Talking Representation and Balancing Creativity with Hannah Rimm
Hannah Rimm is the 24 year old queer female artist and marketing coordinator/social media manager at GKids, a distribution company for animated films. Although an office of around 10 people, Gkids has amassed nine Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations since 2009. Originally from Boston, Hannah is a writer, actress, and musician who focuses her work in queer representation, mental health, and animation.
The text below is an edited excerpt of a conversation between Hannah and The Light Leaks Founder, Kim Hoyos.
KIM: How do you feel about representation in film?
HANNAH: I think that we are slowly finding more and more representation in film, but I still very actively find it to be a white male dominated space that is- I think as a woman, is really scary to break into just because it’s kind of already a space that is not really made for us. I do think that there’s more and more of it but I’m really looking forward to a day when I’m not excited that there’s representation but that I just kind of expect it.
KIM: I think that’s something really interesting that you bring up with spaces, how do you feel about the division of seen between genres? For example, when there’s a strong female lead as the main character in an action field, it’s difficult for that film not to be seen as exclusively female. So what do you think needs to occur for there to be “a film with women” and not “a women’s film”?
HANNAH: I honestly think that it’s a time thing. I think that more and more women need to enter the film space and I think that there is definitely a push towards that but I think it just has to, the industry itself has to shift away from choosing men over women, which I think honestly, like it sounds really pessimistic but I just don’t think its going to happen until our generation is older. I just think that we’re really starting to push the boundaries right now but I think it’s going to take time and kind of pulling more women into the industry and also having it be a really purposeful thing.
KIM: I think it’s interesting that you work in animation- it something not normally discussed in terms of representation. I think there’s so much room for representation and differing identities the first film I think of is Zootopia– how there are so many layers of gender and race dynamics between the different species. Do you think that representation in animation is something visible with female versus male directors?
HANNAH: I think it’s a little bit different in animation mostly because a lot of times the director, like there are voice actors, but the director is creating the movements, the lines and everything of all the characters since they’re not living humans. So, I think that the representation of characters is relatively good. In animation you can almost push representation further because you can’t pull the card of “Oh well it just happens that the best actors are white” or “It just happens that this movie was written for white people, or written for men or whatever”. It’s such a different space and it’s such a like, its creating a whole world, especially because a lot of animation is somewhat fantasy based. I think it’s actually a lot easier and there are many more ways that you can go to bring representation into animation or like there are just fewer excuses, I guess that’s really what it is.
KIM: What do you think that the most important thing is with representation? Do you think that there’s a wrong way to do it?
HANNAH: I think for, so for me it’s just like about the characters being people and not just their minority status. I just feel like there’s so much tokenism in general in film. I get really excited any time there’s just like for example queer black woman but the show is not just about the fact that she’s queer or black. I think representation is about them being like a full person, because I think there’s just like so much “oh there’s a token black friend”, “oh, there’s the funny flamboyant gay best friend”. Or I think especially with lesbians they’re super, super over sexualized. So just kind of like having people be, or characters be people and not just sex objects. But also, not avoiding sex.
KIM: Can you talk a little bit about the company’s size?
HANNAH: When I started there were 6 people including the two founders and now we’re 9-11 people depending on if we have interns in. Which is still very small, but it’s been very interesting to watch the company grow. I would say that at the scope we’re at this is a good size for us to be. It’s awesome as a 24-year-old that I like have my own department, that’s very cool and that just comes with working in a small place. I would say that we are less than a machine than bigger companies can be because we just don’t have the bandwidth. During award season when you send out screeners, we can only do so much because the people who are duplicating dvds and writing UPS labels is me and one other person. So, I don’t think it really hinders us because I also think that the films that we have are so incredible and we really believe in them. There’s only 9 of us so we have to have the passion or else it wouldn’t get done.
KIM: What is it exactly that you do day to day?
HANNAH: I do all of our social media, so right off the bat when we get a film I kind of look at it from the perspective of how I would like the world to see it and how I’m going to go about sharing it. I need to figure out gifs, videos, text and that’s a lot of my day to day. I am also in charge of all things marketing, which is a confusing thing at a distribution company because a lot of distribution is marketing. But I execute all of our marketing activations and making sure that we have all of our assets that we need for films. I work with various PR companies and help run digital ads and print ads. So, that’s like a lot of talking on the phone and emailing people and basically coming up with ways to convince people that they want to see whatever movie we’re working on.
