CMC 2018 | Tips and Hits from Animated Women

CMC 2018 | Tips and Hits from Animated Women

The CMC panel TIPS AND HITS FROM ANIMATED WOMEN was set up to tackle the fact that gender parity in the entertainment industry is far from a given. Examples such as the recent report on the gender pay gap, and the #MeToo movement, have made that very clear.

But instead of pointing fingers, our aim was to address bad practice by demonstrating good practice. We wanted to celebrate the many women who have succeeded in the animation business, by getting them to describe their journeys and talk about obstacles that may have had to overcome.

Positivity was key. The session was kicked off with a short speech by Changemaker Anna Hollinrake, a games artist just starting out in the business. Anna was keen to stress the importance of balance and self-care, in an industry that can sometimes entail long and stressful hours and not a whole heap of gratitude. It was therefore important for the rest of the session to show positive examples of how we can look after ourselves by celebrating our achievements and successes and in doing so address questions about equality and confidence.

The role models we chose to help us do that came with a range of experience and backgrounds:

Sarah Fell, Executive Producer at Turner Broadcasting talked about her journey from art school into production. Sarah achieves balance by allowing herself to be inspired by others, while maintaining her own creative vision. Sarah was asked whether she thought animation is a level playing field. She admitted that in the early days of her career, the industry was heavily weighted towards men, but over time, Sarah has been able to champion more and more women in the business and can easily claim gender parity on the shows she produces now, such as THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL.

Rebecca Hobbs embarked on a successful screenwriting career via a law degree and a short stint in acting. Her most recent credit is as Head Writer on SADIE SPARKS, a co-production between Brown Bag Films, Cybergroup Studios and Disney EMEA. Rebecca spoke a lot about taking risks and about how fear was sometimes a good motivator! She was also asked about mentors and she was keen to stress importance of finding someone to trust – sometimes we all need the reassurance from someone with experience, that the risks we’re taking are worth taking. Her most poignant piece of advice was some she has once been given – not to climb a ladder too far, only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Up next was Georgina Hurcombe, Producer and Managing Director at LoveLove Films. Georgina was a participant in this year’s Helen North Achieve Programme and talked about the importance of organisations such as Animation Women UK for both networking and support. We know that centuries of conditioning mean we may not change things overnight, but channeling positive examples of where it does work, goes a long way to help nudge progress in the right direction.

Finally, and also from LoveLove Films, was JoAnne Salmon, who as an animator has seen more and more women come through the technical side of the business. She cited the importance of building confidence in those trying to break into the industry, as well as the importance of the role the rest of us play in being role models to those still in the early stages of their careers.

The whole panel was asked what tips they had to share with the rest of the industry to support equality and diversity:

  • Building confidence was high on the agenda; so many of us still feel the ‘imposter syndrome’ and battle against the stereotypical idea that women do best in more nurturing, production management roles rather than the more ‘creative’ and ‘technical’ roles. So, we need more role models to speak up, while we also need to rediscover women whom history has over-looked.
  • We also need to remember that we make content for a global and diverse audience; both our content and those making it need to be just a global and diverse if we are to paint a true picture of the world we live in to our children.

And speaking of children, the one and only question we had time for from the floor, came from a man, who inevitably asked the ‘how-do-we-deal-with-women-going-off-to-have-babies’ question. I threw this back, to a round of applause, as I truly feel it’s time we stopped making this a women-only issue, it’s an issue for parents, whatever gender. First of all, we shouldn’t assume all women want, or can, have children. It is not a question we ever ask men. Secondly, as technology now enables us all to work flexibly, this is a conversation men should be having amongst themselves too – it should not be up to us to tell them what equality looks like all the time.

Overall it was a session full of energy and it remained thoroughly positive throughout. Although the number of women in the industry has increased significantly over the last few years, we still need to support and champion and celebrate one another, as we do deserve to be here!

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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 key 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.

Dolly Said No to Elvis by Mark Nevin.

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 with a partner, 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’.  
Joseph Wallace had been approached by Mark Nevin to make a video for the track, but was focusing on his other projects at the time so very kindly offered me the chance to pitch for the video. 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 it had a very tight budget.  I wasn’t able to rent a studio, so I turned my grandma’s dining room into a studio over Christmas! The deadline was also very tight, 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 over Christmas got quite tricky.  It was a challenging to look after my mental health through the project, but I am very proud of both myself and Dolly for making it happen!

Dolly Said No to Elvis by Mark Nevin

Did you have any mentors support that helped you?
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 generously gave me her time when I needed equipment advice for my first job and 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 at university.
I am also so grateful for the support of my peers such as 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 that direction. However, I think my sensitivity has been an asset too. Feeling strong emotions and connecting to stories very deeply is integral to my success.

