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Member profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

Member profile | Heather Colbert | Illustrator and Animator

What inspired you to start Stop-motion Animation?
I came to animation through my illustration degree; we had a puppet making project in our 1st year that ignited my interest in stop motion and puppet making. The character I made was a Frankenstein’s monster-style slave, doomed to an eternity of stirring a vat of fudge! It was a great project. I had always been fascinated by the unique charm that comes from the real light and textures in stop motion, growing up on all the programmes made by Small Films. But through university and since graduating, it has been a gradual realisation that I could be someone who makes films this way too.

Tell us about your work and what projects have been key to your career.
I experimented with felting and building a more realistic world in my degree film ‘Courage to make a Fool’, but since graduating I have directed three music videos where I have used my love of texture and character animation to create more of a personal style.

My last project, ‘Dolly Said No To Elvis’, was a chance to be more ambitious with the story I was telling, and to explore my style in the textured universe I wanted to create. ‘Dolly’ was the first time I consciously promoted a film too, which made it feel more like a career, especially when I was able to get some exposure from the Vimeo staff pick.

Dolly Said No to Elvis by Mark Nevin.

I had a place on a stop motion workshop in Budapest last autumn, which boosted my confidence in my ambition to be a filmmaker. I met a student, Abel Carbajal (from ESCAC), through this workshop, which led to a collaboration between us on his graduation stop motion film. I have worked solo on all of my professional projects so far, so the chance to work with a partner, developing the character together and then building the puppets, was really valuable for me.

Tell us a little bit more about your last project, ‘Dolly Said No To Elvis’.  
Joseph Wallace had been approached by Mark Nevin to make a video for the track, but was focusing on his other projects at the time so very kindly offered me the chance to pitch for the video. I’ve been so fortunate to have had these opportunities passed on to me by more experienced filmmakers; I hope one day I’ll get the chance do the same – animation feels like a very supportive community in this respect.

When I listened to Mark’s song, I felt how the power balance shifted between the two characters at points through the narrative, and saw an opportunity to heighten the drama of the true story by exaggerating the changes in size of the two adversaries.
This was only my second professional commission and it had a very tight budget.  I wasn’t able to rent a studio, so I turned my grandma’s dining room into a studio over Christmas! The deadline was also very tight, but I had learnt so much through the workshop that I was bursting to try out in front of the camera. Working on my own that intensely over Christmas got quite tricky.  It was a challenging to look after my mental health through the project, but I am very proud of both myself and Dolly for making it happen!

Dolly Said No to Elvis by Mark Nevin

Did you have any mentors support that helped you?
I have so many people to thank for my fortune so far: Virpi Kettu, an animator based in Skipton, gave me my first opportunity to pitch for a music video when it was not right for her production company; the incredible Mary Murphy at UWE generously gave me her time when I needed equipment advice for my first job and Joseph Wallace, who I admired greatly already, has been an amazing support in teaching me the self-promotion skills filmmakers need that you can’t really learn at university.
I am also so grateful for the support of my peers such as animator Roos Mattar, who helped me with practical and emotional advice for ‘Dolly’! and Becky Weston, a model maker who I met and connected with through an Animated Women networking event – I think we got on immediately because we were just as nervous as each other in that situation!

Have there ever been times when you’ve felt that being a woman may have impacted your career?
As I am still very new to the industry, I have not experienced what it is like to work as a woman in a large studio yet. I would hope that the issues many office environments have in this area would not be so prevalent in a creative field like animation, but I think the internal feelings that come from growing up as a female do have an impact on how challenging some aspects of a freelance career can be. Self-esteem and confidence in your abilities is, I think, quite a rare thing in many creative females, and I found the process of self-promotion with my film very daunting, so I needed a push in that direction. However, I think my sensitivity has been an asset too. Feeling strong emotions and connecting to stories very deeply is integral to my success.

BIBIMBAP byOri Dagan – Heather’s 1st music video

What changes would you like to see in the industry?
I have only been in the ‘real world’ for two years, so I have not had much experience of the bigger picture. But I do know that in my degree the class was about 90% female, whereas the number of names that ‘make it’ are mostly male. I know this happens in many industries; something happens in the hard process of climbing, that means that female makers either don’t pursue it or do not get the same recognition as their male peers.

My strongest wish is for there to be more opportunity for people from every kind of background to have the chance to tell their stories through animation. It is vital that there is a broader mix of voices in a position to share their experience.

The connections to lovely people I made at a networking event held by Animated Women have been very important to my development as a filmmaker, so I look forward to more chances for us to connect and support each other across the industry.

Find out more about Heather and her work at www.heather-colbert.com.

Posted by Lucy Cooper in Homepage, Profiles, 0 comments
Annecy 2018 | Women in Animation World summit

Annecy 2018 | Women in Animation World summit

This year, Annecy started with the Women in Animation World Summit on Monday 11 June. A day of sessions and discussions around Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, introduced by the skilled motivator Julie Ann Crommett, VP of Multicultural Audience Engagement at the Walt Disney Studios. This high-level motivation continued over the VIP lunch, where I was sat next to Vanessa Morrison, President of Fox Family. Vanessa has a kind of underlying superpower that makes you feel invincible after as little as a five-minute conversation with her and so I found myself ready and willing to follow her into battle. She had the difficult challenge of presenting the final panel of the day, which was on developing diverse talent, but I came away having made a pledge to always look beyond the most obvious places when searching for talent on our shows.

The World Summit was co-produced by Les Femmes S’Animent, who asked me to present the following morning at one of the Breakfast Series. Here we talked about setting up your own organisation, with representatives from Spain and Germany, among others, wanting to know more. As far as AWUK is concerned, this was perhaps the most significant meeting of the week, as I was approached a number of times over the next few days, by women looking for advice on gathering their own communities to form a group to support and network.

  

This year seemed particularly busy, and although I start every Annecy week telling myself, not to take meetings that clash with screenings or sessions I have booked, next year I must make a conscious effort to stick by that motto. But I also took some good learnings from the week: good and diverse talent is out there, it just needs a bit more time to find, and may not always be where we’re used to looking; what we show on the screen should reflect the actual world we live in and not the one we think we see – don’t forget our audiences are global; there are plenty of folks who want to support diversity, they just don’t always know the best way how and are happy to take the advice – everyone should be made aware of their biases; remember how it feels not believing you belong at the table, imagine how that is for other, more marginalised sections of society.

So, when not wearing my Disney hat, I was firmly wearing my AWUK one, which meant I spent the whole week in meetings. Now I’m frantically catching up on a few short films since returning, thanks to the video library!

Beth Parker is our Animation Chair. Find out more about Beth and the rest of our team here.

Beth Parker at Annecy 2018

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