Five years in the making, Ian MacKenzie’s and Nicole Sorochan’s “Amplify Her” is a documentary film, graphic novel and animated motion comic series exploring the rise of female artists in the electronic music scene. Imagined and brought to life by more than 21 female creators across North America, the 89-minute feature follows seven up-and-coming stars as they find their unique voices within a male-dominated realm. On the surface, it’s a story about women in the electronic music industry, but the film’s deeper message is the resurgence of “the feminine” in Western culture.
Keyframe caught up with Nicole Sorochan to discuss project evolution, its transmedia components, female co-creation and the upcoming November 16th San Francisco premiere, and other US Purple Carpet Tour screenings.
Keyframe Entertainment: In your TEDTalk, you discuss part of your personal journey in creating ‘Amplify Her’ alongside producer Ian Mackenzie. Tell us about some of the biggest surprises or revelations you had while working on this project.
Nicole Sorochan: It occurred to me that I’ve been avoiding women my entire life. I’m usually the only girl playing pick-up basketball with the guys, I’ve worked on film crews that were mostly men, and I started my first tech company with three men. Fast forward to 2012 when I started this project; my company had grown a lot in numbers but there was only one other woman who worked for me.
When producer Ian MacKenzie first approached me about “Amplify Her,” I didn’t understand what he meant when he used the term “feminine expression,” so I decided to work with him to find out. But through the process of building this story world (film, motion comic series and graphic novel), what I didn’t expect is how much working on this project would change me!
For me, the most interesting part of this project is not the film itself. It is what happened when we answered the question we were asking ourselves: the process of building a deeply engaged storyworld where the artists contributed to the expression.
“Amplify Her is about asking the deep question “What does feminine expression look like, if women feel free and safe to express themselves?” It starts on the screen in the feature film, where we followed several electronic dance artists grappling with their own unique forms of feminine expression: from outspoken and raunchy, to carnal and dark, to spiritual and healing. Our goal was to show diversity in expression to create more space for what is possible.
How did the Transmedia component of the project come to be? How did it evolve as the project progressed?
The point of this project was to show the value of feminine expression and how diverse that expression should be allowed to be.
Inspired to use my own femininity, I brought together a team of women artists, the characters from the film (EDM artists); comic book illustrators, and animators to a remote island in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. I designed an experience crafted as a journey the women would take together in order to uncover their deepest wounds, turn them into strengths and translate their experiences into deeply vulnerable stories.
When we chose EDM artists, the first thing I noticed was how everyone was so unique in how they performed their sound, the persona’s and costumes they all used… It was easy to imagine them in comic form. But just the graphic novel wasn’t good enough, as the music producer could really only contribute their likeness and not their talent. That’s when we decided to make them into animated motion comics. This way the music producers could score their own comics and also be the voices for their story characters. The combination of a female illustrator, music producer and animator meant each person had their own domain to lead while still collaborating with each other. A harmony of talents.
Co-creation between women is a big part of this project. What advice do you have for creating successful collaborations?
I will never forget the moment when everyone was sitting in our first group session. I myself was terrified to even speak. I have never tried to work with that many women at once. I grew a little more comfortable when I could tell they all felt a similar level of discomfort. But after a few easy guidelines, reminding them of the safe space we held for each other, and reinforced the importance of listening to each other, all of us allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. And that’s when the magic started to happen.
Beyond the actual creation of the stories, it taught women to be allies instead of opponents and to support each other in their careers. Nobody can truly explain what happened on that island. But many will claim it as a key source of power and motivation to trust their work and their expression in the world. If the audiences that view our film connect to the feelings of one or more of these women in any form, and feel less alone and more empowered, than the project is a success.
You have a north American screening tour currently ongoing, with San Francisco as your next stop. What is next for Amplify Her, and which other cities will be hosting future film screenings?
Our San Francisco screening and After Party is sponsored by Keyframe-Entertainment, and will be on November 16th at the Castro Theatre, followed by the After Party at Public Works Loft; you can get tickets here. There will be music by ALIA, A Hundred Drums, AppleCat, HÄANA, and WALA.
After San Francisco, we make our way back to Canada with screenings in Vancouver and Calgary. From there, we’ll take a much needed break during winter, before emerging in Australia for screenings in Melbourne, Sydney, and Byron Bay.
Afterward, we’ll resume our North American tour with likely stops in Los Angeles, Portland, Boulder, Austin, Toronto and New York. This will also coincide with our community screening release, empowering smaller groups to hold screenings in their towns and living rooms. Amplify Her is an emergent vision – empowering all genders to create a world of beauty, love, and bass.
*AMPLIFY HER – PURPLE CARPET Tour & other screenings