BIBIMBAP byOri Dagan – Heather’s 1st music video

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 bigger 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 stories through animation. It is vital that there is a broader mix of voices in a position to share their experience.

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

Find out more about Heather and her work at www.heather-colbert.com.

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Annecy 2018 | Women in Animation World summit

Annecy 2018 | Women in Animation World summit

This year, Annecy started with the Women in Animation World Summit on Monday 11 June. A day of sessions and discussions around Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, introduced by the skilled motivator Julie Ann Crommett, VP of Multicultural Audience Engagement at the Walt Disney Studios. This high-level motivation continued over the VIP lunch, where I was sat next to Vanessa Morrison, President of Fox Family. Vanessa has a kind of underlying superpower that makes you feel invincible after as little as a five-minute conversation with her and so I found myself ready and willing to follow her into battle. She had the difficult challenge of presenting the final panel of the day, which was on developing diverse talent, but I came away having made a pledge to always look beyond the most obvious places when searching for talent on our shows.

The World Summit was co-produced by Les Femmes S’Animent, who asked me to present the following morning at one of the Breakfast Series. Here we talked about setting up your own organisation, with representatives from Spain and Germany, among others, wanting to know more. As far as AWUK is concerned, this was perhaps the most significant meeting of the week, as I was approached a number of times over the next few days, by women looking for advice on gathering their own communities to form a group to support and network.

  

This year seemed particularly busy, and although I start every Annecy week telling myself, not to take meetings that clash with screenings or sessions I have booked, next year I must make a conscious effort to stick by that motto. But I also took some good learnings from the week: good and diverse talent is out there, it just needs a bit more time to find, and may not always be where we’re used to looking; what we show on the screen should reflect the actual world we live in and not the one we think we see – don’t forget our audiences are global; there are plenty of folks who want to support diversity, they just don’t always know the best way how and are happy to take the advice – everyone should be made aware of their biases; remember how it feels not believing you belong at the table, imagine how that is for other, more marginalised sections of society.

So, when not wearing my Disney hat, I was firmly wearing my AWUK one, which meant I spent the whole week in meetings. Now I’m frantically catching up on a few short films since returning, thanks to the video library!

Beth Parker is our Animation Chair. Find out more about Beth and the rest of our team here.

Beth Parker at Annecy 2018

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Inspiring Females | STEM or STEAM?

Inspiring Females | STEM or STEAM?

I was very pleased to be invited to speak about my career in animation and education at the ‘Inspiring Females STEM’ conference at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. The programme, designed by the students and staff at Norwich High School for Girls, was created to encourage more young women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) – all areas that have a significantly low female workforce. The impressive line-up of speakers for the day included women at the top of their professions; Directors, Professors, and Doctors.

Norwich High School for Girls

Norwich High School for Girls

Speed mentoring

During the first event, I had the opportunity to speed mentor groups of young women from schools across the UK. I asked the students about the subjects they were interested in and what careers they wanted to pursue. Although I was happy to hear ambitions in engineering, medicine, and business, I was equally depressed to learn that a number of students had been actively discouraged from pursuing creative subjects. I remember my own experiences as a GCSE student, being told art was a ‘risky’ and ‘soft’ option, and it seems the misconception around art and design education is still a worrying trend. Parents, teachers and careers advisors continue to need wider means of support in order to advise school and college leavers on the range of exciting career options available in our industry.

STEM or STEAM? Panel.

STEM or STEAM?

Later in the day, I joined a Q&A panel to discuss the relationship between STEM and the arts, and if ‘STEM’ should, in fact, be ‘STEAM’?  Part of the session focused on the notion that we either have a left-sided ‘scientific’ brain or a right-sided ‘artistic’ brain. It was wonderful to hear the scientists on the panel agree that creativity was an essential skill needed in order to innovate. STEM industries have a great need for creative thinkers and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Inspiring a full theatre of young females

The Inspirational Females STEM conference was an incredibly positive experience and more events like this are desperately needed in order to empower the next generation of women. Visible female role models, parity in regards to male and female pay and outreach education are all important factors in the ongoing mission to generate a more diverse workforce in the science and creative industries.

www.inspiringfemales.org.uk

#IFSTEM

Helen Piercy

About Helen Piercy

@HelenAnimate on Twitter

Helen Piercy is a multidisciplinary filmmaker, award-winning children’s author, professional educator and Advisor to the AWUK Board on all things Education. With degrees in Graphic Design (BA Hons) and Animation Direction (MA-The National Film and Television School), Helen began her career working as a freelance animator in London before launching her own business as a filmmaking educator in 2012.

