Ramsey Naito: Finding Nothing to Cry About While Producing 'The Boss Baby'

by Margaret Gardiner March 15, 2017
Producer Ramsey Naito

photo by eric charbonneau

“Often in my career I have been the only woman in the room”, notes Ramsey Naito, one of the producers of The Boss Baby, an animated movie about love, belonging, and sibling rivalry, hitting the screens at the end of March. “The industry has made slight gains when it comes to including women, but at DreamWorks, specifically, there are so many women in leadership roles and here you find so much more gender equality.” Women report that they often have trouble being heard around a conference table when their numbers are low, but that has never been the case for Ramsey, who comes from a matriarchy of strong southern women. “I may not have always agreed with what they said, but that never prevented them from making their points.” She laughs.

Both sides of her family are artistic - her mother is a painter and her Japanese father comes from a long line of Haiku artists. “I grew up in a Waldorfian environment. No television. I was told to draw what I saw.” The unconventional upbringing stood her in good stead. After getting her graduate degree at Cal Arts, she was invited to be a PA on the show, Duckman. “That was my entree into animation. I was so surprised that there was a workplace where you could collaborate with many diverse artists from all over the world. At the time it was pencil on paper in an office setting. Animation is exactly that skill today, even with computers. I have the best job in the world because I get to go to work every day and be with artists who are always thinking creatively. They have so many different points of view about what they are creating. On The Boss Baby we had over 400 artists working on the film. It's a very powerful and inspiring work setting.”

Something else she finds powerful and important is that movies reflect the world in which we live, not only in content but in the make-up of those who create entertainment. “Inclusivity and diversity are power. We are making and telling stories for the world so a workplace should reflect that. People are afraid of important mandates that require people to be aware of who they are hiring.” Naito recommends that when interviewing, companies include women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. “People can sometimes be intimidated by the process of inclusion,” but the twenty-year animation veteran doesn’t feel that’s a legitimate stance. “It just shines a light on making sure that everyone is educated about what ‘inclusive’ means.”

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Producer Ramsey Naito

Ramsey at work on The Boss Baby with director Tom McGrath (right) and Jimmy Kimmel.

photo by brian gordon

 

“I read a statistic,” she continues, “that asked, ‘Do you know how to get women into the workforce? Do you have the tools to help woman?’ They asked men and women. 67% of the group, felt like they did not know how to get women into the workforce. In terms of my own personal experience I'm not surprised that today we still have that problem, even though it’s improving.” In her opinion those conversations are necessary in understanding how to bridge the gender gap. “No matter where I go, all the women that I know, we're always talking about it. I do think we still need to do the work and keep talking to everyone about what diversity means; how it manifests itself.”

“My recommendation would be, which is how I have always operated, quality comes first but when you have an opportunity to hire someone in any field make sure that the net you are throwing out to bring in a candidate is diverse. You should question it if the people you are interviewing are only one thing. You should really pushback on yourself or the people that are helping you bring in your candidates, and ask for a more diverse spread of candidates. Specifically in entertainment. It adds success to everything we are doing.”

Her other advice to women interested in following in her footsteps? “I follow your intuition with more confidence than I did my 20s,” notes the veteran of movies like SouthPark: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Spongebob, and The Boss Baby. “I learned over the years that had I followed my instincts more, things would have worked out better. When I did, they always worked out great. I think it's a really big part of being a woman - your intuition - believing in it and going with it.”

Which is what happened with casting The Boss Baby. “We cast Alec Baldwin because he is such an amazingly strong actor, with such weight and swagger. He can be dramatic, comedic or soulful, all the things we saw on 30Rock, and the juxtaposition of that gravity with a cute baby was hilarious. We got our first choice on all our leads, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire, and we cannot leave out Boss Baby’s task force, which included young, up and coming actors ViviAnn Yee and Eric Bell, Jr. People plug into The Boss Baby emotionally, but its also hysterical as its laced with comedy and wit.”