KIM: Is it tiring to be creative on command, especially with so many dynamic parts to your job?
HANNAH: I think that it’s much more tiring than people think it is. I think that there is an expectation within social media that it’s a really fast, easy thing to do because when you are doing social media for your personal self. Whereas when you’re curating a space for a company you’re trying to have a specific voice and it’s a little more difficult. It is a lot of having to be creative on the spot constantly. I’ve been at GKids now for a year and a half and I’ve just kind of like figured out the voice enough that it comes much more naturally to me than it did when I first started.
KIM: Do you work on one movie at a time?
HANNAH: No, we’re usually working on 2-3 at a time. For example we have a movie coming out in April and we had our first marketing meeting about it like a year before. As we acquire films we talk about them, so I would say that we are usually working on about 2-3 at a time. It really depends on what’s going on, on the calendar.
KIM: How do you stay creative while marketing another person’s work?
HANNAH: That is, I think, the hardest part of my job / also life. Fun anecdote – I write music, like just for fun, and I realized today when I got home that I hadn’t written a song in a year, and it’s just because I’ve been like really focused on being creative for other people. I think that comes kind of with adulthood, like sometimes you just have to do work because you need to pay your bills and eat and stuff. But I sat down and started playing my guitar and I was like “Oh my god I haven’t done this in so long”. So, I do think that it’s harder for me to be creative right now outside of work just because it’s such a big part of my life and it’s a very demanding part of my life. But I also feel okay about that because it’s really rewarding and it is exciting to have a job that I can be creative in.
KIM: What do you wish you knew when you were younger?
HANNAH: I don’t know how to phrase this properly – but I wish that I generally knew more about the world and about what privileged meant and what representation meant and what it means to be a woman. I wasn’t thinking about that as a kid, which I think was really great that I wasn’t, putting this boundary on my abilities, but then it’s like when you’re a woman and you super believe in yourself that’s awesome except for when you can’t get jobs or you first start being catcalled. It just hits you like a ton of bricks, and so I guess I wish I had been more aware of what was coming.
KIM: Were you making films growing up?
HANNAH: A little bit, I actually started as an actor. I was an actor like very regularly until I was about 18. I used to make little films with my friends or with my brother and like make them do skits with me and I would say that I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. I found film totally by accident. My parents wouldn’t let me go to an acting conservatory, and so I went to a liberal arts school, Wesleyan. I did not mesh with the theater department there, so I just took a film class and fell in love with it. I pulled writing into that and that’s kind of my main thing within film, screenwriting.
KIM: I know you do a lot of sexual education and just general queer representation, so what inspires you to write and educate on these topics?
HANNAH: I’ve taught sex ed in college and that is my ultimate passion. I really care about queer education and inclusive sex education. I think it was just like my lateness into feminism and then the sudden need to make up for lost time. Honestly, the sex education part of me also comes from the actor part of me because I don’t have any shame when talking about like, how to put a condom on and I think that really helps. It just was not scary for me to be in front of a bunch of 14 year old’s, teach them things and answer their questions about if they’ll get STDs from having sex on the couch. I like Hello Flo as an outlet that’s completely different from the work that I do 9-5. It also just keeps me writing like, not blog posts about animation. It’s just been a really lovely outlet for me to have on top having a job that is very time consuming and kind of takes up a lot of my creative headspace.
WHAT SHOULD WE WATCH
Crazy Ex- Girlfriend: I think that it is a really really good satire, it’s like a little much for me, but that’s like a really good intro to feminism show. I think that’s a really cool way to look at tropes that exist in film and TV based around women. I watched a bunch of it and its very fun and exciting and they’re just long episodes and it was a lot for me.
Studio Ghibli films: I think that if you want to watch animated movies about women most Studio Ghibli films, which are like Miyazaki, are really amazing for film representation. We did a movie in May of 2015 that was called “When Marnie Was There” which is just like about two girls and one of them has an anxiety disorder and it’s just like really adorable and beautiful.
Queer films: I’m trying to think of like good queer movies that I like, which honestly like most queer movies make me really angry. “The L Word” is really over the top, and like I hated “Blue is the Warmest Color”, I just thought it was like porn, which like porn is fine but that is not a good – I did not like it for the representation. I also loved “Easy” also, this is like my guilty pleasure, “The 100”. That has actually really wonderful queer representation except for that they also just killed off some queer people, which is sad and happens a lot in movies. But that is like a great movie especially for younger people. It’s just like, futuristic sci fi with lesbians.