Her passion for supporting young people led her to become a student mentor for Central Saint Martins MA Character Animation Course. In 2016, she joined the BA (Hons) Animation Course at Norwich University of the Arts as a full-time lecturer. Helen completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in 2017 and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

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Member Profile | Georgina Hurcombe | Producer & Managing Director at LoveLove Films

Member Profile | Georgina Hurcombe | Producer & Managing Director at LoveLove Films

What inspired you to start your own production company?

I’ve always loved animation, moving image, and of course as a kid I was mesmerized by all things Disney!  As a young girl, I spent all my time taking photos or in dark rooms. My parents would tilt their heads, look a bit confused and say “that’s nice dear” as I showed them photos of tree bark that I had taken.

When I was older I studied Television Production at Bournemouth University and with my degree behind me, spent a few years working at production companies and other startups which I really enjoyed. Then out of the blue, my boss let me go. It was a massive shock and I was really lost for a while. One day, a friend commented that I’d been so involved in these production companies I might as well start my own. It had never really dawned on me that I could actually go and do it myself, but the idea kept buzzing around in my head.

So… at 25, full of naivety, I started LoveLove Films, which was the most exciting and terrifying thing I have ever done.

That’s brave! What challenges did starting your own company bring?

The timing wasn’t great as I started the business 2010, in the midst of a recession.  When the company first began, it was just me, my desk and far too much coffee for normal human consumption.  However, things started to take off, I became an employer and rented a tiny shoebox office.

One morning we came in to see an unexpected water feature – the ceiling had collapsed and water was running all over our filming equipment and computers. It was a pretty spectacular, but expensive waterfall!

This actually proved to be a recurring theme with our studios…We moved to a lovely ex-gospel hall I found although it needed a lot of maintenance it had the space and high ceiling I had been dreaming of! The old landlord told me he would maintain the Gospel hall and fix it up, but to cut a long story short, he didn’t! The boiler broke down, the roof collapsed in the rain and the landlord spent his days on a broken ladder with a can of tar in one hand and tape in the other trying to patch things up. My team wore awful onesies in an attempt to beat the cold and we almost set the building on fire by having too many electrical heaters plugged in.

Refurbishing LoveLove Films

This was an extremely challenging time. I spent a lot of my time struggling to sleep and popping into the office at 2 am when it was raining to check that the roof wasn’t leaking on our equipment. However, we managed to turn it around. Warner Music commissioned us to produce a music video for a platinum-selling artist, and inspired by the threat of indoor rain, our concept featured indoor rain and ironically, built our own rain machine inside our studio (ha!).  

Joss Stone – The Love We Had

Watch the music video.

Watch the making of the music video.

LoveLove Films has come a long way in a few years. Eventually, I was able to buy the building from the old landlord and fully renovate it. That took many weekends covered in dirt, me trying to do a lot of DIY (thank goodness for YouTube), but I now had my own studio space, perfect for animating and filming in.

LoveLove Films today

What a journey…Logistics aside, how has the creative journey been?

When we first started producing content, it was mostly live action, but as the company evolved and grew, we naturally started to produce more and more animation, and now animation accounts for approximately 75% of the work that we do.  One of the things that I love about animation and inspired me to produce more of it is the endless possibilities. I started to feel very limited creatively with live action and animation provided a real outlet for this creativity! I’m lucky to have a great bunch of animators – in fact, our lead animator just won an RTS for our TV broadcast graphic work so I’m super proud of my wonderfully talented team!

What kind of animations do you work on?

We produce an array of different content.  Last year we created graphics and titles for a variety of productions including BBC Films’ F1 Williams, Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, ITV’s EasyJet: Inside the Cockpit, to name a few.  We have produced over 50 TV campaigns, mostly animated, and are now setting our sights on producing longer form animated content – particularly for children’s TV.

LoveLove Films portfolio

Watch the LoveLove showreel.

What has been your most enjoyable recent project?

We recently produced an 11-minute pilot for our children’s TV IP ‘Bottle Island’, which we are collaborating with the United Nations on. The series is aimed at pre-school aged children and teaches them the importance of looking after the environment using a mix of 3D characters, 2D backgrounds and Live action elements. Bottle Island is our passion project and we shut the studio to all other work for 3 months to develop and produce the pilot, which I think demonstrated our belief in the project.

Producing content with a great message that can be both fun and entertaining is very important to us as a studio and has influenced a lot of our recent work.  We’re often commissioned by charities – especially those focussed on conservation and young people.

Bottle Island

Watch the trailer for Bottle Island.

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

Through the years running LoveLove I have encountered many obstacles.  For me, it’s important not to see them as barriers, but as challenges to overcome. I always ask my team to look for solutions and don’t entertain a ‘can’t’ culture within the studio. After all – barriers are meant to be broken down.

