We ask Animated Women UK Scotland what motivated them to start a local chapter

We ask Animated Women UK Scotland what motivated them to start a local chapter

Animated Women UK now have a local group in Scotland thanks to the enthusiasm of local volunteers. We caught up with Sueann Rochester to find out why they wanted to start a Scottish chapter and what its been like getting to this point.

How did you first hear about Animated Women UK?
I’m not 100% now, but I think I must have read something about an event happening in London and I looked into it further.

When did you start thinking seriously about trying to start up a local chapter?
I started thinking about it seriously after catching up with Beth Parker during Annecy 2018. She was so enthusiastic and I thought there would be a huge benefit to Scotland if we had a local offering.

What are you hoping to achieve?
I think the biggest thing for us is to create a stronger sense of community. We are a growing Industry so the group will be there to nurture talent, share ideas and to look out for each other.

How did you find your volunteers?
I started a private facebook group and asked for people to add anyone they thought might be interested. I wasn’t sure how much enthusiasm there would be, but I knew that I would need some support to make it work. I arranged a meeting at Axis Studios in Glasgow and was completely blown away when 18 fabulous ladies turned up all eager to be involved. That was in November. It’s taken us 6 months to get organised but we are so excited to launch next month!

How is it going so far?
We’ve not even launched yet, but I think we’re already building a strong community.
The meetings to discuss setting up have brought so many people together that wouldn’t have met before – or not very often. Everyone is chipping in time and skills to get things up and running and there is such a fantastic energy. I feel honoured to be working alongside so many brilliant ladies to set this up. We’re going to have a great year of events to look forward to!

What would you say to someone in another part of the UK thinking about doing this?
Do it! I procrastinated for a few months wondering whether it would be worth the effort, but despite not having launched yet, it’s already been worth it for me.
My biggest tip is to gather a group of keen people to help. It’s a lot of work for one person but sharing it as a team has made it fun. We know work can take over at times so each task is shared by 2 or more people so that we can allow for times when we’re too busy.

Find out more about Animated Women UK | Scotland here.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Scotland, 0 comments
Member Profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

Member Profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

What inspired you to start Stop-motion Animation?

I came to animation through my illustration degree; we had a puppet making project in our 1st year that ignited my interest in stop motion and puppet making.  The character I made was a Frankenstein’s monster-style slave, doomed to an eternity of stirring a vat of fudge! It was a great project. I had always been fascinated by the unique charm that comes from the real light and textures in stop motion, growing up on all the programmes made by Small Films. But through university and since graduating, it has been a gradual realisation that I could be someone who makes films this way too.

Tell us about your work and what projects have been critical to your career.

I experimented with felting and building a more realistic world in my degree film ‘Courage to make a Fool’, but since graduating I have directed three music videos where I have used my love of texture and character animation to create more of a personal style.

My last project, ‘Dolly Said No To Elvis’, was a chance to be more ambitious with the story I was telling, and to explore my style in the textured universe I wanted to create. ‘Dolly’ was the first time I consciously promoted a film too, which made it feel more like a career, especially when I was able to get some exposure from the Vimeo staff pick.

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/253228558″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/253228558″>Dolly Said No To Elvis (official music video)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user26799010″>Heather Colbert</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

I had a place on a stop motion workshop in Budapest last autumn, which boosted my confidence in my ambition to be a filmmaker. I met a student, Abel Carbajal (from ESCAC), through this workshop, which led to a collaboration between us on his graduation stop motion film. I have worked solo on all of my professional projects so far, so the chance to work as partners, developing the character together and then building the puppets, was really valuable for me.

 

Tell us a little bit more about your last project, ‘Dolly Said No To Elvis’ – how did the opportunity come along and the journey in making the music video?

Joseph Wallace had been approached by Mark Nevin about making a video for the track, but Joseph was focusing on his other projects at the time so very kindly offered the chance to pitch for the video on to me. I’ve been so fortunate to have had these opportunities passed on to me by more experienced filmmakers; I hope one day I’ll get the chance do the same – animation feels like a very supportive community in this respect.

When I listened to Mark’s song, I felt how the power balance shifted between the two characters at points through the narrative, and saw an opportunity to heighten the drama of the true story by exaggerating the changes in size of the two adversaries.

This was only my second professional commission, and this commission had a very tight budget, so I wasn’t able to rent a studio, which meant I turned my grandma’s dining room into a studio over Christmas! It was also a very tight deadline, but I had learnt so much through the workshop that I was bursting to try out in front of the camera. Working on my own, that intensely and over Christmas got quite tricky, and it was a challenge to keep looking after my mental health  through the project. But I am very proud of both myself and Dolly for making it happen!

 

Did you have any mentors or support in your career that help you get forward?

