Deeds not words | International Women’s Day 2018

Deeds not words | International Women’s Day 2018

In support of the ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ movement, AWUK launched their new ‘Deeds Not Words’ programme on International Women’s Day, with an event dealing with harassment and bullying in the workplace and introducing the new BFI/ BAFTA guidelines.

The workshop was co-produced by Animated Women UK (AWUK) and Animation UK (AUK) and generously hosted by The Mill. The audience of individuals, HR representatives and company owners were joined by Tim Hunter, Director of learning and new talent at BAFTA and employment barristers Caroline Jennings and Naomi Owen from No 5 Barristers Chambers.

After an introduction from Jan Armstrong who facilitated the afternoon, Tim Hunter provided an overview of the new BFI/BAFTA guidelines on harassment and bullying, released on the day of the BAFTA awards.

BFI/BAFTA Guidelines

The BAFTA Awards are a lens on the industry there was much debate at the time as to whether the guidelines go far enough, but Tim clarified that after wide consultation the specific issues tackled in the guidelines were identified as most important. The timing was also significant to show BAFTA’s position at the time of the awards and gain maximum coverage.

He acknowledged that there many areas not covered, for example the freelance perpetrator who could easily ‘slip under the radar’ going from one production to another.  However, these guidelines provide an industry framework and accountability to build upon. There has been a code of conduct for the VFX industry for about 4 years so it’s good to see the BFI and BAFTA following suit. Currently there is not an official animation industry wide code, but many companies have their own.

A show of hands from the attendees demonstrated that a significant majority had suffered some form of harassment or bullying in the workplace including our barristers.  Unfortunately, this is in line with our own MeToo survey results.

*AWUK MeToo Survey results as of 30.03.18

If you haven’t yet shared your experience, please fill in our quick anonymous survey here.

What constitutes harassment?

Barristers Caroline and Naomi presented the legal definitions of harassment as well as a couple of cases that have made it to court. They illustrated the minefield of ambiguity between wanted and unwanted behavior, flirting or pestering, bullying or just meeting that deadline.

The EU Equal Treatment Directive

Harassment law stems from an EU Equal Treatment Directive

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers

The Equality Act 2010

This is enshrined in UK law in the Equality Act 2010.

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers


Banter is also covered.

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers

Our barristers explained how the law is applied and the complex topic of accountability or individuals and employers/third parties.

Finally Naomi concluded by mentioning the concept of collective responsibility.  Both employers and employees in the workplace should endeavour to create an environment in which people are more aware of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and what to do if it happens.  We need to dispel the “If I report it I will never work again!” perception.

Want to know more?

If there is enough interest from our members we will organise another event covering this issue.  If you’d like to attend an event like this please let us know in the comments section.

‘The legal perspective and case studies were excellent’

‘Great legal presentation which handled a very dry and awkward subject with sensitivity and delivered information I was not aware.”

‘The conversations around this topic I found the most stimulating and informative.’

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Campaigns, Events, 1 comment
Member Profile | Liz Mitchell | CG Supervisor at DNegTV

Member Profile | Liz Mitchell | CG Supervisor at DNegTV

What inspired you to get into VFX and how did you achieve it?

I always loved creative projects in school, but after visiting Disney World with my family when I was eleven, where I watched the animators work on Toy Story, I knew I wanted to be an animator.  I chose to complete Art, Maths and Design & Technology A-Levels at school before studying Computer Animation at Bradford University – one of only a few Universities with this kind of course at the time.  A few months after graduating I started a job as a runner at The Mill in London.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge in your career?  Have there been key points that you would like to share?

My biggest challenge was getting a role in the 3D Department.  Starting as a runner at The Mill was surprisingly simple for me, but it felt like a long road to move into a 3D position.  I was fortunate to be hired as a runner after just walking into The Mill with my CV, which wouldn’t necessarily be possible now as it’s a lot more competitive.  I then spent two months as a runner before starting as a VT Operator in the Media Transfer department. This role involved shift work where we worked ten-hour shifts, four days a week.  Nearly every week on my day off I would train in Mill TV, mostly camera tracking and environment modelling. Junior 3D roles didn’t come up very often so I spent a long time training like this while working full time.  After a couple of years, I knew I needed to take action in order to achieve my goal of moving into 3D. I was accepted on to a Skillset Visual Effects Scholarship course at Escape Studios. It was really difficult to leave work to go back to study for 5 months, but it was definitely the best decision.  It allowed me to train full time and included a one month internship back at The Mill at the end of it. I actually did my internship in 2D having enjoyed learning new skills during the Nuke module at Escape Studios, but then chose to go back to 3D and the Commercials Department offered me a position. It took over two and a half years from starting as a runner to achieve my goal of working in the 3D department which felt like a very long time!

