Profiles

5 Things We’ve Accomplished Since Attending The Helen North Achieve Programme

5 Things We’ve Accomplished Since Attending The Helen North Achieve Programme

The Helen North Achieve Programme is back for its fourth year. Applications are now open, so we sat down with five alumni to find out what they’ve accomplished since attending the course.

1) “As a mother returning to work the course helped me look at my options in a really positive way. I stopped worrying about rushing to be exactly the same artist I was before I had my son and made me realise I can take any route I chose and whatever time I need to achieve the goals I have set for myself.”
Anita Corcoran, Animator

2) “I’ve progressed in my job and feel more confidence when navigating the VFX industry.
“I’ve also gained an amazing support network of women in VFX and Animation and learned to stop falling victim to ‘Imposter Syndrome’.
“The wonder women stance has also been a handy tool for a quick confidence boost anytime and anywhere!”
Emma Ihecherenoma, VFX Production Coordinator at Industrial Light & Magic

3) “The course was a great way to meet new people and reflect on my work in animation to date. I got time-out to think, a chance to set some new goals and a big boost to my personal confidence and presentation skills.
“Since the course, I’ve made a lot of changes in the way I run my animation studio, which are really beginning to bear fruit. We’ve pulled in lots of new service studio work, our finances are much improved and our educational animation continues to gather momentum, awards and recognition.
“I have also found a new role for myself as a mentor, helping out other women in my field on the Creative England Industry Equals Women in Screen Programme and been making more time for ME! I am managing my time much better and can fit so much more into my week!”
Kath Shackleton, Producer at Fettle Animation

4) “Participating in the Helen North Achieve Programme allowed me to reflect and focus on those aspects of my career that I wanted to nurture, change and build upon. It gave me the confidence to seek out new challenges, become a mentor and drive harder than ever for the projects and people that I believe in. Importantly, it made me reconsider what success actually means to me… I’ve learnt that small, forgettable everyday achievements are just as important markers of success as the memorable, career game-changers.”
Natalie Llewelyn, Head of Development ar Jellyfish Pictures

5) “Since completing the programme, I have registered as a STEM Ambassador and gave a talk to A-level students last month. I found that quite intimidating but the presentation skills sessions gave me the confidence that I would come across as more knowledgable and assured than I felt. The talk seemed to go well and I had some very positive feedback from the students.”
Lucy Wilkes, Lead Software Developer at Dneg

Find out more about the Helen North Achieve Programme and apply here.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Achieve Programme, Homepage, Profiles, 0 comments
Member Profile | Daisy Summerfield | Animator

Member Profile | Daisy Summerfield | Animator

Can you give an overview of your career to date; including what inspired you to go into the field you’re in now?

Obsessed with Wallace and Gromit and all things Disney and Pixar, it was my dream from an early age to bring characters to life. Coming from a predominantly art background, I initially wanted to be a character designer. However, animation enabled me to get more into the “acting” side of things, which was another passion of mine at the time. So living off the saying of that animation is for introvert actors, I studied Animation Production at AUB and went on to start my career in VFX at Framestore Bournemouth as a Matchmove Artist. As a recent graduate, it was a great way to introduce myself to the industry. Working on such big Marvel and Disney projects was a ‘pinch-myself’ moment. After a few years at Framestore, I joined Outpost VFX to fulfil my passion of becoming an Animator, of which I have been for the past two years. 

What achievement are you most proud of?

I would probably say being the Lead Animator for a creature-heavy sequence recently for a high-end TV show. This was an enormous challenge, putting together all my skills to produce high-end creature animation whilst leading a team. I have learnt such an extraordinary amount from the past year and it really gave me some confidence in my own ability as an Animator and as a leader. I’m so proud of the team and the result. I can’t wait to see the sequence when it is released!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Coffee and the thought of breakfast obviously. When I get to work, I’m always excited to push myself that day. Each day with creature animation there is always a new challenge, so it is a mental workout, but you have to journey out of your comfort zone to progress. I enjoy problem solving, so every day, I always feel like I’m getting ready to battle with my shot and hopefully win! 

What is the biggest barrier for women in your discipline?

Not having strong female role models in senior roles. Animation is considered a less technical discipline and is probably one of the more balanced departments in the industry, but it would be fantastic for more emerging female talent to have senior female artists to aspire to and seek advice from.

What advice would you give to people earlier on in their career?

Critiquing your work against other professional work is really important. Do not get discouraged by not being at that standard yet. Instead be realistic about where you are and what you need to do to get to that next level. At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself, strive to be better on the next project. Having a great attitude is just as important as your actual artistic ability. Working in animation for VFX we strive for ultra-realism, so reference is always key! I spend a lot of time searching the internet for whatever reference I need, taking that time out before you get started can save you so much time later on!

What would be your dream project to work on?

I really enjoy working in VFX, but I would absolutely love to work on a Pixar or Disney project or short film, anything related to either of them! They set the standard in stylised animation and I would love to be a part of a project that is driven by art and storytelling at such a base level. Animation and character is at the very soul of every project, so the concept of working on the next Up or Inside Out is a complete dream of mine!

Watchmen

Watchmen

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Profiles, 1 comment
Member Profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

Member Profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

What inspired you to start Stop-motion Animation?

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

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

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

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

Dolly Said No To Elvis (official music video) from Heather Colbert on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What changes would you like to see in the industry?

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

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

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

Heather Colbert
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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.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Profiles, 0 comments
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

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