Erin Sarofsky, owner of Sarofsky Corp. Credit: Gillian Fry

Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Erin Sarofsky, 39, production company owner.

Right after I got out of school, I sent my portfolio to a digital agency in Chicago that had just finished the title sequence for Six Feet Under, which . . . that was it for me. That sequence is the essence of beautiful live action and beautiful typography and animation. I was like, “Sign me up.” They said sure, and I got in my car and drove here from Rochester, New York. Never been to Chicago before.

Now I own Sarofsky Corp., and I’m pretty well-known for making main title sequences for TV shows and films. Like for Shameless, where you see the family filmed in a bathroom. We concepted it, we built the bathroom, we directed the sequence, we edited it, and we did the typography on top of it. The first big movie we did the title sequence for was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Then we went into Ant-Man, and from there we went into Captain America: Civil War and Dr. Strange. And then we just worked on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s funny, I tend to work on the movies I want to see in the theater. I’ve always liked big blockbusters.

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There are a couple other studios in Chicago that dabble in title sequences, but as far as a Chicago-focused company with no other offices, we’re it. We’re firmly rooted in Chicago, and that is the plan forever. When I started, being here was a disadvantage. But now our work is so well-known that people don’t even think about it.

We take security very seriously. The Marvel movies are incredibly secure, because their content is so coveted. So anybody in our company who’s working on it is connected to a server that has the content on it, and neither that server nor the person’s work station is connected to the Internet, and the work station has no USB port. Those files have to be physically taken on a secure drive to a secure fiber connection and sent that way.

Plus Marvel movies have code names. Like there was nothing on our server called Guardians of the Galaxy 2; the code name was Level Up. And the way our studio is arranged, the artists are in a little U-shaped alcove, and along the edge of that we have curtains, so the monitors are blocked when they need to be. It’s like all the artists are together in solitary confinement. We call it Marvel mode.

I get to see the movie literally one time before the pitch. I have to fly to LA, go to the studio, and watch it in the screening room at their facility, with the executive producer and maybe one other person. After the pitch, sometimes I’ll not see the movie again before the premiere. But with Ant-Man, I watched it several times because it changed before the premiere. It was like, “Oh shit, I have to fly to LA to go see Ant-Man again.”

When you take a step back and think about how Captain America: Civil War made a billion dollars, something crazy like that—if you extrapolate it into how many people saw our work, it’s incredibly overwhelming. And when you’re sitting on an airplane and half the plane is watching your movie, it’s so crazy. I always have the temptation to tap people on the shoulder, but I never ever do.   v