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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
Member Profile | Lisa Graydon

Member Profile | Lisa Graydon

In this member profile, we asked Lisa Graydon, a voice-over artist and vocalist to share her story and discover that, in her case, voiceover work is a real family affair!

How did you get into voiceover work?

A number of years ago I was in a recording studio in Soho, London, singing children’s songs for a well-known company.

At the end of my singing session, the producer realised they’d missed some lines for the voice artists who had been there in the morning.  They wondered if I could try and voice the princess, seeing as I was singing her songs.

I did, and then also voiced a goat and a couple of villagers, and without realising it, my voiceover career started…!

Fast forward to now, and I‘ve voiced hundreds of commercials, radio ads, corporate explainers, and sponsorship campaigns.

Why do you enjoy animation and games work so much?

I’m a regular ‘looper’ for films and love ADR, but my biggest passion is voicing for animation and games.  In both, I can help the director ‘create’ the voice of whatever character is put before me. I feel confident, excited, and it’s where I probably feel most at home.

Playing with ideas for characters is immense fun.  Sometimes, my job is to try and match the voice the animator/producer was hearing in their head when they started the project.  Other times, I’m asked how I think they might sound from a detailed animatic or a single drawing.

In both animation and games, the scope and range of characters can be mind-blowing!  I’ve played a cloud, a scientist, a special ops leader, an American boy, an evil advisor, a mother cat, an old woman, chickens, a French warrior and many others.  My roles have required me to shout, whisper, cry, bully, laugh maniacally and even just mutter.

I invariably use all areas of my voice to produce a sound that will suit the character.  Sometimes a session is like a workout!

You have to leave your inhibitions at the studio door, but for some reason (despite being an ‘extravert introvert’) I have no problem there…

Recording feels like a wonderful, fun collaboration.  Being part of a creative, appreciative team, all with the same purpose in mind – to make the end result sound amazing for the project.

How and why did you build your home studio?

When our son, Alex, was six years old, he was chosen to voice the relaunch of Timmy Time for Aardman Animations.  With 78 episodes to record after a full day at school each week, I decided it was the perfect time to build a professional home studio with a large booth.

We are 25 minutes away from Central London studios, but I realised that a home studio would allow me to be inside the booth to direct him and that he could literally walk into the session after a snack rather than a commute.

It took a week to draw up plans, and after much advice and many phone calls, my carpenter and I built the booth in 5 days.  It weighs half a ton and takes up half the room so we had the joists checked by a structural engineer and then strengthened…!

Every episode of Timmy Time was recorded in my booth, with Aardman patching in.

What is it like directing children?

Inside the booth, I stand slightly behind and to the side of the children, and we work through scripts and auditions.  Sometimes the client watches via zoom, other times we work alone and send the finished .wav files.

How I direct depends on the age of the child and how they prefer support.

Initially, with Alex I would say a line and he would repeat it, but very quickly he found he could read ahead himself.  A child’s first instinct is always far better than them copying an adult – there’s an innocence to the read if they choose their tone themselves, naturally.

Later on he found it really helpful if I silently gesticulated with my hands – ie ‘Up’ for energy/tone up, down with hand and energy drops/tone drops etc.  We always stop for a quick drink, a short chat or joke, and to ensure he understands the script and do silly mouth exercises before recording and laugh a lot to keep things fresh.

My daughter, Maya, (now 16), is a studio veteran! She has been doing voice work since she was 5, and is extremely comfortable in a voice/vocal booth.
It’s what she chose for her work experience (a week at Soho Square Studios, London). She has an ear for accents to the point that she can be a ‘one-take wonder’.

How do you prepare for voice work?

When you voice, whatever the job, it’s best to start by warming up the face and mouth.  I like to do exaggerated chewing movements, say ‘wow!’ and make circles with my tongue.  I drink warm (not hot or chilled) water – and I’m always amazed at the amount I get through during a session…

I normally receive the script before the session, so I print it out and make notes with a pencil. I highlight my lines when necessary. I also have the script on the screen inside the booth.

I use the script to warm up before the session starts and to familiarise myself with it. I always check the pronunciation of an unusual name or word.

What do you use to record your work?

If I’m being directed remotely over Skype or Zoom etc, I hit record as soon as the client connects with me, so I can relax about that part.  I work on Logic Pro and only record what the mic picks up, so clients comments can’t be heard – unless they’re laughing very loudly and there’s headphone ’spill’ (I love finding those moments when I’m editing up a file!). When I run off the file, I just edit out any mistakes and all chat.

Even if the client is recording their end (for instance via Source Connect or Cleanfeed), I record as well my end as a backup – unless, for NDA reasons, they ask me not to.

For animation and game characters, I like to have the picture or a still from the animatic somewhere on my screen, to keep the character present in my mind as I voice.

Tell us about your non-voiceover work?

My husband James and I also have a recording studio at the bottom of the garden. This is where we write, record and produce music and vocals for commercials, film and TV, events, or for other artists.

