Raising visibility

AWUK Raising Visibility

AWUK Raising Visibility

We firmly believe in the importance and impact of raising the visibility of women within Animation and VFX in order to support and inspire others. As a members' organisation run by volunteers, we welcome involvement from you, our members, to make this happen! In this new blog series, we ask recent event speakers to share their experiences with us. 
If this inspires you to also get involved, please contact our Panel Producer, Debra Coleman, at debrac@animatedwomenuk.com

 

Introducing Speaker: Bianca Iancu

Please introduce yourself/tell our other members a little bit about yourself.

Hello! I'm Bianca Iancu, currently the 3D animation lead over at Bomper Studio where we create short-form content for advertising, branding and broadcast. I specialize in leading teams to create playful, stylized character animation across a range of diverse projects for clients like the BBC and Big Fish Games. I've previously worked in kids' television at Blue Zoo Animation on Go Jetters and the award-winning series Pip & Posy as well as on the short film Sinking Feeling for suicide prevention charity Papyrus. Before that I worked as an animator and artist in video games. I occasionally guest lecture for NextGen Skills Academy, help shortlist entries as part BAFTA Film and Games juries and enjoy supporting the next generation of animators as part of mentorship programs like Access: VFX, Screenskills and AWUK. I love being active in the animation community, sharing tools and resources with anyone looking to learn as well as exploring how animation can help shape storytelling in each of these different formats.

Still image from one of our latest promos for the mobile game EverMerge

What events have you contributed to, on behalf of Animated Women UK?

I was kindly invited to take part in a panel for Stardance Animation Festival last year where myself and a group of top-shelf ladies from studios around the UK discussed our personal experiences and the subtextual yet very real issues women universally seem to face across animation-related workplaces. Many of our encounters were similar and it was both a comfort to know that no single one of us had experienced these things in isolation as well as a sign that more work needs to be done. I've also taken part in a recurring panel format, dubiously named 'F*ck Up Night' where we took turns to talk everyone through stories of mistakes we'd made, lessons we learned from them and how we handled the consequences.

Following these, I was put in touch with the organisers at Animex Festival who were interested in a speaking contribution from me. This is an annual international festival taking place in the North East which is divided into Animation / VFX and Games where speakers from all over the world come together for a week of talks, critique sessions, screenings and live events with attendees. I had such a wonderful time being counted among creators whose work I admire and being on the contributing side, giving people advice and feedback on their showreels.

Stardance Festival event poster for our Animation & VFX panel.

Please tell us a bit more about them: what was involved? Was it in person, or remote/virtual? Who was the audience? What was your role?

Both panels were during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to take place online, with AWUK members and public attendees joining to listen and watch via Zoom. Gathering around to swap cautionary tales is something that naturally happens in my peer groups. Our role was to give less experienced audience members a seat at the table, shattering the perception that professionals don't make mistakes and allowing them to learn from ours. It's been one of my most memorable engagements to date because of how novel a topic it was for me and how simultaneously unguarded and courageous we as panellists had to be to make it work.

Animex however was an in-person event hosted by Teesside University in Middlesbrough, although I believe some of the talks are recorded and uploaded online afterwards. The audience was a combination of students and professionals keen to see behind the scenes of their favourite productions and further their knowledge of the industry. My talk was titled '3D Animation Workflow on a Series Production' and as guest speaker it was up to me to familiarize the audience with this type of production pipeline, describe common pitfalls to avoid, provide tips on how to break into this line of work as well as explain what we generally look for in an animation showreel.

By a stroke of luck I also got to meet someone I'd been mentoring online via AWUK who happened to be in attendance. It was wonderful to be able to say hello in-person for the first time and see them doing so well. I only wish we had more time to spend chatting between me running around for the festival!

Our F*ck Up Night event as featured in Animation Magazine.

How did you find the experience? What did you learn/gain from being involved? Anything you would have done differently?

The online panels were very laid-back. It was eye-opening to find out more about my fellow panellists' experiences as women in generally male-dominated workplaces. I learned a lot from them and was honoured that they felt comfortable allowing us that intimate glimpse of failure. Despite how isolated we all were, it was wonderful to come together and share in this moment of vulnerability. I think it worked really well that everyone was sharing these experiences from their own safe spaces at home rather than in a room full of people. That lent itself well to the sensitive topics at hand and I think really allowed us to be more open. I'm not sure I would have done anything differently! I'm really glad I got the chance to get to know more of the women at AWUK doing the quiet, often thankless work of supporting other women in UK animation.

Animex was definitely nerve wracking in the lead-up as it was my first speaking engagement since the pandemic and I'd lost the habit of being around so many people, although I relaxed the minute I stepped up in front of everyone. My confidence noticeably improves each time I venture outside my comfort zone so continuing to do that is always a thrill. In retrospect, it would have been wise to put my slides on a USB drive as a plan B in case Google Slides decided to fail on the day but I mercifully managed to get away with it! I had such a wonderful time making new friends, being counted among creators whose work I'd admired and being on the contributing side, giving the people advice and feedback.

Delivering my talk onstage at Middlesbrough Town Hall

Delivering my talk onstage at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

What do you get from being a member of AWUK? And what does 'raising visibility' mean to you?

Members have access to a monthly newsletter outlining upcoming online or in-person events taking place in the organisation as well as access to support and industry-specific statistical research. On a less formal level it feels like being privy to a welcoming secret club, where it's safe to be open about mistakes because everyone in it understands that making them is especially hard on women who often bear the scrutiny of failure much more intensely. If there's an issue I'm facing at work or need advice on I know I have this group of women, well-equipped to turn to for support because they have likely had to navigate the same sensitive, subjective issues themselves. Also it's generally just a great place to be making more female friends with shared interests, particularly if you're struggling with that at a studio where we aren't so present.

Raising visibility to me means taking those small interstitial actions to support women every day either by standing up for them when they're not in the room, giving them space to finish speaking when interrupted, calling out internalised misogyny in my circles and in myself, openly discussing pay gaps, spotlighting my female friends' achievements, mentoring young women and showing up to do things out of my comfort zone because it matters that they see themselves succeeding in higher-level roles. Ultimately it's offering a reminder that our artform will always be more rounded coming from an equally balanced group of creators whether that's related to gender, race, ability or economic background.

Any final thoughts to share?

I'm very inspired by AWUK and aim to keep furthering this cause not only via public events but also through the work I make. My hope is that in future we won't need any extra subversive organisational work to support and elevate women to a level where they are seen. It will simply be the norm.
Posted by Peri Friend in Raising visibility, 0 comments