AWUK Board in Lockdown | Beth Parker

AWUK Board in Lockdown | Beth Parker

Continuing from our post a few months ago, we caught up with AWUK Animation Chair, Beth Parker to see how her life had changed during 2020.

Beth Parker, Animation Chair at AWUK

I was in a fortunate position as the pandemic hit – having left my job at Disney in February, I was planning to spend some time working from home, but definitely not with the kind of restrictions lockdown brought! I returned from a trip to the US just as borders were closing in various parts of the world, and granted, what happened next was a bit of a shock at first. But I am a creative producer, we thrive on solving problems and love a bit of structure and organisation. So, without further ado, and since it looks like we’re not going to get back to any kind of crowd surfing any time soon, here are my top five survival tips for keeping your head above water during these difficult times:

Give your days structured and keep routines:

For me, it has been essential to keep to the same weekday routine I had previously. However, I have to admit, this has been really hard as I am not a morning person and it never was an easy ride! I do need time to get into the day, so even when I don’t get up at 6.30, I have to follow the same routine and replace my 90-minute commute with at least 30 minutes of yoga and a read. The only thing I miss about that insane commute is having the time to read, so I make sure I put that time aside in the morning. If I can do all this and still get to my desk for 9.00, then the day has got off to a good start, my mind is clear and focussed. And if it’s an hour later, well so be it.

At the beginning of every day, I break the day down into my to-do list, but as a rule of thumb, I spend half the day on admin and networking and half the day on creating and learning. Breaking the day up helps me from getting too distracted, as I am someone who finds it hard to focus on one thing for very long. If I know I only have an hour to do something, then I get down to it!

Make a specific workspace and ‘go to work’:

I appreciate this is easier for some than for others, as it depends on available space, but I have found it is really important to ‘get up and go to work’, even if that’s just going to another room. You don’t have to dress up for work like you would if you were going to the office or studio, but get out of your pyjamas at least, and make a space somewhere that is just for working. Make sure you’re sitting properly and are away from as many distractions as possible. I am lucky enough to have a room that I can work in, one corner is dedicated to animation, the other to making music! At least if my focus wanders in here, it can wander into doing something creative, which is productive.

Talk to people:

I live on my own and don’t drive, so the hardest thing for me has been having to spend all day every day alone and unable to get much further than the local shops. That was really tough for the first few weeks of lockdown, but then I started reaching out to my network and putting regular calls and video conferences into the diary. This not only made sure my professional profile was still fresh in people’s memories, it kept me talking to people! In doing this I also discovered others living alone and we put regular ‘virtual coffees’ into our diaries and catch up weekly. We talk about work, but also about how we’ve been feeling over the week – it’s really important to have someone you can talk honestly to, whether that is a friend or a colleague. I find it useful to have close friends in the business to talk to, because they at least then understand what it is I do all day!

Get outside:

Early in lockdown, we were only allowed to go out once a day for exercise. To be honest, I didn’t always make the most of this as a knee injury earlier in the year took long walks off the table for a while, but I’m also lucky enough to have a garden. Despite being sandwiched between two rather noisy construction sites, every day, once they’ve finished, I take a coffee outside and sit and watch nature for 15-30 minutes, whatever the weather. Not only it is good to get away from the screens for a while, I need the air. If anyone caught Springwatch this year, you’ll know how wonderful those moments in nature, even just a little patch in the city, are for the soul and I can’t believe I didn’t squeeze this into my daily routine before! I will from now on.

Learn:

This is something I have always tried and fit into the day anyway and comes from when I was studying part-time. Like reading, learning a new skill keeps the mind from freezing over or going into dark places. For me anyway. It can be anything and doesn’t have to take lots of time. For example, last year I discovered Duolingo and have been brushing up on my Spanish and learning Swedish from scratch. I can now watch a Nordic crime drama and have a pretty good idea of what is going on without the subtitles! During total lockdown, I took advantage of Adobe’s trial extensions and brushed up my Pro and AFX skills, so that I could make a couple of music videos. As a musician, there is always something to learn, whether it’s a new piece of kit or a new piece of music, or just brushing up the repertoire. It depends what else is in the diary, but I put at least half an hour aside for learning every day.

Beth

Beth at work

There are pros and cons to living alone – I haven’t had children to home-school and therefore, in theory, have way more time than most. I’m also healthy and don’t come into contact with many other people, so the risk of me getting the virus is low. But isolation has been a mental battle sometimes and I have found emotions rollercoaster from day to day, not having people to bounce ideas off or just talk through the things that I have been anxious about, can exasperate negative thoughts sometimes. Not to mention the lack of physical contact. I can’t remember the last time I brushed past someone, let alone had a hug. But as someone who is used to their own company, it has been better than it has been for some – without the piano and the bird table, lockdown would have been really very tough, and I seriously have to ask myself now, whether living in London is all it is cracked up to be, but that’s for another day.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, News, 0 comments
Mentoring | All your questions answered

Mentoring | All your questions answered

We’ve had lots of questions about becoming an AWUK mentor, so have pulled them together in one blog post.  If you still have questions, please leave a comment on this blog or email mentoring@animatedwomenuk.com and we’ll add them in.