What has been your experience as a woman in the VFX industry?

My experience as a woman in the VFX industry has been generally positive.  I have worked in male-oriented departments through most of my career, but currently work in a more balanced environment.  I can honestly say that in my current position I don’t feel that I am treated any differently for being a woman. And while I was one of only a few girls in my previous work environments, I didn’t struggle with it.  The people I worked with were lovely and after a while you don’t really notice it. I was once told that people enjoyed having a woman on the team as it kept things more balanced and set a different tone to the team, as we’d bring different qualities to the role.  At the start of my career I was a quieter character and didn’t really vocalise what direction I wanted my career to go in, which may have slowed down my progress as I competed with louder peers. I don’t think this was necessarily because I was a girl, but it probably didn’t help!  My quieter personality didn’t exude confidence in my abilities, which in turn didn’t help my progression and at times I was less assertive at asking for the kinds of roles I wanted. As I have gained experience, I have gained the confidence to speak up and grasp the roles I want. I no longer feel so intimidated and am happy to speak out.

A pivotal moment in my career came after about 6 years in 3D, when I enrolled on a course run by NextGen Skills Academy.  It was called ‘Aspiring Women’ and was aimed at encouraging confidence in women who wanted to take the next step in their career.  Here I met many like-minded women and it was a great environment to discuss stories and see that despite there not being many women in my department, there were many women with the same goals and experiences as me in the industry.

Liz’s NextGen Skills Academy ‘Aspiring Women’ course

Did you have mentors or support networks throughout your career that really helped push you forward?

I have worked with many supportive people throughout my career.  My boss in Media Transfer at The Mill, Miles Stormer, was always very encouraging and gave me lots of support when I left to go to Escape, offering me the opportunity to work on Saturdays while I studied.  This also left the door open to return to The Mill, which meant I didn’t really have to leave properly. He has followed my career throughout which I’ve always appreciated. As part of the Aspiring Women course we were matched with an experienced industry figure who acted as our mentor over a 6 month period.  Mine was Sheila Wickens who was a VFX Supervisor/Head of 2D at LipSync at the time. When discussing the kind of mentor we’d like, I’d said it was important to me to work with a woman who was a working Mum, so I could see that that could be achieved. I had never worked with a woman who was a mother in 3D, so wanted to see that it was possible!  Sheila was great at encouraging me to work towards what I wanted to do next in my career and helping me build the confidence to take the next step, and we still keep in contact now. Not long after completing the course, I got my current job at DNegTV as a Supervisor, so I think it really did help my confidence!

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

I’d like to see more women in senior and management roles.  Over the last few years I have seen more women coming into the industry at entry level, so I think as time goes on, more women will be taking on these senior roles, and I can already see a difference.  I hope those women who already have experience in the industry will have the confidence to apply for more managerial positions, as groups like Animated Women UK continue to encourage and support us.

What advice would you give to women wanting to enter the industry?

I’d just say to go for it and stick at it, you’ll get there in the end.  Once you have some experience, you can build on that and get into the role you’d like.  I think it’s important to network and meet like-minded people. Having moved companies recently I have seen how people move around quite a lot and you’ll meet old friends in new positions, so it’s beneficial to stay in touch with social media like LinkedIn.  Also, as in most industries, it’s important as a junior to invest your time learning new skills and training, and not feel the need to rush between different companies.

If you had the opportunity to chat to any film/TV personality, dead or alive, who would you pick?

I’d love to have a chat with Walt Disney and hear what inspired him and what he thinks of the industry now.  I’d be interested in his thoughts about all the new technologies we use today, compared to how his films would have been made 50 years ago.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Profiles, 0 comments

Member Profile | Bimpe Alliu | Art Assistant at ILM

We caught up with Bimpe Alliu, Art Assistant at Industrial Light & Magic and one of the 2017 Achieve Programme alumni to ask her about her career path so far and thoughts on the challenges facing women in our industry.

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

What inspired you to get into VFX?

I’ve always loved feature animation and films (some good and some very questionable), but as comic lover, seeing the growth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe really got me thinking about how I wanted to be part of that development process. It genuinely made me excited to take steps to working as an artist professionally – which was something I hadn’t thought was previously possible, but at least I now know!

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

How did you make it a reality?

