Lucy Cooper

AWUK: SEEN | Supporting and increasing the visibility of ethnically diverse women in Animation and VFX

AWUK: SEEN | Supporting and increasing the visibility of ethnically diverse women in Animation and VFX

AWUK: SEEN aims to support and increase the visibility of ethnically diverse women in Animation and VFX. Our goal is to support and provide opportunities for women of colour to start and grow in their creative careers, whilst creating and cultivating a safe space to engage with each other.

The group was formed in mid-2020 in response to the consistent and growing need for the discussion, visibility and support for women of ethnically diverse backgrounds in the VFX and Animation industry. We make up less than 9% of the production and post-production workforce in the UK, and whilst we are beginning to see minor shifts, there’s still a lot that can be done.

We want to help women not only gain experience and enter the industry, but also support those looking to evolve their careers. SEEN will be hosting panels/networking opportunities, as well as workshops from industry professionals to help women further develop and expand their current skill sets.

Most events and workshops will be open to allies, but we would like to emphasise that this is a space to really highlight and support the voices and opportunities in particular for women from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Sign up for our AWUK: SEEN launch event on 20th October.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, Mentoring, Profiles, SEEN, 0 comments
Introducing the Limitless Exhibitors | Part 2

Introducing the Limitless Exhibitors | Part 2

With less than two weeks until we open the virtual doors on our first-ever virtual exhibition – Limitless – it’s time to introduce you to the rest of our talented lineup who will be showcasing their personal work.

Isobel

Isobel Stenhouse is a concept and animation artist, currently working on a game at Supermassive Games. She has enjoyed an incredibly varied career in both art and production roles. Since mid-2020 she’s been teaching layout at weekends at The Cartoon Mill, and in March 2021 she completed a 3D-focused concept art course at Escape Studios. She mentors for Access VFX and gives industry talks on workplace wellbeing.  

Emma

Emma Niemis is a London-based freelance fabricator for stop-motion animation, specialising in puppet and model making. She is a graduate of the Animation course at Norwich University of the Arts.

Magda

Magdalena Osinska is currently a director at Aardman Animations. Jasia is a personal project on which she has been working for the past few years and it’s a labour of love. It’s a real story set in fantasy, about a little orphaned girl going through hardships caused by a political situation, by a war. It’s about survival, being different and believing in dreams and love. 

Amy

Amy Backwell is a London-based sculptor and painter, her wacky characters visually capture her whimsical and surrealist visions. Her work is about capturing the essence of these characters in exaggerated and absurdist situations. During the day, Amy works as the Emerging Talent Specialist for the Visual Effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). In her own time, she also loves composing classical music. 

JoAnne

JoAnne Salmon is a storyboard artist at Pop Paper City Ltd. She has worked in the animation industry for 5 years in Bournemouth and has had various roles such as animator and concept artist. For as long as she can remember she has loved drawing and painting. Through painting, she felt so much freedom, creating worlds and express emotion through a paintbrush. 

Natasha

Natasha Tonkin is a London-based filmmaker and artist originally from Australia. Her paintings are evolving alongside my films, each informing the other. Her ambition is to bring them closer together and continue to explore inventive storytelling and image-making techniques.

We can’t wait for you to see their work.

You can now register for our launch event on 23rd September to be one of the first through the virtual doors. REGISTER NOW FREE!

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, News, Profiles, 0 comments
Introducing the Limitless Exhibitors | Part 1

Introducing the Limitless Exhibitors | Part 1

As we get closer to the launch of the Limitless virtual exhibition in September, we wanted to share some of the brilliant exhibitors we have lined up who will be showcasing their personal work.

Stacy Bias is an activist, artist and animator living in London. She creates 2D animations with a special focus on storytelling for social change and creative research dissemination. Her practice is collaborative, self-reflective with regard to the ethics of representation, and guided by the principles of intersectional feminism.

Kim Noce is an Italian artist, filmmaker and animator resident in the UK. Her work has been screened in major international film festivals, displayed in art galleries, broadcasted on major TV channels, on streaming platforms and won several prizes around the world including Chicago Int. festival, LIAF, LSFF, IFFEST Document Art, Anima, Sopot and many more.

Jess Mountfield is a 2D and stop-motion animator and director working in London. She finds her artistic practice outside of this vital to both her mental health and her development. She is very excited to be working on a hybrid children’s book, which combines her original love of stop motion and physical puppets with her professional 2D work. Outside this, you’ll find her creating blankets, pottery, and felted sculptures.

