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Animated Women UK Host “Managing People” Workshop

Animated Women UK Host “Managing People” Workshop

Animated Women UK Host “Managing People” Workshop

On the 23rd of October 2019, Animated Women UK held their first standalone workshop taken from the Helen North Achieve Programme. It was delivered by Achieve’s Jan Armstrong and Marianne O’Conner.

The evening covered a range of topics and addressed a range of issues facing women as they step up into management roles in the Animation and VFX Industries, including flexing one’s leadership style.  There was also the opportunity to workshop real-life leadership issues facing the attendees.

The Helen North Achieve programme has recently completed its’ third year, which we celebrated with a panel and networking event highlighting what the course has achieved. Modules on the programme include understanding personality types, achieving a better work/life balance and presentation skills.

The Achieve Programme has proven so popular (always attracting 3x the number of applicants than available places) that Animated Women were really keen to hold individual workshops, lifted straight from the Achieve Programme, to allow and more women to develop their skills and grow their careers in the Animation and VFX industries and this year, thanks to funding from ScreenSkills and a great location provided by Escape Studios, they have been able to do just that.

Providing workshops like these reflects our core aims at Animated Women UK.  Research backs uptake provision of targeted and specific training and mentorship for women. A report, conducted by Skillsoft, found that almost all of the 450 women who participated in an international survey reported that a disproportionate number of leadership roles were currently being held by male employees. Alongside this, Catalyst found that men received more institutional support and highly relevant guidance than their female counterparts. By not receiving the same targeted and specific mentorship as their male colleagues, women are being held back.

Feedback for the workshop has been great – read some thoughts from the women who attended below:

I thought the 'Managing People' course was full of insightful, useful and clear information and advice, expertly delivered by Marianne and Jan. I loved how interactive the class was too, and how much information was shared between the attendees as well as from the course leaders. – Niki K.

Personally, I really appreciated the opportunity to share a leadership challenge I’m currently facing with peers from across the industry. They gave me some great advice, and that and the rest of the content from Jan and Marianne have left me feeling re-energised and newly motivated to do what I can to improve the situation, as well as giving me several new options to try. – Lucy W.

A second workshop from the Helen North programme will be delivered by Marianne and Jan in November 2019, this time based around pitching and presenting.

ScreenSkills

ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based creative industries - animation, film, games, television including children's TV and high-end drama, VFX and immersive technology. We work across the whole of the country to ensure that UK screen has access now, and in the future, to the skills and talent needed for continued success.

Escape Studios

From VFX to Game Art, Animation to Motion Graphics, Escape Studios is recognised as a first-class education provider for the creative industries.

We take students with raw talent and shape them into the creative professionals demanded by today’s employers. With courses developed by industry experts, at Escape Studios you learn from the best.

We offer undergraduate degrees in VFX, Animation and Game Art. Plus a range of postgraduate degrees and short courses such as Motion Graphics, Storyboarding and VR. We don’t just love the creative industries, we live and breathe them; our focus is on ensuring all of our students leave studio-ready.

pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk/escape

Posted by Peri Friend in Events, 0 comments
Excelling with Keyframes for Success Panel

Excelling with Keyframes for Success Panel

BFX were kind enough to host us again for a panel at their Festival in Bournemouth in early October!

For those that don’t know, BFX is the UK’s largest visual effects and animation festival with a range of talks from global studios including ILM, Dneg, Pixar, Sony Picture Imageworks and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Our panellists for the session were Lucy Cooper, MD of Union and director of AWUK and ACCESS: VFX; Lucy Wisada, Assistant TD at Framestore; JoAnne Salmon, 2D Animator and Illustrator at LoveLove Films; Shannon Reeve, Production Co-ordinator at LoveLove Films and Natalie McKay, Talent Co-ordinator at Aardman Animations.

With such a variety of roles on the panel, there were plenty of thought-provoking insights. From challenges to career advice to taking advantage of opportunities and imposter syndrome, the ladies explored it all.

In terms of advice for newbies to the industry, Lucy Cooper noted that there “is value in being a runner and doing it well”, as you end up knowing everyone in the studio and if you are professional and good at the job, you will be remembered by all levels of staff.

Another important tidbit for those wanting to progress was to understand your value and prepare evidence for the next position before jumping into a meeting with your line manager!

Most importantly though, if something doesn’t go according to plan in your job applications, or in your career progression – it’s imperative to give yourself some breathing space and to cut yourself some slack.

We asked some of the panellists what they took away from the panel, and they were kind enough to give us some more fascinating morsels of advice!

Lucy Wisada said: “My advice for anyone wanting to enter or who are new to the industry is to stay inquisitive. Learning doesn't stop after university and if you can show that you are adaptive and motivated to pick up new skills then I think that's invaluable. The industry is so exciting, with new technology being developed constantly, that you'll naturally have
curiosity with what currently exists to push the limits of your creativity.”

