Profiles

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 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

Posted by Lucy Cooper in News, Profiles, 0 comments
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

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.

Enjoy!

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Profiles, 0 comments