As an animation director, Jennifer Zheng often finds herself staring into monitors. When screens blind she retreats into the physical: drawing, sewing, sculpting, pottering- creating. She mixes and cross-pollinates mediums, choosing whichever expresses herself best.

Helen Piercy is a creative educator and craftsperson. Her current practice centres on the belief of ‘Animism’ – the notion that all objects, places and creatures possess a distinct spiritual essence. Through exploration of character design, referencing traditional symbolism, her creations are realised through the medium of soft sculpture and brought to life using stop-motion techniques.

Anushka Naanayakara is a stop-motion director who explores emotion and stories through fabrics and textures. Her background in fine art, and graphic design also influences her vibrant visual style.

Stay tuned for part two of our introductions to the Limitless exhibitors!

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, News, Profiles, 0 comments
AWUK/CAVE Academy Collaborate to Enhance Student’s Knowledge and Skills

AWUK/CAVE Academy Collaborate to Enhance Student’s Knowledge and Skills

“I believe that this is one of the best simulations of a real daily that I have ever seen”. High praise from Erica Vigilante, CG Supervisor at DNEG and AWUK Member, who was a guest reviewer at the recent Cave Academy Dailies.

The CAVE Academy Dailies programme is hosted by Jahirul Anim, Computer Animation and VFX Trainer and Consultant at CAVE. The programme or ‘Dailies’, as it’s referred to, is a free collaborative feedback programme which takes place online every Thursday evening between 6 PM-8 PM and replicates industry style dailies by bringing together students and professionals, such as Heads of Department and CG Supervisors, who analyse ‘daily’ submissions from trainees and provide important feedback to truly enhance students projects, knowledge and skills.

Using Zoom with screen-sharing and SyncSketch to do draw overs and annotations, the guest reviewers critique and give notes on between 5-10 submissions from trainees and students. Jahirul explains “ …we are here to educate and to help push the work and skills of students and professionals through discussion, drawovers and experience, just like in a real-world daily”.

AWUK member Erica Vigilante, gave her professional feedback on student submissions and, went on to say…”Being in dailies is always emotional because you see and contribute to a project evolution, but with CAVE dailies it is also a dream evolution, the students experience real growth that will lead them to their dream job, and that is a real fulfilment. For this reason, I consider it a special session and I think that what is proposed by the CAVE Academy is not common, the students of today will be the artists of tomorrow, and this experience will make them stand out from the crowd. I believe that this is one of the best simulations of a real daily that I have ever seen. Really proud to have the opportunity to be part of it and I hope to have the chance to see the students grow in the future”

Other Dailies guest reviewers have included AWUK members Sheila Wickens, VFX Supervisor, MPC Episodic and Binal Shah, Lead Animator, ILM (London) who attended sessions earlier this year. The intention is for AWUK members to collaborate with CAVE Academy Dailies well into the future with the next session coming up after the summer break in September with Kate Vaisey, VFX Producer, Netflix providing the feedback.

Watch this space for further announcements or check out the Dailies page here: CAVE Dailies.

Posted by Lucy Cooper, 0 comments
Member Profile | Debra Coleman

Member Profile | Debra Coleman

This month we caught up with Debra Coleman who recently left DNEG after 16 years to set up Open Frame Coaching.  We find out how Debra got into the industry and what has led her to pursue this new adventure.

How did you get into VFX/Compositing?
Whilst at University, studying English Literature and Media Studies, I particularly enjoyed the practical photography and video modules, which was when it first occurred to me that a job behind the camera or in post-production might actually be a possibility – and an exciting one! After graduating, I moved to London and applied for every job in tv/video/film/post that I saw advertised.  Finally, after what felt like an eternity, but was actually about 7 months – was offered a job as a Runner at Cinesite.

It was at Cinesite that I really got an education in visual effects.  As a runner, I got to know everyone at the studio and found that most people were happy to talk about what they did, which provided an invaluable overview. I moved in into Video-to-Film transfers and then realised I had an interest in compositing, so started also doing some basic prep and roto work before joining the comp team. One of my first projects as a comper was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – I think that’s when I truly realised the level of detail I needed to work at!

After 7 years at Cinesite, I felt the pull of working overseas and spent a very happy year and a half in California, at Tippett Studio. On my return to London, I joined Double Negative, which was small at that time and had a similar ‘family’ feel to Tippett and Cinesite. Not long after joining, I fell pregnant, which then led to me returning to work part-time – unheard of at that time! Ultimately, I remained at DNEG for 16 years, progressing into comp management roles as the company grew.

