In April I had the privileged of interviewing Katherine Sarafian the producer of Pixar's newest film, BRAVE (in theaters June 22nd). To say I was impressed with this new moms work ethic would be an understatement! I had no idea the woman that sat across the table from me, had a baby six weeks before our interview. Not only did she look amazing, she was pulling together the finishing touches of a movie that has taken over 5 years to complete. I was however glad to hear that after finishing the film Katherine would be on maternity leave for a few months. It seems like Pixar really knows how to keep family at the center of what they do, which is extremely important, in my opinion.
I think they biggest lesson I have taken away from my interviews with both Disney and Pixar crews is that it is recommend that you Start From The Bottom. This is not an idea that is common in today's workplace. Everyone wants to start out on top, and when that doesn't happen, people start to get discouraged, they often change directions, and never end up reaching their goals. When we have asked people who work for Disney and Pixar what we should tell our children about working with their company we always hear the same thing. Start as an intern, because it can be the path that opens the most doors. John Lasseter even recommended that we have our children work at Disney World, or Disney Land for the summer (that's where he started).
Take a look at what Katherine Sarafian had to say about how she landed the role of producer on Brave:
Q : But can you tell me about your career path and how you ended -- how you went from a production coordinator to a producer of a, of a full-length film?
KS : Yes. Well it has been a long road, but, you know, I think that Pixar is one of those places where you can, you know, work on lots of different films and have a different career on each film, so I try, on each film I grew into a new role. So I started sort of, entry level, at the bottom, and moved up. And, uh, by the time I was on A Bug’s Life I was a first-time manager, and once I learned that I, you know, could manage people and really enjoyed doing that, then there was a, um, a progression into marketing for a while.
And then, you know, once I was doing that I found out that I have, you know, could round out my skills and how the more outward facing parts of the movie, and I parlayed that into something on Monsters, Incorporated where I was at a more senior level. So really just building up and being mentored by great bosses, Starla Anderson and other producers who I’ve worked with, and the directors I’ve worked with that really, were really supportive of me and, and, uh, even I made the mistakes, said like okay, well, you know, Pixar is very much about how you recover from your errors. ‘Cause I, you know, we learned on the job, a lot of us did here, and so, um --
When I hear someone in Katherine's position talk about starting at an entry level position and working her way to where she is now, after doing so many different types of jobs, it really inspires me. It pushes me to work hard at everything I do, even if I can't see which direction my current position is heading, because it could be the one that takes me to the top!