As well as being a composer and producer, James coaches actors like Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams (Eurovision), Gwilym Lee and Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and, at present, the stars of a new Danny Boyle project.  We’ve often had chauffeurs waiting outside the house, and a range of incredible actors walking down our garden path to the studio…!

What have you gained from joining Animated Women?

When I joined Animated Women I found a support system that made me believe I could achieve a lot more, and cope with what was already on my plate. I also found a great group of women who really inspired me – with their generosity and talent, their humour, passion and unapologetic ambition.

What have you learned during Lockdown?

Like so many others during this past year, I’ve realised I need to manage a lot in a week!  I’m a singer and voice artist.  I’ve taught myself to be an engineer and editor and I run my own business – invoicing, quoting, networking and promoting myself.  I’m also a mother, a teacher (I was homeschooling my son pre-lockdown, so at least I was used to it), a wife and to top it off, I foster rescue puppies.…

The last year has drummed in that it’s important to celebrate all the little ways we succeed and the goals we reach.  I recently won Voice Artist Of The Year 2020 and Best Demo 2020 (self-produced!) after 14 nominations.  I signed to a great new exclusive agent (Damn Good Voices) and am managing to keep my studio running smoothly and reliably through a pandemic.  I’m proud of these things.

So what if the washing machine still needs to go on and I forgot to post a birthday card?  We’re only human…

Let’s all take in the little ‘wins’ we’ve had – however small.  Start each day by making the bed really well….

Lisa Graydon is a member of AWUK. You can find out more about her and her work at https://www.lisagraydon.com/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Profiles, 0 comments
Life in Lockdown 3.0 | VFX Chair | Lou Hussey

Life in Lockdown 3.0 | VFX Chair | Lou Hussey

Life in Lockdown 3.0

As I write this, it is the 2nd weekend of 2021, and we are Lockdown again.  The news is unremittingly tough in terms of the impact that the pandemic is having on all of our lives and whether it is our families, our health or our jobs, everyone of us is now touched by the virus in some way.   It is certainly going to be a while before we are back in anything like ‘normal times’.

I have been working at home since last March and it does seem inconceivable that it will likely be some weeks, if not months before we are able to back together in person.   As someone that naturally loves being with other people, feeling part of a team and enjoys the buzz and chaos of office life, I have found the move to WFH really very tough at times.  Sitting in a room on my own, talking to colleagues, friends and family over video calls is not my preferred way of being, but we have all had to adjust.   

One of my major concerns over the last few months is how to best support our more junior staff who may be living and working in small flats, possibly spending many hours a day in the same room that they also sleep in.  The discipline to separate work and life can be much more difficult if you don’t have room to shut the work away.    

Much of the learning that we all do, is actually very informal and comes from hearing people talking around us and being able to nudge the person on the next desk to ask how to do something.    On top of that, some of the best ideas can come about from simply bumping into someone in the corridor or the kitchen while making that morning coffee.   

In addition, there are the challenges for parents with children that need home-schooling, or whose usual support networks and childcare facilities may be unavailable.  For those families, the difficulties of working from home while ensuring their children are educated and entertained is incredibly tough.

As companies, we all need to be working very much harder to make sure that all of our teams feel included, that they feel engaged and that they feel connected (not just technically!). There are no easy answers but as long as we are all working together to find some solutions to enable this strange time to be manageable, that is the best we can do.

I have been lucky enough to be able to continue with my hobbies for the most part.  In 2018, I had my first swim in my local Lido as a bit of a New Year’s bet with myself.  Having enjoyed it, I ended up continuing to swim most weeks over 2018 & 2019, and in January 2020, I decided to set myself the challenge of completing 50K in the pool over the course of the year – and then Covid…..!  The pool was open on & off, following government guidelines, and at times I gave up on the plan. In early December, the pool was open again, and I still had around 15k to do, and I pushed myself and on 23rd December, I was thrilled (and knackered) but had done my 50K,  and raised around £700 for my local food bank, so the effort felt very worthwhile.

Early morning at the Lido

Early morning at the Lido

In addition, I have been doing Pilates classes online with my local Pilates Studio, and I have clarinet lessons, also online.  So my weeks are fairly structured outside of work, which I have found really helpful in preventing me from just sinking into endless Netflix shows – not that I don’t also do that from time to time!

Animated Women has been busier than ever, and I really treasure the friends I have made through it, as well as being incredibly proud of the events and activities that we managed to put on over 2020, thanks to the hard work of the Board, our Advisors, and our Volunteers.    Our newsletter still comes out regularly, Networking events moved to Zoom, which has worked better than we could have imagined, our Achieve programme and workshops have been full and have been really appreciated by the participants and we have now launched our Mentoring Scheme which is so exciting.

I think what AWUK has shown me in the last year, is that having a support network, people you can have a chat to and a cry, moan or laugh with, and a common aim that we are working to together has been the best of fun, and the best of distractions in what was a very tough year.

