Field Notes: An interview with Katie Reardon

Photo courtesy of Ben Sellon

Photo courtesy of Ben Sellon

It's only a matter of time until producer, Katie Reardon becomes a familiar name in every household. We're here to speed things up a bit.

Reardon's films are original, playful and downright striking. Her work captures a sense of beauty all around us that is often unseen to the naked eye. We had the opportunity to collaborate with her and our friends at Wieden + Kennedy on the Seven Wonders of Oregon campaign, a series of short films showcasing the natural treasures in our beloved state. We also recently finished a project with her and the great folks at AKQA on an animation for Nike+. Now immediately onto the next project, Reardon is a skyward rocket in the filmmaking community, and she's not stopping anytime soon.

We managed to catch her between shoots for an interview about her experience as a filmmaker, the need for more female directors and how she uses varied soundtracks to capture diverse imagery in her films.


M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker and producer? 

KR: I started out working on short films and music videos with my amazingly talented friends down in LA. I remember at one point while we were filming Red Moon, a short film about a Russian werewolf submarine captain, I looked down and I was holding a clipboard, a power drill and I had some werewolf fur scraps sticking out of my fanny pack and I was like, "Yeah, I think I found my career path." 

M: What's your favorite moment of the filmmaking process? 

KR: I love that moment when someone on the set up-sells themselves, throws a curveball. When the PA comes up with a funny joke, when the set designer gets used as talent, when the account guy suggests the winning music track. We've all got secret creative tricks we should let loose. Sets are good for that. 

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: In such a male-dominated industry, what's your production experience been like? How can things progress and change? 

KR: I've been really lucky to have a lot of female producers in my sphere so far to learn from and look up to. I've been told the production world is male dominated, but then I see all us boss ladies hustling and making rad stuff and it all just makes sense to me. A producer is there to run shit, facilitate a cool set vibe, not be a jerk and have some tricks up your sleeve. A lot of females in the creative industry carry those traits, so producing is a rather natural role for females in that respect.

What I don't see enough of though are females getting the directing roles on set. That's where the industry needs some serious progress. I think it's still a bigger challenge for everyone to fully trust woman creatively. The creativity trust fall that comes with hiring a director is a big one -- following someone's artistic instincts and trusting their humor and taste and style -- I think that's a harder thing for men (and women) to default to woman's role in their minds since systematically we are taught to think of women as followers. Pushing into the producing and executive producing roles has been a byproduct of that mama bear, multi-tasking, peace-keeping mentality that a lot of us women have instinctively which has made a lot of progress for the industry. But that's not enough. We need to support young females in the arts to value their own unique styles, not just draft off their male counterparts trends. That's how we are going to make more females the lead tastemakers in the industry. I mean, can we talk about how sick it would be to see a Nike World Cup ad directed by a female? It would be something new for sure and that's good for creativity in general, not just women. 

PS: I hope we are asking the dudes this same question. It's a conversation for everyone.

M: How did the Travel Oregon Seven Wonders project come into fruition? What direction you were working with? 
 

KR: Wieden + Kennedy has had an amazing, long standing partnership with the Travel Oregon work. As an Oregonian girl, I was really excited when I got assigned to the job. Partnering with the creatives, we dug through the scripts and immediately could tell that this spot needed a really amazing director and crew. We ended up teaming up with Christian Sorensen Hansen. His style really naturally had this sense of exploring and adventuring. You can see when you scope even just his Instagram account -- this dude loves to scramble up rocks and get weird shots and hunt down that perfect sunset. He was a dream to work with and the crew that supported him was nothing short of amazing. We all basically were in boot camp/summer camp together for two weeks driving all over the state shooting these spots. Eating every meal together, camping out, staying at random motels... it all was one huge adventure that left me with nothing but respect for the crew. 

M: Favorite moment during the project? 

KR: This project was a long line of adventures. Filming a rad little kiddo running around in the Painted Hills, holding my breath when we sent our camera crew riding strapped on to the maintenance cart of the sky tramway on Mt. Howard at Wallowa Lake so we could get the perfect ariel shot, fascinating and/or freaking out every visitor at Smith Rock when we filmed the rock climbing scene with the mini drone camera rig, and then rigging up the camera to a helmet strapped to our PA so he could jump into Crater Lake for that epic shot in the Anthem film. A random little moment that feels special just to me though was when we were filming at Trillium Lake for the Mt. Hood video and we needed a shot of an empty canoe on the lake, so I volunteered to be shoved out into the lake while I was laying down in the bottom of the canoe. I remember watching the snow trees circling the sky and thinking to myself, "this is the most surreal experience. I can't believe this is my job." 

M: Were there any happy accidents during any projects? 

KR: Not really an accident, but an interesting coincidence from the shoot was that we were filming at many of the same locations and almost nearly at the same time as the Wild feature film. Our crew kept getting asked if we were "that Reese Witherspoon movie shoot?!" I'd just laugh and motion to us rag-tag dudes eating beef jerky out of the back of an SUV and say, "Do we look like we're with Reese Witherspoon?"

M: What role do you feel music has in film? 

KR: Music was a huge part of this campaign. Having Eric D. Johnson from the Fruit Bats on board to score all the seven Wonders videos was a huge asset for us. Eric's style is so varied it really gave us a ton to play with to get a strong score for all this different videos. Oregon is such a diverse state, so there really wasn't one sound that worked for all the regions. We needed that variety of Eric's style so that we could have ethereal sounds in the snowy Mt. Hood scenes along with a western vibe in the Wallowas.

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: When did you know that you have something ready to show the world? 

KR: When you're in post production, you're always pretty nose-close to the project by that point. No matter how great it is, you've just been starring at it for so darn long it's hard to see where you are at and if it's ready for the outside world. But then, if you're doing it right, there's this magic moment when everyone gets really excited again and you know you are on to something and the project is really close to being done. On the Seven Wonders project I remember this happened twice with the Anthem spot. Once when we were editing the Crater Lake jump scene and finally discovered Bryan John Appleby's "Boys" track. It had the most epic pause and then explosion of emotion, just like that shot had. I remember the Creatives and our director/editor, Christian Sorensen Hansen, all looking at each other with the biggest grins when we dropped that track to picture. It was perfect, no questions asked. That's when I knew we were really close to having something ready for the world. That same feeling happened again when we got in to do the mix at Digital One on that Anthem spot. With just the right wooshes and poignant silences and then bursts of water noises, that moment in the film just got bigger and bigger. It still makes me smirk every time I watch it. 

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

Photo courtesy of Chantal Anderson

M: What's coming up? 

KR: My dude and I are heading out to North Carolina to see our good buddies that run the record label Hometapes and collaborate with them on some projects. We are going to be shooting some new promotional photos for the band Sylvan Esso. Their music is so perfectly fresh and smart and dance'y -- it's going to be really fun to see what evolves on set with them. 


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Have a film about your home state?

Share your film with us at sharing@marmosetmusic.com and we'll choose our favorite to feature on our journal next week. The winner will be awarded with awesome prizes including the new album Murmurations by The Parson Red Heads and an Instrument beer koozie.