Shannon added: “My advice for women just entering the industry would be not to feel disheartened, even if you aren't sure quite what you want to go into yet. When you're first starting out, it's the perfect time to try out a range of different things and find out what clicks for you - I did a master's degree because my first degree didn't quite click for me and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.”

JoAnne also commented: “I appreciated the variety of career paths among the speakers - this serves as a good example and reminder that there is no set path for anybody. You should just find joy in each job opportunity you can get and make the best of any task you are given. You never know where your hidden or unexpected passion might be. It might not be where you first set out to go.”
Lucy Cooper said: “I really enjoyed sharing my story with the audience at BFX. They were really engaged and full of questions on how to navigate the waters towards their dream jobs.

“I think the most valuable advice I was able to offer was to not be too laser focussed on one end point.

“It can feel like the decisions they are making now will be irreversible, but just about everyone I know has had a very windy road to where they are now.

“Being too narrow in your ambitions can make you feel like you’ve failed if you don’t achieve them and also close the door on opportunities that you never knew existed and may turn out to be really up your street.”

Lucy also added some resources that are available:

“Animated Women UK have AWUK-Ed where you can find all sorts of valuable resources as well as a link to join our Facebook group where you can receive advice from established women in the VFX and Animation industries.

“There are also lots of resources at www.accessvfx.org on available apprenticeships, how to find your first role, cv writing and showreel preparation.  They also have a podcast with lots of valuable insight from employees and employers that is well worth a listen.

“You can also get an industry mentor which is an invaluable way to seek support and advice from someone who really knows via Slack.

Thanks again for having us BFX! See you next year!

Written by Carrie Mok

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Member Profile | Natalie LLewellyn | Head of Development

Member Profile | Natalie LLewellyn | Head of Development

Can you give an overview of your career to date; including what inspired you to go into the field you’re in now?
Well… I got my first TV job straight out of university as PA to the Producer on one of ITV’s most enduring and successful dramas, Midsomer Murders. I was passionate about storytelling and I worked my way up from Production Assistant to Series Script Editor and eventually Associate Producer. Not only did I learn how to bump people off in a multitude of imaginative ways (‘death by drinks cabinet’ is a particular favourite), but I was privileged to work closely with some of Britain’s finest screen writers such as Anthony Horowitz, Alan Plater, Michael Aitkens and Hugh Whitemore.

During my ten-year stint in TV Drama, I was also Producer of ITV’s SAS drama series, Ultimate Force and headed up the TV development division of talent agency ARG Talent. Here I developed and packaged event dramas such as The Crooked Man with Ross Kemp and BAFTA award winning, Ahead of the Class with Julie Walters.

I made the switch to children’s animation after my son Rufus was born. With two kids under two I needed to be closer to home and working less unsociable hours (well that was the plan anyway!). I took a massive pay cut and started over again as PA at a local indie where I progressed to Assistant Producer on preschool series, Everything’s Rosie for CBeebies. I fell in love with children’s television – I could tell magical stories and create wonderful worlds and characters that were near impossible to achieve in live action. Plus, I had my very own focus group at home, providing constant inspiration and feeding me endless content!

After three series of ‘Rosie’ I moved on to Platinum Films where I focused more on the commercial side of the business, specifically international programming distribution and character licensing. I distributed boys’ action-adventure series, Matt Hatter Chronicles (CITV/Nickelodeon) into over 80 territories worldwide and helped manage the international consumer products roll-out.
In 2018, I joined award winning VFX and Animation Studio, Jellyfish Pictures as Head of Development to oversee its newly established original kids’ content division, Jellyfish Originals.

What is it like to work in your role? And what are you working on?
Jellyfish Pictures is a phenomenal studio with amazingly talented people from all over the world and a brilliant ethos and creative culture. No two days are the same in my role - I could be head down in a script or building a brand deck one day or negotiating a major broadcast contract or pitching a show another day. It’s this variety that keeps me stimulated, focused and passionate about what I do, and I can honestly say I’ve never been more contented professionally.

We are developing our own original animated children’s content, curating long-form animated series, serials and family features and working with some great writing talent. I’m blessed to have a first-class art department at my fingertips and together with our brilliant Creative Director, Tom Brass we experiment with different design styles and animation techniques to deliver stand-out visual content that will hopefully win us that all important commission.

We’ve got quite a few projects on our slate in various stages of development, which are all very different in tone, demo and look. Stan & Gran – an upper preschool show co-produced with Jollywise Media - is probably the furthest progressed but we’ve got a number of exciting 2D and 3D properties coming down the pipeline, some of which I will be presenting to market at MIPCOM next month. I can’t say much more, otherwise I’d have to kill you (and I’ve got form remember!).