After some very kind words from friends, and a bit of faith, trust and pixie dust I decided that I was just going to go for it. At the time I was working in social media for Sony Music UK and started researching university courses as I knew I was lacking both the technical knowledge and skill set. I saved for just over a year before I applied to and was accepted to do MSc Animation and VFX at the University of Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (Great course, great uni, great city), and not to be cheesy, but it really was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing women the industry?

Establishing a work life / home life balance. Especially when you’re at the beginning of your career and trying to develop like I am, it can be very easy to fall into the habit of all work all the time. This can leave very little time for anything else which can have a massive knock on effect on everything else in your life.

But also establish a balance within yourself – gaining and retaining confidence and trying to stay as true to yourself as possible.

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

Were there ever times where you felt like being a woman may have impacted your career, or have you ever felt professionally excluded because of it?

Sadly this does still happen and it is something we need to keep working to overcome, but I am definitely grateful as I’ve never felt that my career has been affected as a result. There hasn’t really been anything that I’ve willing allowed to stunt my own progression.

Did you have mentors or support networks throughout your career that really helped push you forward?  Feel free to give a shout out.

I’m still at the beginning of my career in VFX so I’m sure there will be PLENTY of names to come, but as of now I’m definitely grateful for DJCAD and Phillip Vaughan for accepting a VFX newbie onto the course, as well as my ridiculously talented and supportive course-mates (Especially Natasha Dudley, who I’m still learning from even now). Also my friends who helped give me the extra confidence to take this leap and ‘start again’ (Esther Roberts and Abigail Balfe!). But also my current colleagues – the ILM Art Department here in London, who are always willing to look, listen and teach me new things – but also have a great supply of biscuits and green tea.

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

Personal art project © Bimpe Alliu

How do you plan to help advance the idea of more women in the industry?

As someone at the beginning of their career I want to show the same support that has been given to me.

What advice would you give to women wanting to enter the industry?

Trust yourself and take that step. Be excited about your growth and development and all the opportunities that will come.

Bimpe Alliu

Bimpe Alliu

You took part in AWUK’s Achieve Programme.  How do you feel it benefited you?

Ah I loved this programme. The opportunity to share experiences with and gain advice from other women in the industry has been invaluable, and has definitely impacted the way I view and approach certain scenarios. It also gave me the confidence boost to start discussing my own career development.

But probably most importantly for me it helped me begin to really understand and value the importance of balance and mental wellbeing when working in any industry – knowing when it time to leave work behind for the day and really look after yourself.

Definitely worth applying for.

If you were hosting a dinner party who would you invite and why?

It would have to be a dinner date with Maya Angelou – to thank her for everything I’ve learnt in the last couple of years about personal growth and perseverance.

Posted by Claire Hogg in Profiles, 0 comments

In Memoriam | Helen North

It is with great sadness that we have to let you know that Helen North passed away on the 22nd December 2017 after a battle with cancer.

Helen was Career Development Director on the AWUK Board and had become a great friend to many of us personally, as well as a passionate supporter of the organisation. She spent her early career at Skillset, working with Kate O’Connor, pioneering training programmes across the Creative industries.

Her determination to drive for gender equality led her to AWUK where she became one of the original board members in 2014 where her voice was always a vital, caring and direct contribution to any discussion.

Helen was the architect and driving force behind our Achieve Programme, which focuses on career development for women in VFX and Animation, and we are incredibly proud to be able to continue her work this year with the launch of our 2018 programme, which we have renamed in her memory The Helen North Achieve Programme.

Helen leaves her husband Matt and two children Coral and Seren.

The family have created a charity page for Helen and ask that anyone who would like to, make a small donation to one of their designated charities.

Please leave any messages in the comment section of this blog post, so that they can be read by others and shared with Helen’s daughters, Coral and Seren.

Posted by Claire Hogg in , 1 comment

AWUK Curate Special 3DArtist Gallery

At AWUK, we delight in collaborating with exciting organisations that showcase women’s work and make their voices heard. We are ecstatic to have been approached by 3DArtist Editor Carrie Mok to curate a special edition gallery in their January issue that celebrates the work of some very talented women.

It was a tough task selecting 10 pieces from all the fantastic work that was submitted, but it was also a lot of fun .We chose work that not only showed strength and variety, but also the unique stamp of each artist. We really enjoyed reading about the process and techniques used as well as the initial inspiration for each piece.

The January edition is now on the shelves, but we’ve been given special permission to share a .pdf version of the gallery with you.


Posted by Lucy Cooper in Profiles, 0 comments