  • Q: Is mentoring going to be time-intensive? 
  • A: Mentoring can be set up to work around you and your schedule. We understand that a lot of our mentors are very busy people, so our SLACK-based mentoring is designed to allow you and your mentor to stay in touch in a way that suits both of you.
  • Q: Who will be the point of contact if a mentee goes AWOL? 
  • A: Dexter or Emma at Prospela can be contacted within SLACK and will reach out directly to check in.
  • Q: Do I always have to maintain the same level of commitment?
  • A: Your relationship with your mentee is unique. You can agree on a level of commitment and communication with your mentee that works for both of you and review it over time.
  • Q: Am I senior enough to mentor? 
  • A: If you are already working in either VFX or Animation and have been for more than 2 years you are definitely in a position to add value to a mentee.  Many of our mentees will just be starting out on their journey and sharing yours will be incredibly valuable.  We will do our best to match mentors and mentees appropriately.
  • Q: I’m not in a creative role – does that matter?
  • A: Absolutely not. Our industries comprise many roles from facilities,  management and accounting to production, technology and more.  We expect mentees who are looking at all kinds of roles and would like the same variety in our mentors. If you’re paired with someone from a creative discipline and you are not from that background, you can provide a lot of help and support both yourself and through your network.
  • Q: How should I be communicating with my mentee? 
  • A: Our programme is designed for you to interact with your mentee over SLACK with the support of the team at Prospela. We’d encourage you to keep your communication on there, but over time (if your mentee is over 18) you might look to connect with them on LinkedIn and perhaps interact over different platforms on occasion. Keeping your communication here enables us to track the success of our programme which is critical to its ongoing support by our sponsor.
  • Q: What should I do if I don’t know the answer to a mentee’s question? 
  • A: The same as you would if you had a question in your day to day life. Ask your friends, colleagues and network to help you.  You have access to a wealth of resources that your mentee doesn’t. 
  • Q: How often should I be speaking to my mentee? 
  • A: This up to you and your mentee. You should discuss this with them so that the plan is clear. In general, we find that communication is more regular when you are first establishing a relationship and can then become slightly less frequent.  It’s important to invest time upfront getting to know each other, building trust and understanding what everyone is hoping to get from the relationship.
  • Q: Why should I be a mentor? 
  • A: There are many great reasons to become a mentor including:
    • An opportunity to develop communication, leadership, coaching and mentoring skills
    • A feeling of ‘giving back’ to the industry
    • It is good for your CV, shows you care about the future of your industry and its composition
    • It encourages you to reflect on your own skills and achievements
    • It’s an opportunity to use your creativity and learn from the ideas and experiences of someone who could be from a different generation, background or have different interests, life experiences or expectations, stage of career, sector etc.
  • Q: What do you look for in a mentor?
  • A: An ideal mentor can help a mentee make the most of career opportunities and support their personal development and self-confidence. They will encourage and support the mentee to achieve their goals.  Mentors actively listen and provide advice to their mentees to help them overcome challenges and get to where they want to be.  Good mentors also provide advice through learned experience.

What are you waiting for? Sign up as an AWUK mentor through Prospela here.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Mentoring, News, 0 comments
Pitch Yourself Perfect | Top Tips

Pitch Yourself Perfect | Top Tips

Animated Women UK Board member Georgina Hurcombe took part in the Children’s Media Conference’s ‘Pitch Yourself Perfect’ skill builder workshop in July along with some other amazing industry experts including Lynsey O Callahan and Louise Bucknole (Viacom), Natalie Llewellyn (Jellyfish), Harriet Williams (YACF), Josie Grierson (Entertainment 1).

The Session was run by Justine Bannister and aimed towards providing insight and tips to enhance pitching skills within the animated Children media landscape.

Throughout her career, Georgina has pitched at numerous International markets including MIPCOM, MIPJR, Kidscreen, Children’s Media Conference, Annecy and most recently MIPTV where she won The Kids series in development pitch with her 3D adventure craft series Pop Paper City.

We asked Georgina to share her top tips for pitching your animated idea!

