AWUK at Annecy 2019

Georgina Hurcombe gives the lowdown on Annecy International Animated Film Festival, which takes place in Annecy, France in June every year.

The festival has built a reputation as an excellent global meeting point for women in the animation industry, and this year was no exception. It was fantastic to see AWUK out in full force throughout the festival; along with watching a variety of fantastic animated content, my week was also filled with engaging discussions and positive meetings with an array of animated women, including our Co-Chair for Animation Beth Parker and longstanding member Natalie McKee (who I first met while taking part in the Helen North Achieve Programme back in 2018).

I was equally thrilled to be invited to speak on behalf of  AWUK at Women in Animations Breakfast Meeting. These meetings are becoming somewhat of a tradition at Annecy, and, considering I have only recently joined the board of AWUK, I was excited to contribute. The talk focused on the next steps for Animated Women UK, as well as reflecting on our accomplishments over the past year. There is so much for us to be proud of, from the Tips and Hits for Animated Women Panel in July last year, the re launch of the Helen North Achieve programme all the way through to the launch of AWUK’s Scottish branch back in May. Reflecting on past accomplishments is as important as setting objectives for the future, and the Breakfast Meeting talk gave us an excellent opportunity to  discuss all the exciting opportunities happening in the animation and VFX sector in the UK

The Breakfast Meeting talk was also about looking to the future: what’s next for women who work in animation and VFX globally?, what goals could we set for our organisations, and how were we going to achieve them? From an Animated Women UK prospective throughout the past year, panels have been a great way for us to spread awareness and tackle important gender-related industry issues. Producing more of these events and finding a way of making them bigger, better, and more informative than ever before is just one achievable goal we can set ourselves for the coming year.

The Breakfast Meeting talk also focused on a variety of other relevant topics. It was particularly interesting to share knowledge and advice with representatives of other worldwide women’s organisations, who reported on their own successes, making the Breakfast Meeting talk an excellent platform to celebrate the achievements of women in animation and VFX from all over the world.

However, successes were not the only item on the agenda; we also heard about the gender-related issues that continue to permeate our industry, both nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace seems to remain as great an issue as ever; the issue seems to be particularly prevalent in France, where we heard how posters and leaflets detailing how to report such incidents are given out in large numbers to many studio employees . Of course, it’s fantastic to hear that efforts are being made to raise awareness around workplace sexual harassment, but it’s equally disappointing to hear that these appalling incidents are still taking place!

The issues surrounding the lack of senior female artists in the animation and VFX industries were also raised in the Breakfast Meeting. One especially salient point related to the expected and very regular long overtime: it’s difficult to rise through the ranks in VFX without a willingness to dedicate all of your time to the job, which has caused difficulties for women who want or with children to reach the pinnacle of their respective organisations without support from spouses or the organisations themselves.

Annecy Festival has a distinct atmosphere of diversity and inclusion. The opening day of this year’s festival was the third annual summit of the WIA (Women in Animation) and LFA (Les Femmes s’Animent). Throughout the day, the WIA and LFA hosted a variety of important, fascinating events. Sessions such as Creating an Environment of Belonging – a discussion about how men can assist the gender inclusion conversation and drive it forward – and Intergenerational Perspective on Belonging – a discussion which focused on the value of diversity among generations – are representative of the kind of open, inclusive quality that Annecy has become known for.

Other sessions included in this year’s summit focused on the future of women in animation. The New Face of Animation Leadership in Hollywood session acknowledged the fact that women in management and production roles are now leading a number of animation studios in Hollywood. This is, of course, fantastic news, and is indicative of the success that some women in the animation industry have begun to see over the last several years. We just hope that our fellow female artists in VFX and animation  will see such similar shifts in more senior roles within thier craft.

However, the New Face of Animation Leadership sessions also raised some important questions: will we now begin to see a shift in the culture of major Hollywood studios, and how will the women leading them impact their financial and creative success? Moreover, will we see increased changes in the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the animation industry? And, although not included in this particular session, these industrial shifts also generate questions about women in non-senior roles: will we see a change in the level of support for women in more creative and technical animation and VFX roles?

These are all questions that are certainly worth asking our at this juncture in our industry. Only time will tell, but together we believe we can make the future brighter for women in animation and VFX globally

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For more on Annecy click here

Written by Georgina Hurcombe

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