Animated Women UK

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.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, 0 comments
Inspiring Females | STEM or STEAM?

Inspiring Females | STEM or STEAM?

I was very pleased to be invited to speak about my career in animation and education at the ‘Inspiring Females STEM’ conference at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. The programme, designed by the students and staff at Norwich High School for Girls, was created to encourage more young women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) – all areas that have a significantly low female workforce. The impressive line-up of speakers for the day included women at the top of their professions; Directors, Professors, and Doctors.

Norwich High School for Girls

Norwich High School for Girls

Speed mentoring

During the first event, I had the opportunity to speed mentor groups of young women from schools across the UK. I asked the students about the subjects they were interested in and what careers they wanted to pursue. Although I was happy to hear ambitions in engineering, medicine, and business, I was equally depressed to learn that a number of students had been actively discouraged from pursuing creative subjects. I remember my own experiences as a GCSE student, being told art was a ‘risky’ and ‘soft’ option, and it seems the misconception around art and design education is still a worrying trend. Parents, teachers and careers advisors continue to need wider means of support in order to advise school and college leavers on the range of exciting career options available in our industry.

STEM or STEAM? Panel.

STEM or STEAM?

Later in the day, I joined a Q&A panel to discuss the relationship between STEM and the arts, and if ‘STEM’ should, in fact, be ‘STEAM’?  Part of the session focused on the notion that we either have a left-sided ‘scientific’ brain or a right-sided ‘artistic’ brain. It was wonderful to hear the scientists on the panel agree that creativity was an essential skill needed in order to innovate. STEM industries have a great need for creative thinkers and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Inspiring a full theatre of young females

The Inspirational Females STEM conference was an incredibly positive experience and more events like this are desperately needed in order to empower the next generation of women. Visible female role models, parity in regards to male and female pay and outreach education are all important factors in the ongoing mission to generate a more diverse workforce in the science and creative industries.

www.inspiringfemales.org.uk

#IFSTEM

Helen Piercy

About Helen Piercy

@HelenAnimate on Twitter

Helen Piercy is a multidisciplinary filmmaker, award-winning children’s author, professional educator and Advisor to the AWUK Board on all things Education. With degrees in Graphic Design (BA Hons) and Animation Direction (MA-The National Film and Television School), Helen began her career working as a freelance animator in London before launching her own business as a filmmaking educator in 2012.

Her passion for supporting young people led her to become a student mentor for Central Saint Martins MA Character Animation Course. In 2016, she joined the BA (Hons) Animation Course at Norwich University of the Arts as a full-time lecturer. Helen completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in 2017 and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, News, 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