I have so many people to thank for my fortune so far; Virpi Kettu, an animator based in Skipton, gave me my first opportunity to pitch for a music video, when it was not right for her production company. The incredible Mary Murphy at UWE, who so generously gave me her time when I needed equipment advice for my first job.  Joseph Wallace, who I admired greatly already, has been an amazing support in teaching me the self-promotion skills filmmakers need, that you can’t really learn in university.

But I am also so grateful for the support of my peers like animator Roos Mattar, who helped me with practical and emotional advice for ‘Dolly’! And Becky Weston, a model maker who I met and connected with through an Animated Women networking event. (I think we got on immediately because we were just as nervous as each other in that situation!)

 

Have there ever been times when you’ve felt that being a woman may have impacted your career?

As I am still very new to the industry, I have not experienced what it is like to work as a woman in a large studio yet. I would hope that the issues many office environments have in this area would not be so prevalent in a creative field like animation. But I think the internal feelings that come from growing up as a female do have an impact on how challenging some aspects of a freelance career can be. Self-esteem and confidence in your abilities is, I think, quite a rare thing in many creative females, and I found the process of self-promotion with my film very daunting, so I needed a push in this direction. However, I think my sensitivity has been an asset too. Feeling strong emotions and connecting to stories very deeply is integral to this kind of career.

 

What changes would you like to see in the industry?

I have only been in the ‘real world’ for two years, so I have not had much experience of the wider picture. But I do know that in my degree the class was about 90% female, whereas the number of names that ‘make it’ are mostly male. I know this happens in many industries; something happens in the hard process of climbing, that means that female makers either don’t pursue it or do not get the same recognition as their male peers.

My strongest wish is for there to be more opportunity for people from every kind of background to have the chance to tell their story in the animation industry. It is vital that there is a broader mix of voices in the position to share their experience.

The connections to lovely people I made at a networking event held by AW have been very important to my development as a filmmaker, so I hope for more chances for us to connect and support each other across the industry

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Profiles, 0 comments
International Women’s Day Panel 2019 | #balanceforbetter

International Women’s Day Panel 2019 | #balanceforbetter

The campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter putting the spotlight directly on the question, ‘how can we help forge a more gender-balanced world?’

In response, Animated Women UK, in collaboration with ACCESS:VFX and Animation UK, hosted a panel of representative speakers to discuss the key issues of gender imbalance within the Animation and VFX industries.

The sold out event took place at The Mill with over 100 people in attendance, including professionals, early career starters and students. The energetic atmosphere of the audience clearly highlighted the importance of the topic to be addressed.

The Panel

  • Noreen Connolly – MD, Beam
  • Natalie Llewellyn – Head of Development, Jellyfish
  • Tom Box – Co-founder, Blue Zoo
  • Claire Michaud – Lighting Supervisor, Framestore
  • Simon Hughes – Creative Director / VFX Supervisor, Union
  • Ross Urien – Creative Director, The Mill
  • Helen Piercy – AWUK Board Education Advisor / Animation Lecturer at University of Norwich

Chaired by IBC’s Alana Foster, the opening question asked was ‘why is animation & VFX equality and inclusion important?’ The panel agreed that the creative industries need diverse talent in order to generate a range of animation and VFX projects for a wider audience. Ross Urien noted that the creative industry is driven by original ideas, so diversity is vitally important as good ideas don’t come from one place.

Why is the animation sector statistically doing better than VFX in terms of gender balance?

The panel were asked why pursuing a career in animation had a significantly larger draw for women than VFX? Claire Michaud explained that VFX heavy blockbusters have traditionally been targeted at boys with animated content seemingly aimed more towards girls. Tom Box added that the issue could also be about accessibility as we tend to be exposed to animation from a younger age, whereas VFX is more of a hidden art form and much of the effects work is invisible.

Natalie added that the understanding of animation and VFX as viable career options needs much more awareness. This ‘discoverability’ element is key and further work needs to be done to educate children, teachers and parents. Fantastic initiatives, such as ACCESS:VFX and STEAM events are helping to spread awareness in schools of the potential career paths into these industries.

How can we attract and retain women working in the industry?

The panel reflected on the perception that animation is more creative than VFX, therefore more feminine, ergo attracting more women to work in the sector. This view potentially starts with representation and how an interest in working in animation and VFX is generated.

It was agreed that attracting & retaining women into the industry needs better support, beginning at an educational level and throughout career progression. Mentorships are a key factor in career development, as Noreen noted that  at The Mill everyone has a mentor. “t’s really important to develop people”. Taking the initiative and reaching out to someone you admire can also be a good strategy for finding a potential mentor. Networks and industry recognised schemes, such as Animated Women UK’s Helen North Achieve Programme, are also helping to bring women in the creative community together to access advice.

Overall, the panel were very positive on the outlook for a gender balanced industry, however, it is clear that there is more work to be done to improve the current diversity statistics in the animation and vfx industries. Animated Women UK are committed to working towards a #BalanceforBetter future, continuing our mission to support women from all backgrounds of the industry at every stage in their career.