It can be nerve-racking pitching and going to markets, especially when you’re new to the children’s animated TV landscape!  Here are a few of my pitching tips…

  1. KNOW YOUR PROJECT
  • You need to know your project inside out. You need clarity on every aspect of your project: What style is it? What’s its USP? Who is the target audience?
  • Practice until you can pitch your project in five minutes or less. There are lots of opportunities for speed meetings at markets such as MIPJR, MIPCom, Kidscreen, Maninimation and CMC (which are often accessible to new talent), so it’s important to be able to pitch your project quickly and concisely.
  1. RESEARCH
  • Always research who you’re going to be pitching to.
  • Find out what kind of project the person you want to pitch to is looking for, as sometimes your project may not match their needs – you don’t want to waste somebody’s time pitching them a project that doesn’t fit their remit. For this reason, it’s always good to have a few projects to discuss.
  1. RELAX AND BE YOURSELF
  • Be authentic and passionate – enthusiasm is contagious!
  • Relax – most people you’re pitching to are lovely. They’re looking for awesome projects and ideas and want you to do well.
  1. NETWORK
  • Network, network, network! Luckily, the children’s TV landscape is super friendly. Often you’ll meet other great creatives who you may be able to work with, get tips from, etc.  I’ve met lots of great creatives in markets and made some great friends. There are also fantastic groups you can join, like Animated Women UK!
  1. PREPARE FOR YOUR PITCH
  • Ideally have visuals or a clip to show when you are pitching. Or, even better, have a full bible which you can talk somebody through. The person you’re pitching to will almost definitely appreciate being able to ‘see’ your project or idea as well as hear about it. So have as much creative content as possible even if it’s only sketches.
  • If you are pitching in a pair, always work out who is doing what parts of the pitch in advance and then assess what worked and what didn’t about your pitching format after you have finished.
  • If your pitch doesn’t work out, always take rejection gracefully. Don’t be disheartened.  Lots of projects have gone through significant development before getting to the right standard and others may never come to fruition. Be realistic, but positive.

I hope these are helpful tips and good luck with your future projects!

Georgina

Georgina Hurcombe is MD and Producer at LoveLove Films.  She is also on the board of Animated Women UK.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, News, 0 comments
Isolation Animation Nominated at Indie Short Fest

Isolation Animation Nominated at Indie Short Fest

In our May Newsletter we put out a call for animators to ‘Beat the Isolation Blues’ by producing up to 60 secs of animation as part of a collaborative initiative by Roobot Productions. The resulting short film Isolation Animation has since been selected for the Los Angeles Indie Short Fest where it is nominated for ‘Best Experimental Short’.

Bringing together the work of 31 animators, including AWUK member Christine MacKay, the film is an expression of the artists’ experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown. Director Ruth Ducker says it was great to see each artist express their experience of the lockdown in such different ways. There was only one rule for the artists to follow: each animator had to start their animation from the final frame of the previous animator. Otherwise, they were free to express themselves however they wanted which many found to be both exciting and scary.

Being a firm believer in looking after your mental health, Christine described the project as a ‘welcome and fun challenge that gave us free creative reign and refreshed our burning passion for all things animated.”

Not being able to see what others were working on aside from a single frame undoubtedly increased the diversity of the work and Ruth encouraged the artists to express themselves without creative interference.

Christine’s team upped the ante even more by having 5 animators work on 1 collaborative piece and splitting the 15 seconds between creatives, leaving only 3 seconds each to animate. This challenged the creatives to create effective transitions in a visually delightful way and the resulting section showcases everyone’s different personalities and styles through extremely different but equally gorgeous approaches to the animation.

Working on a voluntary project throughout the lockdown proved challenging at times as everyone was dealing with their own personal lockdown circumstances. Some artists had to juggle the project alongside their work, others had children or caretaking responsibilities for other family members. To breach the divide and combat the isolation felt by many, Ruth would send regular updates to the whole group so that each individual, though working alone, still felt part of a team of people who were collaborating. This also helped achieve a collective responsibility to one another to deliver.

For Christine’s team, the transition to working from home went extremely smoothly so working collaboratively and remotely on a project like Isolation Animation was one of their strong points. They loved the idea of creating something with other studios and the mystery of the outcome was tantalising but encouraged them to churn out work whilst keeping to a high standard.

For more information about how ‘Isolation Animation’ came to be, check out the ‘Making Of’ video below:

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, News, 1 comment
AWUK Connect and AGM

AWUK Connect and AGM

On August 4 2020 we hosted our AGM followed by our first ever AWUK Connect online Networking event. 

In case you missed it, in the AGM we reviewed and approved the 2019 AGM Minutes, the AWUK Accounts and some changes to our Articles of Association.  Lou and Beth also provided a round up of everything we’ve been up to over the past year

Once the AGM finished the AWUK Connect event began and everyone was divided into small groups to start talking. In a recent survey, many of you told us that you were interested in AWUK-hosted networking events, so we designed AWUK Connect to help you meet new people while working remotely. 

As an icebreaker, everyone was invited to bring two items that represented something about their career and something about their personal lives to share with the group. The Show and Tell was a great way to get everyone talking and by breaking everyone into smaller groups for 2x 30 minutes we made sure everyone got to meet at least 5 or 6 new people. 

It was also great to see so many people from different parts of the UK who would normally not be able to meet in person! 

We were really thrilled that so many of you joined us and we intend to set up more virtual networking events in the future. Watch this space!

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, News, 0 comments