Reel Women: Erin Sarofsky, ECD / entrepreneur

Erin Sarofsky

Erin Sarofsky

Erin Sarofsky established her company, Sarofsky Corp., in January of 2009 in Chicago’s booming West Loop neighborhood.

Sarofsky Corp. specializes in design-driven production, working with a broad range of clients in the advertising, broadcast, network, film and entertainment industries.

Erin and her team of talented artists and producers are best known for creating gorgeous, innovative main title sequences for television and blockbuster movies including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Animal Kingdom, and Shameless.

In the last few years Erin’s work has evolved and expanded significantly, in style and medium. Stylistically, she’s become a seasoned and diverse live-action director. Producing work that uses the Phantom camera to create imagery ranging from high-speed to the extreme macro perspective (Animal Kingdom) and also using design, cg and vfx in concert with live action to give the work a distinct, ownable look (Jeep: Halsey).

All of that work laid the groundwork for the latest piece she created for Apple, a modern day mixed media approach to capturing a moment where she reveals all her ideas trapped in an old journal. The piece was created for Apple’s Artists Series, highlighting the power of their new iMac Pro.


How did you get into the business? I was one of those rare people who figured out their sweet-spot early on. By the time I graduated with my Masters in 2001, I knew motion graphics was the place for me. I shopped my portfolio at the three hot shops and landed at one of them right out of school.

From there it was just hard work, tireless hours, and a lot of watching and listening.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? Early on, I know I was paid less than my male counterparts. I was also a bit of an outsider because I wasn’t into gaming and the mo-bro centric activities the guys were into. Then, because I didn’t relate socially in some aspects with my peers, when I came to work, I was definitely on an island.

Those are the easy ones to shed a light on, salary and company culture. What are harder to put your finger on are the more pervasive, systemic cultural issues, the things that are not industry dependent. For example, I believe that there should be paid leave for both parents (govt. supported). Without paid leave for both, the onus is definitely put on the woman to bear the burden of childcare.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? I had a baby.

Work you are most proud of? At this point I am most proud of my body of work, more than any individual piece. Also, if you look at the credits, you’ll see that I’ve had clients who have been working with me for many years. This means that I am not only capable of doing good work, I’m capable of being a great collaborator.

How do you describe the most significant #metoo moment of your life? I think the #metoo movement is a very powerful, important thing. What makes it so powerful is that every woman I know has at least a handful of stories to support the claim. I too have my stories, but I choose to keep them private. What I will say is that I am glad my daughter will grow up in a society where remaining quiet about inappropriate behavior is not the norm, and that her thoughts, feeling and take-aways on a situation will be seen as equally important.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? Interestingly, I don’t think attitudes toward woman have changed; I just think people are worried now about having to be held accountable for their terrible behavior.

For my whole life I’ve heard the phrase “that’s just guys being guys,” and other women, people in leadership positions, family members, and friends are the ones who’ve said that to me. A lot of terrible behavior was tolerated based on the construct that guys get a wider berth because they can’t control themselves or think through their actions before they do them. Or maybe because they have never been held accountable before.

Well, that’s not being said any more. Now the free pass doesn’t exist. At any time someone can be called out for being inappropriate and rightly so!

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? Room Service.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self?

1. People will show you who they really are if you take the time to listen.
2. Follow your intuition. Your inner voice will never steer you wrong.
3. Err on the side of generosity… Even when you really want to tell someone to f**k off.
4. Write as much as possible.
5. Indecision is a decision. It’s ok to make a choice and have it be wrong. The costs are higher if you linger in the gray area.
6. Worry less about the outcome of the individual jobs and focus more on the process of making them.
7. Pay for advice and f**king follow it… Lawyers exist for a reason.
8. Don’t tell people the right things to do… Show them.
9. Clients aren’t the enemy… They are friends and future collaborators.
10. Relationships evolve over the course of your life so don’t cling to the way things once were.
11. Don’t feel bad about swearing or you sweater addiction… You be you!
12. You can teach people how to treat you so don’t let behavior go on that is unacceptable.
13. Run towards the fire. Don’t avoid issues, get in there and be a part of the solution.
14. It’s not you, it’s them. Most people are just responding to you based on their own shit.
15. Don’t work for free.
16. It’s better to be over insured than under insured.
17. Don’t expect people to change. They don’t.
18. Don’t be hard on yourself; you get enough of that shit from other people.
19. Mostly thought… Keep on trucking, it’ll all work out.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? I assume you mean living, because I have a long list of dead people I would love to chat with.

I’d really like to talk with Hillary. Then I’d like to climb back in my time machine and do this thing over!

To see the up-to-date list of Reel Women, click here.