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Sarah Cortina '03 Reflects on 2017 Emmy Win for Outstanding Children's Animated Program
Sarah Cortina '03 Reflects on 2017 Emmy Win for Outstanding Children's Animated Program

By Sarah Cortina

I really never planned to end up working in the animation industry, let alone in Japan. But I studied Japanese in college, so after graduation I decided to take a year and go to Japan to study some more and experience life abroad. It was really meant to just be the one year, but by the time I finished the language program I had become pretty fluent. I knew if I went back to the U.S. my chances of finding a job that made use of those skills were low, and that seemed like a waste, so I decided to stay a bit longer.

My first job was at a weekly English-language magazine (sort of like Time Out, with event and entertainment listings, restaurant write-ups, etc.). After about two and a half years there, I moved to Polygon as a translator/interpreter. Polygon works with lots of clients in the U.S. and outsource partners in India, Malaysia and Thailand, and also often hires animators from outside of Japan. So there's a pretty big need for an in-house translation team to keep all of that flowing smoothly, as most of the Japanese staff don't speak much English (and vice versa with the foreign staff).

Through that position, I got to see firsthand how the animated series production works, and after a couple of years I transitioned into the production management side of the company. I started as a production coordinator on the first season of "Transformers: Robots in Disguise," then moved up to production manager in Season 2 of that show. At the beginning of 2016, we began preproduction on "Lost in Oz" (LOZ) — which is sort of a modern-day take on the "Wizard of Oz" story — and I switched into a line producer role on that project.

This position means I'm in charge of managing the overall budget and schedule for the project, keeping track of the day-to-day costs and progress to make sure we achieve the target profit rate, and communicating with Amazon back in the U.S.

It was really rough at the beginning of LOZ, as we had to operate with much less preparation time than usual. There

was the added complication that the pilot episode had already been created a year previously at a different studio; we were taking over all of their data (such as character

models) which needed to be modified to use with our studio's pipeline, as well as making sure we were able to keep consistency with the look of the pilot episode. In addition, this was our first time working with Amazon. There's always an adjustment period when working with a new client, as you get to know their directing style, the level of quality they are looking for, and things like that.

It was a huge challenge, and we were honestly shocked when the show got nominated for the Emmy, let alone when we won. It had really felt like we were the underdog.

I got to go to the awards ceremony in Los Angeles along with our producer, head of studio, and executives from the U.S. production side. Not many people know this, but awards shows like the Emmys and Oscars are usually split into several different ceremonies — the star-studded event where awards such as Best Actor are presented, and the Creative Arts Emmys where more behind-the-scenes jobs like Best Casting or Sound Editing are honored. So no, I really wasn't rubbing elbows with movie stars or celebs. There was a red carpet, though!

My life and career now is honestly completely different from anything I imagined it being during high school and even college. But at the same time, I was never the type of person to have a concrete five-year plan. My style when presented with a new opportunity or choice has always been more "Why not? Sounds interesting!" But I do credit Ravenscroft for helping me to grow into an intellectually curious person who's always open to new opportunities.