At Work With… Steph Swope, Producer at Minnow Mountain
The ‘At Work With…’ Interview Series is our way of bringing you behind-the-scenes with the names and businesses included in our Texas Production Directory (TPD). We want to showcase the creatives that cover all levels of production experience, backgrounds, and geographies around the state.
This week’s spotlight is on Steph Swope, Producer at Minnow Mountain, based in Austin and a Texan for 20 years.
Your claim to fame: What special skill or fun fact differentiates you from others?
Minnow Mountain is the only rotoscope animation studio in Texas and possibly the world. Nobody else does it like us! We formed in 2012 and in 2016 released Tower, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary. In 2019 we released Undone on Amazon Prime, which got great reviews. We are currently producing Undone Season 2 and Apollo 10 1/2, directed by Richard Linklater.
What’s the most memorable experience on a project or production that you’ve had and what made it so special?
Working with Richard Linklater was a dream of mine and part of the reason I moved to Austin in the first place, so it's absolutely amazing to get to work with him now. We create art every single day and I can only describe that as magical.
Have you had an industry mentor or colleague that has made an impact on you or helped you along your career path? If so who, and how did they impact you?
Tommy Pallotta has done a lot for Minnow Mountain. It was his suggestion that brought us on to Undone and Apollo 10 1/2. He advised us when we started Tower. If it weren't for him my business partner Craig Staggs wouldn't even be in this business. Craig was an animator on A Scanner Darkly and after that decided to keep doing it for a living. Prior to that he was an artist and painter on canvas, so if it weren't for Tommy Pallotta, Minnow Mountain likely wouldn't exist.
What advice have you been given that continues to be helpful in your work?
Undone creator Kate Purdy greatly inspired me with these words: "Trust the process." I try to remember that when times are tough. Filmmaking is a large process, and a lot of people's work goes into it. She has faith in the folks working on her production, and that is really important. It reminds me to trust the artists who work with us, just like Kate trusts us to animate her creation.
In your industry, collaboration is the key to success. How do you best foster collaboration with your colleagues from project to project?
Shotgun tracking software really is a lifesaver. We keep up on how each other’s processes are going while watching the animation go from live action filmed shots, to roto line work, to color, adding in painted backgrounds, to composite. It's amazing to see what happens with our work after it leaves our hands. Weekly meetings are also a must.
Why do you choose the Lone Star State as a place to live and work?
Where else is there?
Interview has been edited for brevity.
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