I was 25 when I started my company and often ran into negative and dismissive attitudes from people based on my age and gender. I would attend meetings with clients and have them ask when my boss was coming along. I’ve even been told that I couldn’t attend a networking event because it was for ‘serious businessmen’ or was ‘more of a boy’s club thing where we eat curry and talk business’!  I was once even called ‘a little girl with an idea’ – it still makes me cringe today! However, I like curry and talking business, so I persevered.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt throughout my career is not to stress too much about work. I have to remind myself that I run a studio and that I am not a doctor saving lives, so I try to make sure that I am being objective. I’ve also learnt that it’s okay to ask for help, and today I still often reach out to my peers for insight and advice.

It is great to see a woman standing up for her ideas! Did you have mentors or support networks throughout your career that have really helped push you forwards?

I’ve always had strong female influences in my life; my mum and sister are both extremely strong women (I have one memory from my childhood of my mum chasing some burglars away across a field with a garden fork!) who encouraged me to stand up for what I believe is right and to pursue my goals. I believe that women are equal to men, so why shouldn’t we run businesses, head up organizations and departments?

It’s always OK to ask for advice and help. There is always something that can be learnt from speaking to the people around you, and this has been absolutely invaluable throughout my career. During development of Bottle Island, I have reached out to heads of studios for guidance in certain areas and they have been very welcoming and keen to give advice which is great and I think shows what a lovely community the children’s TV landscape is.

How have you found the Helen North Achieve Programme?

The Animated Women UK Helen North Achieve Programme is another fantastic support network for women in the animation industry. Being able to talk to like-minded women about issues that we all face and how to overcome them has been invaluable and inspiring. It’s great to be able to speak to women from fantastic organizations such as DNeg, Disney and Blue Zoo.

The mix of career stages also provides a unique insight into what concerns other women in the industry. Personally, it’s also been really useful to hear about what these women want in their own organizations and then thinking about whether we can apply any of this at LoveLove Films.  I’ve made some great new friends too!

What changes would you like to see in the industry, both in general and with regard to women in the industry?

I have noticed that in the children’s television landscape, women seem to dominate commissioning, which is fantastic!

But when it comes to animators, I can certainly see more men than women. When we advertise for animators, so many more men apply than women. I’m really keen to push for more women in my team, particularly in the animation department. We already have a number of really fantastic and talented women that work for LoveLove Films, and overall the team has a 50/50 gender split, but having more women on our animation teams would be fantastic!

Having a great team culture, where the team are more like friends than colleagues, is so important when it comes to running a regional animation and production company. Making sure that I encourage my team’s creativity and push for all of my team to achieve the very best that they can, regardless of their gender, is something that is so important to me and has certainly been integral to LoveLove Films development. Also being flexible and understanding each of the team members have lives outside of the studio is important  – especially for team members that have children. I firmly believe the happier the team, the better the work we produce.

The LoveLove Film team picking up their RTS Award

How do you feel you might inspire other women who are thinking of starting a business and what advice would you give?

I hope that I can act as a positive role model for women that are either looking to start their own business or get into video or animation production. At school, I wasn’t particularly academic – I’m super-duper dyslexic and was never in the highest sets, so I would like to think that I am a good role model in terms of what you can achieve with determination, good people skills and creative flair!

The animation and video industry is tough and competitive, but also one of the most rewarding, and certainly, one of the most fun to work in. Most weekends I’m looking forward to Mondays as I love being in the studio with the team.

With regard to starting out in the industry you really need to get out there and network! You can build your personal network both with online and offline.  Check out festivals and talk to industry people. I’m a firm believer in “if you don’t ask you don’t get” (believe me I still chase people down the corridors – before slowing down and acting nonchalant ha!).

Go to talks, there are loads of fantastic groups like Animated Women UK, LinkedIn, Creativepool, and even animation and crew Facebook groups so join these too! In addition, lots of studios like Blue Zoo have fantastic internship programmes so check these out too!

If you’re thinking of starting a business, just know that it’s full of chaos and uncertainty. In order to grow a business, a number of things need to go wrong for you to learn how things work. To be able to get through these more difficult times, you really need to love what you are doing and believe deeply in your business idea.

Don’t limit yourself to other people’s expectations. I have come across a lot of no’s.  The key to success is being persistent and resilient.

Most importantly, I have learnt that if you find something you do love doing, then believe in yourself, have fun and just go for it!

To find out more about LoveLove Film visit www.lovelovefilms.com.

LoveLove Film

Posted by Lucy Cooper in News, Profiles, 0 comments