As part of an ongoing series, we want to introduce you to a few of the people who make the magic happen here at AtmosFX. Today, we’d like you to meet the person who is responsible for so much of the guts of the company – AtmosFX’s Chief Digital Officer, Emily Diehl.
By guts, we mean all the technical back-end stuff – the website, the online store, the user-interface, software development and some other top-secret proprietary technologies. (More on this in the future.) A Pennsylvania native, Emily has been a web developer since the late ’90s, coming to Seattle with the hopes of breaking into the game industry. She did – soon working on ArenaNet’s Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 and Undead Labs's State of Decay. She subsequently ran web development teams at some high-profile design firms in the region, often working with AtmosFX when the company was in its infancy.
This would be enough to ensure Emily’s essential spot on the AtmosFX team. But then there’s the fact that she’s perhaps the most committed horror geek in the company. One of her hobbies is working with special effects makeup, and she’s been participating in zombie walks for years. In the earliest days of AtmosFX, before she officially signed-on, she and AtmosFX co-founder Pete Reichert had been known to drive around Seattle foraging for mortuary tables they’d see posted on haunter forums. (Tip: They are heavy – and gross!)
Even though so much of Emily’s work is on the technological back-end of the company, she shows up in many other places. She created the special effects makeup for Zombie Invasion! – she is also one of the actors in it. (She also did the makeup for Ghostly Apparitions). For Emily, the fact that she can blend her software-development chops with her passion for haunting makes her a perfect fit here. “I do my best work when I am passionate,” she says.
Q: You have a long professional history in the gaming industry and as a web developer. Are there things from your professional history that inform what you do here at AtmosFX?
Emily Diehl: Absolutely. The background I have in both game and web development guides me every day. My years in the games industry taught me a lot about other key disciplines like project and team management, creative thinking and self-discipline. Many of the games I worked on, especially Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and State of Decay were very large, so understanding how projects of that scale come to life has really helped me here at AtmosFX. We're working on some really cool technology, so having the ability to understand how to keep all of the pieces moving forward while always focusing on creating exciting, new experiences for our fans has been invaluable.
Q: At one point you wanted to be a professional make-up artist. It is still a hobby of yours. Can you describe what appeals to you about that?
ED: I did, yes! I grew up in Pennsylvania, which is home to Tom Savini's awesome make-up program. I definitely considered getting into SFX, but chose to pursue computer science instead. While development has been my main focus for over 15 years, I've always loved creating cool make-ups on the side for Halloween and other events. I'm excited to work at a company that allows me to combine both of those very different passions. Being able to do make-up for digital decorations like Zombie Invasion! and Ghostly Apparitions was a lot of fun because I don't get to do it as much as I used to when I was younger.
Q: You played a zombie in AtmosFX’s Zombie Invasion!, have participated in several zombie walks, and even terrorized San Diego’s ComicCon as a zombie in a stunt to promote the digital decoration. What does it feel like to dress up and act like a zombie in public?
ED: It's awesome! I don't generally like being in the spotlight, so being in full make-up is a lot of fun for me. As odd as it sounds, getting zombified allows me to relax and play a character that's much different than my real-world personality. Plus, chasing people around and seeing their reactions is an added bonus!
Q: Not including Halloween, what is your favorite holiday?
ED: Ooh, that's a tough one because I'm a huge Halloween/horror geek. If I had to pick a second favorite, it would probably be St. Patrick's Day. My great-grandmother was Irish, so I have happy memories of her cooking corned beef and cabbage for me when I was a kid.
Q: What are your top 5 favorite horror movies?
ED: It's pretty much impossible for me to only pick five, but here's my best attempt:
Night of the Living Dead (I had the pleasure of meeting George Romero a few years back and got to tell him that I watched this movie for the first time when I was 4 and it changed my life. I couldn't tell if he was happy about this or disturbed.)
Alien (I'm going to cheat and throw Aliens in here too because I love them both)
The Beyond (I'm a huge sucker for Italian horror...especially Fulci)
The Thing (Carpenter's 1982 original, of course)
Evil Dead (and Evil Dead 2. Like Alien/Aliens, I can't pick)