We had the good fortune of connecting with Katherine Fisher and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Katherine, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
From an early age I found myself drawn to careers in both social justice and art, but I always assumed I would have to choose between the two. I grew up in rural Vermont and while I had incredible role models in each field – my mother was a judge and my father a composer – I did not have any clear path to a career in both art and justice. Then, in 1996 “The Vagina Monologues” came out and the organization that grew out of the play, V-Day, was formed. I was finally given a blueprint on how to combine art and activism in a way that felt both personally fulfilling and socially important. So, I went to drama school in London for 3 years to hone my skills in theater, directing, and producing, and then made it my mission to find a way to work with V-Day. In 2004 following graduation I booked a one-way flight to New York CIty, dropped off my bags, grabbed another flight to El Paso and crossed the border to Juarez, Mexico where V-Day was producing an event to raise awareness for the missing and murdered women of Juarez. I waited for hours in the hotel lobby where I knew everyone was staying, hoping to speak to someone, anyone, about possibly volunteering and being of service. Eventually I ended up in the elevator with Sally Field who was there to perform at the event, and she invited me to dinner. As the night went on more and more people joined us and by the end of the evening I was sitting with the entire staff and creative team behind V-Day, including V (formerly Eve Ensler), Jane Fonda, Sally of course, and Susan Celia Swan, who would later become V-Day’s Executive Director. That night, and the subsequent weekend in Juarez, I witnessed first-hand the power that art and artists can have in changing the world. So, I essentially forced them to hire me and I ended up working for V-Day for the next ten years, eventually becoming the Director of Events for both V-Day and the One Billion Rising movement that came out of it. In 2014 my journey as full-time employee at V-Day ended, and 2015 I founded my own film production company, Speed of Joy Productions, which I created to highlight work and stories that are diverse, inclusive, intelligent, and character-driven, with a particular emphasis on lifting the voices of those typically underrepresented in the entertainment industry. Now, seven years later Speed of Joy Productions is an Emmy nominated, and Gotham, Peabody, and GLAAD Award winning company, and I’ve been able to evolve my own creativity and focus on directing.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

My work lives at the intersection of art and activism.

I was classically trained as an actor at a British drama school, which I liken to voluntarily getting punched in the face six days a week for three straight years, and while this process has yielded incredible actors I was certainly not one of them. If you ask my teachers I’m sure they would have a million reasons why I was not meant to be on stage or in front of the camera, but I think from my perspective, I could never feel comfortable in the skin I was portraying because for me a story – be it a play or a film – is made up of so many parts, so many smaller stories that come together in a beautiful chaotic puzzle to reveal a truth, that I always had a hard time prioritizing one piece of that puzzle over another.

So, while this results in some terrible acting, it’s a beneficial way of thinking when it comes to producing and directing. In those roles you have to see the big picture, you have to understand the nuances of all character’s decisions and motivations, while also keep in mind the best visual language to tell this particular story, and the most efficient way to put your team in a position to be successful. And while the art of acting is not something I’ll ever master, the process of learning how to break down a story in that way has given me insight not only into how to work with actors as a director, but also as a producer how to create an environment that gets the very best out of all of the artists.

On the other side, the absolute privilege of working in the field of anti-violence against women activism lead me to learning how to work with people from all walks of life, how to speak the artistic languages of folx from various backgrounds, and how to create safe spaces for creativity with a group of folx who are coming at a project from entirely different backgrounds.

Absolutely none of this has been easy, and my own career path has not been without its challenges and learning experiences. I did not go to film school, so my first real film project, “Her Story”, was a learn-as-you-go experience that was filled with a ton of self-inflicted wounds. Ultimately, though, “Her Story” was successful and a real launch pad for me and a lot of the people who worked on it, and it’s that trial-and-error experience, plus now years of additional trials and additional errors, that has led me to the two main pieces of advice I can think to give. One, do not let ego get in the way of surrounding yourself with people who are incredible at their jobs –Writers, DP’s, Actors, G&E, Hair & Make Up, Wardrobe, Production Design, etc. Find the best person for the job, and work with them to find your collective artistic voice for that specific project. And two, learn to prioritize the onset experience of every person who is bringing their time and talent to your art, be it the lead actor or the Production Assistant. This can be a brutal industry, but it’s filled with some of the most incredible, kind, giving, empathic, creative artists out there, and it is vital to the success of the project to create an environment that uplifts your whole team.

My “brand” of art is telling stories that make you feel, give you a new perspective, and hopefully move you to take action in some way.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I sadly am not in Denver anymore, but I’m dying to check out Meow Wolf’s “Convergence Station” and I’m always interested in getting a scotch at Death & Co or The Cruise Room. I’d love to go for a hike on the Castle Rock, or catch a show at Red Rocks (the last concert I saw there was En Vogue, Common, and Lauren Hill and I’m still not over it). And of course, being a native Vermonter, I can’t go to anywhere with snow and not ski, so you may have to peel me off the slopes.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are people in my life without whom I would not be where I am. First, my parents, Shireen and Gregg Fisher, who always fostered in me a sense of self-worth, worthiness, and strength. They made it known that they would support me in pursuing any career I wanted as long as it was something that I loved. They backed me up in every crazy decision I made, and believed in me when I did not believe in myself (which they still do, especially when I still do not).

Then there’s V (formerly Eve Ensler), Susan Celia Swan, and everyone at V-Day. I was a baby when they took me under their collective wing, and everything I know about living and working in art and activism I learned from them. They gave me an opportunity when no one else would and saw in me something that no one else saw. They continue to be one of the greatest inspirations and support systems for me.

And finally, I cannot talk about support, love, and encouragement – all of which are vital to a creative career – without talking about my partner, R.H. Stavis, who has given me the foundation and confidence to take my art to the next level.

Any successes I have or will have in the future are due to these incredible people being in my life. I recognize and am grateful every day for every one of them. Their support is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

Website: www.speedofjoy.com

Instagram: @k.r.fisher

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/katherine-r-fisher

Twitter: @speed_of_joy

Image Credits
01_DSC8428.jpg – Alex Harris 09_DSC8586.jpg – Alex Harris 37_DSC8844.jpg – Alex Harris Liberty.jpeg – Alex Harris PoL.png – Still from Proof of Loss, DP Sine Vadstrup Brooker PoL2.png – Still from Proof of Loss, DP Sine Vadstrup Brooker

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