Animated Women UK Host Keyframe for Success at BFX Festival

Animated Women UK Host Keyframe for Success at BFX Festival

Animated Women UK were delighted to be invited by the BFX Festival to host a panel. BFX has been held annually by Bournemouth University since 2012 and is the UK’s largest visual effects, computer games and animation festival with innovative techniques and research being showcased to ‘inspire new talent and educate the next generation of practitioners’.

The Animated Women UK panel hosted leading women from the animation and VFX industries and aimed to provide tips on how to navigate the often complex waters through personal anecdotes of how they got to where they are today and a question and answer session where they shared their views on gender in the industry today, the progress that has been made throughout their careers and their top tips on getting into animation.

LoveLove Films’ Managing Director / Producer Georgina Hurcombe organised and hosted the panel bringing together Natalie Llewellyn, Head of Development at Jellyfish Pictures; Lizzie Hicks, creative producer at Blue Zoo; Chloé Deneuve, artist at Blue Zoo; Hannah Elder, Junior Production Manager at the Walt Disney Company; and Natalie McKay, Acquisition and Animation Coordinator at the Walt Disney Company.

Sharing their insights next to Bournemouth’s beautiful beaches, the overall outlook of the interview was very optimistic.

THE PANEL

Natalie Llewellyn is a development executive at Jellyfish Pictures tasked with growing a development slate of original content primarily aimed at the kids’ market. Natalie has over 20 years of experience in roles including Head of Global strategy at kids’ production company Platinum Films and assistant producer on CBeebies’ Everything’s Rosie at V&S Entertainment.

Lizzie Hicks is a Creative Producer at Blue Zoo – a role she earned by doing a placement and working her way up through junior animator, animation director and project manager.

Chloé Deneuve is a character animator at Blue Zoo. She studied animation in France before moving back to the UK with one goal in mind: to work at Blue Zoo, which she achieved.

JoAnne Salmon is an animator at LoveLove Films. JoAnne’s first director’s role at LoveLove Films allowed her to tell the story of her journey since graduation – Chin Up, an animated documentary was funded by MoFilm.

Hannah Elder is a junior production manager at the Disney Company. She’s often referred to as a ‘puppy wrangler’ due to her current project – 101 Dalmatian Street, based on the novels and original Disney films.  Following a TV Degree at Bournemouth University, Hannah did an internship at the Disney Company, before a move to HIT Entertainment followed by a return to Disney to work on 101 Dalmatian Street.

Natalie McKay is an Acquisitions and animation coordinator at the Disney Company who also did an internship with the Walt Disney company. Natalie started out at Woodcut Media working in factual a couple of days a week before finishing her TV Degree at Bournemouth University and returning to work with Disney.

After the introductions, Georgina Hurcombe led the panel through a series of questions to provide an insight for audience members in how to get their first jobs and navigating their way through the complex media and animation industries.

WHAT CHANGE HAVE YOU SEEN DURING YOUR TIME IN THE INDUSTRY?

When asked what had changed in the industry during their time in it, Chloe Deneuve stated that there are already more female role models who she can look up to, and through the Helen North Achieve Programme run by AWUK, she has met with many women who can inspire her. Georgina Hurcombe noted that companies are seeing the importance of female voices and are taking the opportunity to celebrate them. Natalie Llewellyn observed that thanks to there being more non-gender-specific activities for young people to be creative and an encouragement of creative activities, there is less inequality for those coming into the industry now. JoAnne noticed that there was a great spirit at female-focused events of supporting each other and celebrating each other’s achievements. Natalie McKay has found seeing women in a range of different roles at Disney, including management ones, very inspiring for her.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?

Not having a clear direction following education was a common theme.  Chloe highlighted her difficulty in getting companies to see her in person, rather than just through emails. To combat this she stayed with a friend in Paris for a week and told companies that she was there for just a few days and keen to meet them – this got the companies’ attention, and got Chloe into actual meetings with the companies.