Helen Piercy is AWUK’s Education Advisor.

 

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, News, 0 comments
International Women’s Day 2019 | How can we positively impact gender balance?

International Women’s Day 2019 | How can we positively impact gender balance?

#BalanceforBetter #IWD2019

Animated Women UK | ACCESS:VFX | Animation UK

According to recent diversity statistics from UK Screen and Animation UK the VFX (27% female) and Animation industries (40% female) still have a long way to go to reach gender balance.

The night before International Women’s Day 2019 Animated Women UK, ACCESS:VFX and Animation UK have teamed up to host a panel at The Mill to discuss these statistics and the challenges faced trying to address them with the aim of formulating a plan for change.

Doors will open at 18:00 and the panel chaired by Alana Foster will be held from 6.45 – 8pm.

Our panel is being chaired by Alana Foster from IBC 365

With thanks to The Mill for hosting us.

The Panel:

  • Noreen Connolly – MD of Beam
  • Simon Hughes – Creative Director / VFX Supervisor, Union
  • Natalie Llewellyn – Head of Development, Jellyfish
  • Ross Urien – Creative Director, The Mill
  • Tom Box – Co-founder, Blue Zoo
  • Helen Piercy – AWUK Board Education Advisor / Animation Lecturer at University of Norwich
  • Andrew Brassington – Head of Strategic Projects, Escape Studios
Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, 0 comments
Mental Health First Aid Training | A Member’s Account

Mental Health First Aid Training | A Member’s Account

Chloé Deneuve, a Character Animator at Blue Zoo attended a one-day Mental Health First Aid training course within her company Blue Zoo. Led by Tara Kent from MHFA (Mental Health First Aid England). Here are her impressions and takeaways from the day.

The clinic aimed to provide a number of studio staff with the knowledge of how to recognise the signs of someone struggling with a mental health issue, how to provide initial help and how to guide them towards getting professional help while being mindful of our own wellbeing. As someone who has experienced a real struggle with mental health, I’d like to highlight the importance of this training day and urge all companies to offer this training to their staff.

Despite reportedly affecting one in four people in the UK, mental health is not often talked about in the workplace. It’s common practice for most companies to offer First Aid training, yet surprisingly few offer Mental Health First Aid training. In fact, failing to recognise the mental health of employees is very shortsighted of companies. Aside from the ethical benefits of having a happy workforce, on an economic level doing so also benefits a business –  if employees are happy, production and quality go up. For peak performance in the workplace, we need a certain amount of pressure: too little and we’re bored, too much and we become stressed, less productive, and in some cases, can become mentally unwell. Let’s remember that a workplace is nothing without the force of its people and for a company to succeed, the wellbeing of its staff is absolutely essential.

Working in a creative industry can be a high pressured environment – as our work is visual, the criticism can be high. When the visuals in a show or film are deemed good, as artists we rarely get praised by the audience, yet when the visuals are esteemed to be poor, we get all of the backlash. Little does the audience know what can happen behind the studio doors. Our producers have a budget to stick to, we all have deadlines and things constantly need to be fixed. The client might change their mind about the direction of a certain shot or sequence and request changes without extending deadlines. By recognising signs that could indicate mental health issues, employers can help to address issues before they escalate, or in more severe cases, help staff get the help that they may need.  The job of a Mental Health First Aid Champion is to know how to help create an environment where everyone feels as though they are in a safe space and listened to.

This may sound obvious, but in reality, listening – really listening, is much tougher than it seems because while someone is talking, a lot of the time all we want to do is give our own opinion on the matter, which means we’re not really registering what the other person is saying. You cannot compare what you have been through with what someone else is going through, because everyone feels things differently and we need to understand that. The MHFA course teaches that when someone in front of us is expressing their struggles, we need to leave our own judgment at the door. It’s okay to not have the answer or solution to their issue, the important thing is to let them know that you are there with them – that human connection can make a huge difference.

We also need to remember that vulnerability is not a weakness, it is in fact very courageous. In a world where expectations are high and image is key, we’re expected to show mental strength and resilience, to know exactly who we are and where we want to be in 5 years time. It’s okay to not know these things, and it’s okay to ask for help and support from the people around us. I really believe that a problem shared, is a problem halved. Equally, it is important to remember that you can only help people when you yourself are in a good place. Self-compassion is key, we are all our own worst enemies. I know that I wouldn’t talk to anyone the way I talk to myself sometimes, but I now recognise it, and I talk to myself how I would talk to a friend or colleague in need.

My hope is that more companies offer Mental Health First Aid training, but on a more individual level, I would like everyone to notice the people that they work with, ask them how they are doing and to start to create that safe space in their offices and home lives. I know from my own experience, that someone doing so, can make a huge difference.

If you’d like to find out more about MHFA training along with the different types of courses you can offer your company, visit their website: https://mhfaengland.org/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, 0 comments