So my advice is, if you are struggling, and we all have times when we will, then ask for help – whether that is from old friends or new, you will find a welcoming ear, or comforting shoulder, as we are all going through the same thing in an extraordinary period.  We don’t all need to come out the other side knowing how to bake Sourdough Bread, having learnt another language or being able to do a Yoga headstand but we do need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and staying in touch with our friends, in whatever way works for us.

So stay safe, take care and keep in touch!

Louise Hussey is our VFX Chair

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Lockdown, 0 comments
Animated Women UK launches Mentorship Programme

Animated Women UK launches Mentorship Programme

AWUK reveals a new mentorship programme for its members in the VFX and animation industries, pairing seasoned professionals with emerging female talent. 

Animated Women UK is pleased to announce a mentorship programme in partnership with Disney UK & Ireland for its members. 

This mentorship programme will focus on fostering connection and engagement with female veterans of the VFX and Animation industries, pairing them with the next generation of female talent.  

AWUK members who are interested in participating in the mentorship programme will be asked to fill out a questionnaire describing their industry experience. 

Powered through the Prospela professional network website, mentors will be paired with a mentee seeking advice and support.  

Through the use of a chat channel on the Prospela website, mentors and mentees will be able to exchange communication when it suits them best and in their own time.  

We have a great team of Mentors engaged and ready to start a meaningful mentorship with keen mentees.  Could this be you?  We hope so!

Louise Hussey, Co-Chair, VFX, Animated Women UK, commented: “AWUK is very excited to be offering a mentor scheme, and have been able to do so by Disney’s sponsorship. We love the way that this scheme, hosted by Prospela, and pioneered by Access VFX works. It enables communication through a digital platform that allows for Mentors to be able to respond as and when their schedules allow.  In these times, support and help are welcomed by us all, so please do sign up!”

For more information, or to apply, visit http://www.animatedwomenuk.com/mentoring/.

Annual membership of Animated Women UK costs just £30.

http://www.animatedwomenuk.com/membership/

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Mentoring, News, 0 comments
AWUK’s F*CK UP NIGHT | Inglorious WTF moments shared 

AWUK’s F*CK UP NIGHT | Inglorious WTF moments shared 

You’re not alone: inglorious WTF moments shared 
December started with a bang and an irreverent look at life, work, and everything in between in our F*CK UP and networking event. 
F*CK UP nights are becoming a global phenomenon and on 1st December we elected to host our own in celebration of mistakes, fumbles, WTF moments, and those occasions where you see your career going into free-fall in front of your very eyes.  
You know the kind of thing… viruses distributed to the entire company, internal emails going to clients, lapses in judgement. Those moments that are so toe-curlingly awful you wonder if you’ll ever recover. 
Hosted by AWUK co-Chairs Louise Hussey and Beth Parker, it was great to see so many new faces as 69 women (including 8 from Scanline VFX – thank you ladies) got together on Zoom to share their experiences and talk about ways to get something positive from f*ck ups and failures.
Dara McGarry

Dara McGarry

The evening kicked off with three courageous speakers, Dara McGarry, Operations Manager, DNEG Feature Animation, Sue Lyster, Executive in Charge, ILM London and Sarah Fell, Director of Original Series, EMEA Kids for WarnerMedia, who kindly agreed to talk about their most inglorious moments. 
We learned that failure and mistakes are a part of creativity, of aiming high and in some cases taking risks. Their ‘mistakes’ and failures had taught them important lessons about themselves, other people, and how after making a mistake they sought to channel that experience into something new and more constructive. And, that this didn’t necessarily happen overnight but came with time and a willingness to learn and grow. 
Topics of discussion ranged from imposter syndrome and how to deal with big personalities to exam failure, lack of confidence to voice opinions, and an acknowledgement that even some of the best careers have not been planned.
What was said about the event: 
This is my first time at one of these events and it’s been really insightful. Thank you so much everyone! 🙂
Thank you!!! It was SO MUCH FUN!
Thanks for being so frank and honest everyone!
Once you admit it you can all get on with solving the problem 🙂
Thank you everyone, lovely to speak to everyone in my breakout groups, and thanks Dara, Sue and Sarah for sharing your stories <3
Admitting a mistake allows you to regroup and reassess, to move forward.
Can definitely relate to the feeling of pinning your worth to your academic achievements, and how the bad grades tend to stay in your memory a while longer. Really helps to hear that story, thank you!
Everyone is so afraid of f*cking up that no one stops the f*ck up!
Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences, stories and tips! 🙂
Thanks to all 3 speakers. 100% agree – trust your gut (always)!
Whether you find yourself f*cking up once or multiple times, know that f*ck ups happen to everyone, it’s part of the journey. Remind yourself that this moment is just a moment, and it does not represent all your endeavours now or in the future.
Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.  Michelle Obama.  

 

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Events, Homepage, 0 comments