Laura is using her first-generation background to bring an outsider’s perspective to narratives in the games space
One of six innovators from the Wellington region interviewed for Diverse Voices: Making Screen Work Different, Laura shares her experience of diversity, innovation and sustainability in Wellington’s film industry.
Directed and produced by Pachali Brewster, with help from facilitators and Victoria University of Wellington’s Missy Molloy and Raqi Syed, Diverse Voices is a Wellington UNESCO City of Film project.
Material for the documentary has come from a hui featuring six local storytelling talent, including Laura, around the central question "how can we make screen work different".
The animation and art director is originally from the United States after her father immigrated from Turkey.
In her professional career she has collaborated with many top global animation and motion design studios, where her work has been recognised at the ADC Awards, A-List Hollywood Awards, Telly Awards and was shortlisted at the Clio Awards.
Her award-winning personal short films have screened at top film and animation festivals around the world, while in the games space Laura is an alumna of the Sundance Institute's New Frontier Story Lab and the Swedish indie games accelerator programme Stugan, and serves on the Visual Art Jury for the prestigious GDC Independent Games Festival awards.
Now living in Wellington with her husband and own child, Laura’s recent parenthood has prompted her to reflect on the experiences of generations of women in her own family and it’s the inspiration behind her latest gaming project.
The central influence is the story of her grandmother, who grew up in an extremely rural, poor background in central Turkey and was, as Laura says, seen and treated as less than for her whole life.
“I was very interested in exploring this kind of narrative in the gaming and interactive space, shining a light on women’s domestic life and its tragically mundane traumas that have historically define, and in most places in the world, continue to define the female experience.
“I've become an especially passionate believer in the need for diverse voices and outsider perspectives in games, an industry persistently plagued by its (well-deserved) reputation for producing work by and for an overwhelmingly young, male, and heteronormative in-group.”
Growing up in Boston gave Laura her own “semi first-generation experience”.
“I grew up in a very white Irish catholic place, I always felt very different and very outside of the prevailing context, I felt like this kind of swarthy little weirdo in this sea of blonde faces.”
She likens her experience to that of the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
“Watching that film there was a lot of familiarity – like so many kids who grow up in first-generation immigrant households, you grow up thinking that you’re of a part culture, in my case Turkish, but as you grow up you realise you’re not really part of that culture either, and there’s a little bit of a displacement and a feeling that you’re living in this kind of liminal space.”