You're coming up on your 17th year at Blue Sky! What keeps you coming back film after film, year after year?
I can't help it, I love this place! Blue Sky is full of the nicest, most humble, yet most talented people you'll find anywhere. I am constantly blown away by this crew, we grow stronger with every film we make. We're scrappy New Yorkers! And maybe it's cheesy to call your co-workers your "family", but that's how it feels, we've been through so much together.
What excites you about the future of animated films?
I get excited by the idea of infinite possibilities - just when we think we've pushed the technology to its limit, you get a film like "Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse" that just blows you away visually. I mean, holy cow. It's daunting and awesome to have the bar set so high. I also hope there's more room in the future to tell different types of stories with animation, to have big theatrical releases that aren't necessarily family films.
What advice do you have to young women in the industry?
Be confident in your own voice, don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you want. Get in there and mix it up! Make some noise!
Thank you Karen for taking the time to chat with us today. We can't wait to see your incredible work in Blue Sky's 2021 film (working title) Foster!