What do you like about it?
I’ve always enjoyed the blend of technical skills and creativity and using this to aid the story-telling process.  Following a project from concept, all the way through to final delivery showed me that anything is possible – sometimes to our detriment if the client is indecisive! I also just love the people involved as, in my experience, VFX artists, production and support teams share a passion and are collaborative, smart, creative people which I find inspiring and energising.

How did you transition to being a coach and how does it tie into VFX?
At the end of 2020, I left my position as Global Head of Compositing at DNEG to set up my coaching consultancy, Open Frame Coaching, providing coaching for VFX professionals and companies.  I realise this sounds like quite a departure, but actually, VFX and coaching have been intertwined for me for a number of years.

I think the seed was planted for me when I attended leadership training by Career Savvy (funded by DNEG).  I was also fortunate enough to also be coached by Jan Armstrong. This course opened my eyes to effective leadership and the power of coaching within an organisation.

Following many years of adopting an informal coaching approach as a manager, I decided to invest in a specific coaching course which I completed during our first lockdown of 2020. Since then, I have been building my coaching experience and ultimately decided to pour all my energy into this newfound passion. With my background in VFX, I’m finding that my clients choose to work with me as “I get it” which provides a handy shortcut during our sessions.

I also really, truly believe that all VFX companies could benefit from adopting more of a coaching culture to support and elevate everyone within their teams.

You took part in the inaugural Achieve programme. What did you learn from this?
I was delighted to be accepted on AWUK’s first Achieve programme, headed up by the wonderful Helen North. I thoroughly enjoyed every workshop, both getting to know the other ‘Senior’ women (what a way to be referred to!) and hearing the passion, potential and frustration of the junior and mid-level women. My main takeaway from this is how important it is for women to support each other at all stages of their careers: as women, we do face barriers and are better equipped to overcome these when we can reach out to each other for support.

Animated Women UK Achieve Programme Class of 2017

Animated Women UK Achieve Programme Class of 2017

What have you gained from being part of Animated Women UK?
Until attending my first AWUK event (with what felt like hundreds of us crammed into the upstairs room of a pub), I had never felt any need to call attention to the fact I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, however, Louise Hussey’s speech really struck a chord and made me stop and think about the lack of equality and opportunity for women in our industry and how wrong this is! It was also refreshing socially (being with women) and I came away motivated to ‘do something’.

Since then, I have overcome my nerves and sat on panels when asked as I understand the importance of representation and I ended up chairing the women’s group at DNEG, pushing for better representation and inclusion of women at the company.

Since that first event, I have continued to enjoy each AWUK event I’ve been to, finding it refreshing to meet other talented women from throughout Animation and VFX and finding inspiration in the speeches/panels put on.  For example, Sue Lister’s openness and honesty at the most recent zoom event was really powerful.

Why do you feel it’s important to support women and junior talent in the industry?
I guess I’ve already touched upon this, as it’s interwoven with my career experience.  I’m an advocate for flexible working for mums and carers; I understand the importance of representation; I would encourage everyone to either offer to mentor or seek a mentor (or both!).

Things are improving in terms of the number of women taking VFX/Animation courses and being offered junior roles, however, I strongly feel there is still a lot to be done to ensure women are able to progress within the industry at the same rate as their male colleagues. I believe that coaching for anyone moving into a new role of responsibility can hugely grow their confidence (and therefore ability), so would recommend this for companies looking to support their women. I am also keen to see women better supported on their return to work from maternity leave and offer coaching throughout this period too.  By truly supporting and retaining women at this stage in their career, it will ultimately help to improve representation in senior roles as well as contributing to reducing the gender pay gap over time.

Debra Coleman

Debra Coleman | www.openframecoaching.com

What have you learned during lockdown?
Oh, good question! I’ve certainly learnt all of the walking and running routes on my doorstep! And that marking the end of another day of working from home is essential for my mental health – I find jumping up and dancing to a good playlist, even for 15 mins, really helps with this!

Seriously though, as a mother of two teenagers, I have had an up-close-and-personal look at how lockdown has impacted our mental well-being – and it’s different, but noticeable, for each of us. Also, in my roles as Head of Compositing and as a professional coach, I’m noticing common themes of people feeling isolated and I think this is particularly problematic for those who are living alone, perhaps a long way from family. Whilst at DNEG, I ran a group coaching programme to help connectivity and well-being for those who were feeling isolated; I also set-up a monthly, zoom coffee morning for women only, both of which really helped.

Personally, I’ve also been reminded of the importance of reaching out to my friends and family – I may miss hugging them, but a phone chat still provides important support and connection at a time when we are probably all feeling quite alone.

http://www.openframecoaching.com/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Achieve Programme, Homepage, Mentoring, Profiles, 0 comments