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Generally, either my cats or my kids! But in truth, I’ve always been highly motivated and fiercely ambitious, and I work best in the morning, preferably with a strong cup of coffee in the couple of hours before everyone else officially comes online. I’m so lucky to have a job I love and to work with people that genuinely inspire me every day. I make cartoons for kids, what’s not to love?!

What was your biggest challenge personally?
Mmmm… that’s a tough one because over the course of a twenty year career there have been many challenges – at the time they’ve always been significant, but it’s only in retrospect that I can put them into perspective and appreciate that in overcoming them, I’ve carved out the path that has got me to where I am today.
I think change can be one of the biggest and most daunting challenges anyone faces professionally and personally. Fear of the unknown or making the wrong decision can be paralysing. However, in my experience change, no matter how difficult, has always been progressive and rewarding and I’d encourage anyone to embrace it rather than fear it.

You partook in the Animated Women Helen North Achieve Programme earlier this year - can you please tell me a bit more about that and, why you applied?
The Helen North Achieve Programme is a super opportunity to meet and support other women from the VFX and Animation Industry. It was great to hang out with 23 other women in the business and to learn from their experiences whilst also sharing some of my own knowledge and expertise.
I wanted to take part in order to ‘give back’ but actually I walked away having gained a huge amount. The course offers valuable, constructive and engaging career advice for women at every stage of their professional journey and it was a welcome chance to hone old skills, learn new ones, reflect on my own career and consider the future.

How do you feel the Achieve Programme has helped you since you finished it and what would you say is the most important thing that you learned?
I certainly benefited from the experience and I’d recommend it to women in the VFX and Animation industry at any stage in their career. I’ve made some good friends, been inspired to keep pushing hard for what I want to achieve in life (both personally and professionally), learnt to listen more and probably most importantly, accepted that it’s okay to say no sometimes. We are wonderful women, but we don’t always have to be Wonder Woman.

What advice would you give to women who are just starting their careers in the industry?
Be passionate. Ask lots of questions. Seek out a mentor (or two!). Be brave. Make mistakes. Smile. Don’t settle. Take care of yourself. Make notes. Follow your gut. Set goals. Believe in yourself.

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Why Everyone in the South West (And Beyond) Should Attend Cardiff Animation Nights

Why Everyone in the South West (And Beyond) Should Attend Cardiff Animation Nights

This month was my first time at Cardiff Animation Nights. Having just relocated to Cardiff from Los Angeles, I’ve always heard nothing but amazing things about the free bi-monthly event from my UK cohorts, so I couldn’t miss this opportunity to finally check it out.

The screenings the night I attended were held in the back of Kong’s Cardiff in the city centre. With the help of strategically placed signs at the bars initial entrance, I navigated through a maze of dimly lit back hallways and swinging doors, until I reached a massive hidden room full of buzzing animation enthusiasts of all ages. It was as if I left Cardiff behind and instantly stepped into the colourful world of animation like Charlie stepping through the doors of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the first time.

I didn’t have to worry about stumbling back to Kong’s for a drink or two during the night either, as the room had it’s own bar where I could grab a pint and speak with co-workers or other individuals I met who came to enjoy the shorts. Screens and rows of benches were set up on opposite ends of the room, to ensure no one missed a second of stellar animation. If you couldn’t manage to find a seat, like me, there was still plenty of room to either stand or sit on the floor.

At every event, Cardiff Animation Night strives to showcase independent animated shorts from all over the world. Their aim is to give locals the opportunity to see these unique films on the big screen, to immerse themselves in the films that are making their way through the global animation circuit, while also meeting other like-minded aficionados. At their most recent screening, they showed 11 shorts from the US, Ireland, Poland, France, Belgium, and Israel. 

One of my favourite things that happened during the event was when the second part of the screening was temporarily paused due to some minor flooding happening in Kong’s – we had been blessed by yet another welcoming summer rainstorm. Despite the fact they had brief technical difficulties as they waited for the staff to clean up the water, which extended the showcase by at least a half hour, the room lit up, everyone was still engaged and kept the atmosphere lively.  It was yet another opportunity to turn to the stranger next me and continue conversing about storytelling, animation, and honestly life in general.

If you love animation, work in the industry, or just want to experience something new and have a great night out, then Cardiff Animation Nights is definitely for you. As someone who’s new to the Cardiff animation community, I felt welcome and at home, like I finally found my tribe.

All thanks to the support of the lovely people at Cloth Cat Animation, and from audience donations, Cardiff Animation Nights is run by Lauren Orme, Christopher Wright, Dani Abram, Chris James, Laura Tofarides, Telor Gwyn, Josh Flynn and Adam Bailey; and various other volunteers and individuals from the local animation community and beyond.

by Nia Alavezos

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, South West, 0 comments
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