Producer Katherine Sarafian has a couple big births to celebrate this year. She had a baby – a second child -born on February 16th. But this working mom didn’t have much time for maternity leave because she had a movie to finish, the upcoming Disney Pixar movie Brave. We spoke with Ms. Sarafian about motherhood, movie making and the grand land of Scotland!
Check out our interview here:
On Birthing Babies & Making a Movie:
I had my first baby on this movie as well, ‘cause these films take a while, so…actually, I started the film as a single gal, and went on the research trip, and then I came back and met my husband, got married, had the first kid, now finishing the film, before we could finish, the second kid came, and then I came back and I really want to finish it. And then I’m gonna take my family leave. That’s the idea. We’ll see how it goes!
On Who Came Up with the Mother Daughter Relationship & Her Own With Her Kids:
Brenda Chapman (the initial Director and writer of Brave) came up with the original idea. I have sons …I would love to have a daughter. It’s hard to say how the relationship is ‘cause one of them is only almost three. So far the relationship is, “I don’t want to go to school!” “Now why don’t we put on your pants.” “ I don’t want. I’m gonna wear my jammies!” “Really? Really?” So that’s the relationship right now.
A Long Time in the Making:
Projects have two phases at Pixar, development and production. And development, I was not on it in the earliest development because that’s really just the seed of an idea being worked on by a few people, a very small team, so that process was going on for a while. I joined in time for the first Scotland research trip where we had a crew of about 12 people. That was a small team compared to the team that’s in production now. But that was toward the end of development and the beginning of production, and that’s when I joined.
My favorite moments (of the trip) were actually, believe it or not, on the bus with the team, because you’re creating this story, and you’re exploring these beautiful worlds, and meeting these amazing people, but at the same time you’re bonding with this core team that you’re going tend up making this movie with for, you know, five years.
I didn’t really know them well when I started, and by the end of it, it’s sort of like we’ve all been through the ringer together on bumpy roads through Scotland, sleeping in bunk beds and everything. Then I loved being, out at the Callanish standing stones that were the inspiration for the stones in the movie because it was a meditative space, and it was so dramatic, and so mysterious and meaningful and ancient. And on both trips we went to the stones, so I liked being there.
Researching All Things Scottish:
The archery lessons really stood out to me. We did them (when) we were in Scotland, and so we went to these Highland games… in Scotland, very authentic. Bagpipers and competitions and they were doing tug of war, caber tossing, hammer throw, all these different sports. And, of course, archery is big in the Highlands as well. So we were seeing it there, learning, and we knew we were going to be using it in our story. We came back here and organized an archery lesson for our crew out at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and it was fantastic. They have an archery range there. We got an instructor and we all learned and it was really memorable. We had a picnic, and (made) a day of it. It was really nice. Here we are in San Francisco with our little bit of Scotland and our bit of adventure and archery, and everybody on the crew was so excited to learn it because they knew they could really not just use this as a skill in life, in case you ever need to shoot anything, we were able to learn form …so when we animate Merida we’d be able to really get it right, and, and know how do you hold your body, and where do you put your weight, and how do you pull it back? We wanted to really get it right.
And so that was, that was really great. We loved, loved doing that. We also took broadsword lessons and learned how to wield a sword right here on campus. I like those moments learning these skills. We made our own haggis. Yeah. Yeah, we did. We really did. Yes, we ate it. It was very authentic. Beautiful. Good times.
On the Title Brave:
Little known fact, is the original title was Brave, and we came back to it. We did a detour into The Bear and the Bow and it was The Bear and the Bow for a while. So the original title was a working title and we always give our films a working title in the beginning, but the original title of Toy Story back in 1993, ’94, was the working title Toy Story. And it was just a working title. You never end up naming the movie Toy Story, right? And one of my jobs as an entry level on Toy Story was make a list of all the other titles that have been submitted by people of what this movie could be called, because we’re not gonna call it Toy Story. And then, you know, I still have that list in my desk somewhere. And low and behold, it comes out, like, no, we can call it Toy Story. We actually had gone with a working title on a lot of our films because it just made sense. Brave was our working title. We thought we needed a different one for a while, and we tried The Bear and the Bow, but it didn’t have the strength and simplicity. The power of Brave and the meaning is that we wanted, so we just came back to Brave, and it just felt right, and so it was a brief detour, The Bear and the Bow, but sometimes our titles go through a little process on their way…we came right back home on Brave.
On Pixar’s First Female Protagonist
As a filmmaker-driven studio, the ideas come from the directors, and the seeds of the idea from the directors from the story artists who pitch the ideas. And so our filmmakers write what they know, and in the beginning stages of this – when Brendan Chapman pitched this story – it was about this singular female protagonist, and John Lassiter and the brain trust, they liked the idea right away, and said, yes, let’s develop this. So at that point it wasn’t because she was a girl, or it wasn’t like, “oh we need to have one with a girl. Can somebody come up with one?” It was the story based on Brenda’s relationship with her own daughter who was very strong-willed and very stubborn, and they were butting heads a lot, and she was six years old, and Brenda said, ‘what’ll she be like as a teenager’? And that was the impetus for the story – organic in that respect – because it came right out of Brenda’s heart in that way. And then in the development process it just took hold and flourished and became what we see today.
Photos Via Disney Pixar