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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
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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
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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