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Boom Box Post: Proving Women Can ‘Cut Sound with Balls’

With women representing less than 5% of all sound professionals, Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman, co-founders of the multiple Daytime Emmy and MPSE award-winning boutique animation sound studio, run their business with a stated mission to create more opportunities for women that includes an annual apprenticeship program and ongoing community outreach and education.

Sexism in the animation industry isn’t exactly new, nor sadly, surprising. But the statistics, despite recent gains in some areas of the business, remain shocking. 

“Less than 5 percent of all sound professionals are women,” shares Kate Finan, re-recording mixer, supervising sound editor, and co-founder with Jeff Shiffman of Boom Box Post, a boutique animation-specific sound studio. “And that statistic is across the board, from music producers to music engineers, from sound designers to post mixers. And you really notice. There’s almost never a woman in the room. That was something we lived with at all our previous employments.”

Founded in 2015, Boom Box, which is founded on a mission to create more opportunities for women in this field at both higher-up and entry-level positions, has worked on Netflix’s Storybots, Disney’s Amphibia, DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby: Back in the Crib, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios’ M.O.D.O.K., Chromosphere’s Mall Stories, Rausch Bros. Animation’s Mushroom Park, Paramount+’s Transformers: Earthspark, and about 60 other animated television productions like Disney’s latest June releases, Hailey’s On It! and Pupstruction

The studio has won 11 Daytime Emmy Awards, 20 MPSE Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards, and 5 Music + Sound Awards. Offering a paid, 6-month-long annual apprenticeship program along with a yearly workshop with the non-profit Women’s Audio Mission and monthly “Lunch and Learns” - where hired members of the Boom Box team will teach a lesson and everyone gets a chance to be a student, as well as a teacher - the studio is currently 50 percent women and gender non-conforming as well as 50 percent male. It was a founding goal of Boom Box that Finan and Shiffman reached within the first couple years. 

“We focus on having a pool for all position hiring of 50 percent women and 50 percent men, and then we just picked the best candidate, regardless of their gender,” says Finan. “We also make sure our apprenticeship program is 50/50 so that even if we don’t have a position for the apprenticeship participants at Boom Box, they are going out into the world a bit more prepared for this industry than they were before working with us and, hopefully, we start to see that ratio change in the business on a larger scale.”

Shiffman and Finan started out their careers working at another boutique studio, after Shiffman convinced Finan to come out to Los Angeles and try sound mixing for animation. The two worked at the studio for five years before it was eventually bought by Warner Brothers and turned into the company’s in-house animation sound department, with Finan and Shiffman serving as supervising sound editors there for another five years. 

“The specific title is re-recording mixer,” explains Shiffman. “This is the person at the end of the production process who has their hands in everything, from soundtracks to sound effects. When we're supervising shows, we're meeting with clients, we're talking about their vision, and we're making sure that our editors or ourselves are putting everything in these sonic worlds together so that the sound effects and build-out of it are exactly what they need to be supporting the stories.”

Finan adds, “If you work in live-action, you're spending so much time fixing sounds and you're so specific to the place and time that's being filmed. But, in animation, these artists can draw entire worlds and come up with creative universes that don't exist and that aren’t cost-effective to create outside of animation. To be able to sonically create a world from the ground up, to create your own palette of sounds, that's so unique to animation and something that we wouldn't necessarily be doing, especially to that degree, on live-action. That drew us both in.”

But, after roughly 10 years, the two mixers started having ideas on business models they wanted to see implemented and the diversity they wanted to start seeing, eventually realizing these things could only be done if they were to venture out on our own. Thus, Boom Box Post was born.

And, out of all their achievements and the unique animations they’ve helped complete - including Shiffman’s sound editing and mixing work assisting on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie winning a Golden Reel Award - the Boom Box co-founders particularly enjoy spotlighting the projects that highlight women’s voices in the industry.

“Right now, we're working on Jennifer Twomey and Traci Paige Johnson’s Gabby's Dollhouse for DreamWorks and it’s one of the first fully women-led series we had the pleasure to work with,” says Finan. “We also work with Niki Lopez on Santiago of the Seas over at Nickelodeon and with Kate Boutilier, one of the original voices behind Rugrats, who is now doing the new Rugrats. We like that we’re able to provide these women with a sound team that has just as many female voices as male.”

Expecting a challenge, as the needle has hardly moved from that 5 percent gender level over the many years Finan and Shiffman worked in the business, both sound professionals were shocked to realize how little effort it took to reach their goal so quickly. 

“[In the past] We would sometimes try to push back about who could be on the teams and who could be hired and see if we could be part of that process and what we were always told about why there weren't more women around was, ‘There just aren't women who are qualified for the jobs,’” remembers Finan. “We worked with a woman who was just amazing at cutting big fight scenes and battles and we were always hearing this feedback from above that it couldn’t really be good, because ‘women can't cut sound with balls.’”

Shiffman adds, “It's blatant sexism. As a male, I've heard plenty of really unsettling things from males in the industry as well, where they think that a female sound editor can't build a big show or cut sound with cars or robots or explosions, and that they think women are more suited to light and dainty things that are for babies and for children. It’s always disgusted us.”

Another part of the problem, according to Finan, is that women aren't getting entry-level opportunities, which has led to an unfairly low number of qualified women able to apply at the higher levels. In fact, according to Finan, since 2000, there has been a 70% decline of women going into STEM in college due to discouragement from male supervisors in the workplace that not only is a given job difficult, but the work environment if they manage to land a position is also tough.

“That's why our apprenticeship program is so important because we’re putting these entry-level people out into the world, the professional world, with concrete experience, saying ‘I can do that job. I was trained at Boom Box. I got credits at Bom Box,’” says Finan.

“We also have a blog that we write every week, sharing our knowledge worldwide with other sound editors, sound designers, and re-recording mixers,” continues Shiffman. “The whole studio was built on the idea of teaching and learning and not holding all the trade secrets hostage, but rather let it be this open-source environment for everybody where we’re sharing our knowledge and teaching and building the creative incubator that is Boom Box.”

Being technical professionals, sound mixers and editors face frequently the misconception that the need for diversity in their field isn’t as high of a priority as it is for acting, character design, and writing departments, as those are directly involved with story. But sound mixing is every bit as vital to story as well. 

“We get to be those final gatekeepers, a show’s last stop before it’s officially done and goes out into the world,” says Finan. “We're also part of the storytelling. So, the idea that we were missing at least 45-50% of the voices was troubling. It's not that women always have a different perspective than men, but everybody has different experiences, different family histories and backgrounds, different personal experiences, and backgrounds, and you need to bring as much perspective to your storytelling as you can. When you only have this one tiny little window of 55-year-old men, that lexicon gets very small.”

Finan faced a lot of individuals not willing to accept technical prowess of a woman, especially a young woman up against a more experienced man. Whether it’s from intentional sexism, or the unfamiliarity with women being in technical roles traditionally held by males, the people at Boom Box believe no real change can happen without empowering future animation sound mixers to be confident in themselves and their skills, regardless of the opposition they face. 

“We want to give these young women a future where they are seeing other women doing the technical jobs every day, where they have role models in this business and they're comfortable to go out into the world and give this a shot themselves,” says Finan. “They can sit in the chair, sit in front of the big mix console, and have the confidence to say, ‘Yes, I can do this.’

Currently, the studio is hosting their spring apprenticeship, which will last until September 30. The next apprenticeship term will be in the fall, taking place October 1 - March 31. Those interested can apply here

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at