Animated Women

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
Deeds not words | International Women’s Day 2018

Deeds not words | International Women’s Day 2018

In support of the ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ movement, AWUK launched their new ‘Deeds Not Words’ programme on International Women’s Day, with an event dealing with harassment and bullying in the workplace and introducing the new BFI/ BAFTA guidelines.

The workshop was co-produced by Animated Women UK (AWUK) and Animation UK (AUK) and generously hosted by The Mill. The audience of individuals, HR representatives and company owners were joined by Tim Hunter, Director of learning and new talent at BAFTA and employment barristers Caroline Jennings and Naomi Owen from No 5 Barristers Chambers.

After an introduction from Jan Armstrong who facilitated the afternoon, Tim Hunter provided an overview of the new BFI/BAFTA guidelines on harassment and bullying, released on the day of the BAFTA awards.

BFI/BAFTA Guidelines

The BAFTA Awards are a lens on the industry there was much debate at the time as to whether the guidelines go far enough, but Tim clarified that after wide consultation the specific issues tackled in the guidelines were identified as most important. The timing was also significant to show BAFTA’s position at the time of the awards and gain maximum coverage.

He acknowledged that there many areas not covered, for example the freelance perpetrator who could easily ‘slip under the radar’ going from one production to another.  However, these guidelines provide an industry framework and accountability to build upon. There has been a code of conduct for the VFX industry for about 4 years so it’s good to see the BFI and BAFTA following suit. Currently there is not an official animation industry wide code, but many companies have their own.

A show of hands from the attendees demonstrated that a significant majority had suffered some form of harassment or bullying in the workplace including our barristers.  Unfortunately, this is in line with our own MeToo survey results.

*AWUK MeToo Survey results as of 30.03.18

If you haven’t yet shared your experience, please fill in our quick anonymous survey here.

What constitutes harassment?

Barristers Caroline and Naomi presented the legal definitions of harassment as well as a couple of cases that have made it to court. They illustrated the minefield of ambiguity between wanted and unwanted behavior, flirting or pestering, bullying or just meeting that deadline.

The EU Equal Treatment Directive

Harassment law stems from an EU Equal Treatment Directive

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers

The Equality Act 2010

This is enshrined in UK law in the Equality Act 2010.

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers


Banter is also covered.

*Sexual Harassment. How are women Protected? Handout – Naomi Owen  No. 5 Chambers

Our barristers explained how the law is applied and the complex topic of accountability or individuals and employers/third parties.

Finally Naomi concluded by mentioning the concept of collective responsibility.  Both employers and employees in the workplace should endeavour to create an environment in which people are more aware of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and what to do if it happens.  We need to dispel the “If I report it I will never work again!” perception.

Want to know more?

If there is enough interest from our members we will organise another event covering this issue.  If you’d like to attend an event like this please let us know in the comments section.

‘The legal perspective and case studies were excellent’

‘Great legal presentation which handled a very dry and awkward subject with sensitivity and delivered information I was not aware.”

‘The conversations around this topic I found the most stimulating and informative.’

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Campaigns, Events, 1 comment
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