Reel Women: Marina Killion, Audio Engineer

Marina Killion

Marina Killion

Marina Killion is an accomplished audio engineer based in Chicago. She has been at Optimus for nine years, where she is currently Senior Audio Engineer. She does everything from sound design, dialog editing, Foley, ADR, to final mix.

Marina has a background in classical music performance, studying Sound Recording Technology at DePaul University.

She has worked on many notable campaigns such as Chicago Blackhawks, UPS, Reebok, Always, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Invesco, and Olive Garden.

She is currently mixing her third feature length independent film, and has worked on three documentaries, a web series, and many short films in addition to commercial projects.

Her work has been shown at the Chicago International Film Festival, Chicago Comedy Festival, Midwest Independent Film Festival, and many more. She also won a Silver Addy Award in 2014 for her work with the Eastern Board of Cherokee Indians.



How did you get into the business? The short story is: determination, luck, and good timing.

I studied recording engineering at DePaul University and dove into any and all projects during my time there. When I graduated I was freelancing out of my house, interning at a rock studio, and soon thereafter I was able to join the intern team at Optimus. I shadowed the audio department whenever they would let me, and was hired when an assistant left. I continued to take on any project I could get my hands on, and worked my way up to Senior Engineer.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? When I was sixteen I toured a recording studio to learn a bit about the industry and the day-to-day. I was told not to waste my time and money going to school for this; that everyone ends up miserable and divorced and to find something else to do. I decided to prove them wrong.

There are very few women in my industry, so most of what I’ve seen is surprise that it’s a woman behind the desk. A few times I have had to prove my skills and knowledge because people assumed that I didn’t know what I was doing. I feel that I have had to work harder to prove my right to be here to outsiders, and I try to avoid any mistakes that might cause people to cast doubt on my abilities.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? I love when we are patching to another studio for a remote session and there’s another female engineer on the other side of the line. Every time I work with another woman it reminds me that we are few and far between, and there’s instantly a connection there. I love seeing our numbers grow.

Work you are most proud of? I had the pleasure of mixing a couple spots for Reebok that featured women athletes, including Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. These spots are beautifully shot and edited, showing powerful women excelling in their sports, and I am so proud of the mixes that I designed to accompany them. It was such a great project to be part of and the work we produced is some of my favorite.

I also got to work on a project with Lil Bub. It was a company-wide project, with design, production, and editorial contributions from my colleagues at Optimus. It was such a fun piece to work on because it allowed us to be creative and silly. We made a web series that culminated with a 30 minute special on Animal Planet, featuring Andrew W.K. and Amy Sedaris!

How do you describe the most significant #metoo moment of your life? I think the most significant part of this campaign is the light it sheds and the unity it provides. It allows us to see the world with a little more compassion, knowing that every woman has probably faced harassment to some extent. I am proud of the power and voice it has given to women to reclaim their stories, their bodies, and their control.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? I think that professional attitudes have absolutely changed for the better during my time in this industry. At Optimus I have always felt a sense of community with and respect towards my female peers. There have been times when the industry has felt like a boys club but I can sense that there is a shift happening and people are more interested in the talent of a person rather than their gender.

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? Sunscreen. Books. Music. Yoga mat.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Be proud of who I am. Never apologize for who I am. Stay strong in my convictions and make work that makes me happy. The rest will fall into place.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? I would love to sit down with Susan Rogers, professor and engineer/mixer/producer/audio technician. She was one of the first female engineers I learned about, working with Prince from 1983 to 1988 and then continued on with an amazing career. She is a great role model of a woman who followed her dream and didn’t let gender stop her from going into the field she wanted to be in.

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