Natalie studied at a time when there were no media degrees available, but she knew she loved stories and wanted fiercely to move into that kind of space. Natalie did a number of internships for different companies and proved her passion and interest to them.

Lizzie suffered from imposter syndrome – a feeling that you’re not as good as other people are at work – which two-thirds of women suffer from in the UK (Forbes, 2018). Lizzie felt as though someone would “find her out”, but knowing that she deserved her place at Blue Zoo was a big step for her.

“My boss always says that the most you should want from a conversation is another conversation.”

Natalie McKay – The Walt Disney Company

The AWUK Panelists

WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU THINK YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO SHOWCASE WHEN LOOKING FOR A JOB?

Answers for this varied depending on the roles, with Natalie McKay and Hannah Elder highlighting the importance of good, natural emails and following up after a conversation.

Natalie said that she sometimes spends hours on an email, because that becomes the first impression when it lands in an inbox, so each one should count for something.

All of the panel stressed that research is key – know the company you are emailing or sending a showreel to and tailor everything specifically to them.

Lizzie Hicks said that she looks at a showreel straight away, so students should put their best work first, not spend loads of time animating their name at the beginning and showing story based work rather than just animation exercises.

Georgina told the story of one of her staff members, Joe, who put together an animated cover letter when applying for his job. He then went on to do a placement at LoveLove Films, and a permanent role was created specifically for him because of his hard work and eagerness to learn.

“Don’t get too upset if someone doesn’t like your stuff – so much of the industry is about personal taste.”

Lizzie Hicks – Blue Zoo

WHAT CAN INTERNS OR PLACEMENT STUDENTS DO TO STAND OUT?

Much of the advice for interns was similar from all of the women on the panel: be friendly, know what you want to get out of the experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Natalie noted that a can-do attitude and passion are key and that doing something that you love can be a springboard for a great future. Chloe and Hannah said that writing things down impresses them and is something they did themselves to keep track of everything they were learning. Natalie added that knowing what you’re good at, and how you want interviewers or employers to remember you is great for interns.

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS ON GETTING INTO THE INDUSTRY?

Natalie began by highlighting the importance of getting on with people in a natural way in the media industry. Natalie said, “my boss always says that the most you should want from a conversation is another conversation.”

Hannah also talked about the importance of meeting people and keeping in contact – events like those held by Animated Women UK are a great way to get to know people in the industry. Hannah also stressed that students should use their time wisely and gain as much experience as they can. Hannah finished by telling the audience not to give up – “the industry can be competitive but persevering is worth it.”

JoAnne had some wise words for the audience: “enjoy what you are doing and meet other people who love what they do. Keep learning, ask questions and be nice to people as it’s how you get where you want to be in the industry.”

Chloe said that networking – not just inside the industry – was super important for her.

“Networking with people in other industries can open up your mind and help you to learn even more.”

Chloe also highlighted the importance of listening – really listening – to what people are telling you, and showing an interest.

For Natalie a sense of humour is key: “You will meet wonderful, creative and ‘interesting’ people.  Be nice to people, because you never know when you might meet them again. Be kind to yourself, but be realistic about your skillsets and open to learning from those more senior than you.”

Georgina discussed the value of networking, going to film festivals in the industry that you are interested in and taking volunteering opportunities such as the CMC volunteering if possible. Branching outside of film festivals to other types of festivals is also useful as you never know who you will meet.

Georgina mentioned one of her favourite mottos – “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, stressing the importance of seeking out opportunities in the industry.

Lizzie Hicks finished with one important piece of advice – “don’t forget to be creative!”

The panel also took questions from the audience.

The overall message from the panel was very positive, discussing the new opportunities available for women, and how inspiring it is to see women in a range of roles in Animation and VFX. One audience member stated “Inspiring words for next gen female animators, film students and passionate digital creators. (@TraceyMayHowes).

3D ARTIST MAGAZINE

Before the panel, the women were interviewed for 3D Artist Magazine, by journalist Bradley Thorne.  

Look out for the article in an upcoming issue.

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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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