- Posted by info 05 Oct
LoveLove Films MD Georgina Hurcombe hosts ‘Keyframes for Success’ Animated Women UK panel at BFX Festival
Animated Women UK were delighted to be invited by the BFX Festival to hold a panel. BFX has been held annually by Bournemouth University since 2012, and is the UK’s largest visual effects, computer games and animation festival, with innovative techniques and research being showcased to ‘inspire new talent and educate the next generation of practitioners’.
Chaired by our very own Managing Director, Georgina Hurcombe, the Animated Women UK panel hosted leading women from the animation and VFX industries. The panel aimed to provide tips on how to navigate the often complex waters of the Animation and VFX industries, through personal anecdotes of how they reached where they are today and a succeeding a question and answer session to clarify or explore any further points.
Gender parity in the entertainment industry is not a given – recent news stories and campaigns have made that very clear. But sometimes the best way to address bad practice is to demonstrate good practice.
LoveLove Films’ Managing Director / Producer Georgina Hurcombe was delighted to be asked by Animated Women UK to organise and host the panel. Georgina brought together women from across in from animation and BFX from companies including the The Walt Disney Company, Jellyfish Pictures, Lovelove Films, and Blue Zoo.
On the Animated Women UK panel were Natalie Llewellyn, Head of Development at Jellyfish Pictures; Lizzie Hicks, creative producer at Blue Zoo; Chloé Deneuve, artist at Blue Zoo; Hannah Elder, Junior Production Manager at the Walt Disney Company; and Natalie McKay, Acquisition and Animation Coordinator at the Walt Disney Company. Throughout the panel, the women shared their views on gender in the industry today, the progress that has been made throughout their careers and their top tips on getting into animation.
Before the panel, the women were interviewed for 3D Artist Magazine, by journalist Bradley Thorne
Sharing their insights next to Bournemouth’s beautiful beaches, the overall outlook of the interview was very optimistic.
When asked what had changed in the industry during their time in it, Chloe Deneuve stated that there are already more female role models who she can look up to, and through the Helen North Programme run by Animated Women UK, she has met with many women who can inspire here. Georgina Hurcombe had noted that companies are seeing the importance of female voices and are taking the opportunity to celebrate them. Natalie Llewellyn observed that thanks to there being more non gender-specific activities for young people to be creative and an encouragement of creative activities, there is less inequality for those coming into the industry now. JoAnne noticed that there was a great spirit at female-focused events of supporting each other and celebrating each other’s’ achievements. Natalie McKay noted that seeing women in a range of different roles at Disney, including management ones, has been very inspiring for her.
The panel began with each of the women introducing themselves and what they do:
Natalie Llewellyn is a development executive at Jellyfish Pictures. The role of development executive which was opened up to grow a development slate of original content primarily aimed at the kids’ market for Jellyfish. Natalie has over 20 years of experience before this, including as a Head of Global strategy at kids’ production company Platinum Films, and an assistant producer on CBeebies’ Everything’s Rosie at V&S Entertainment.
Lizzie Hicks is a Creative Producer at Blue Zoo, which she got into after doing a placement at Blue Zoo and working her way up as a junior animator, animation director and project manager.
Chloé Deneuve is a character animator at Blue Zoo, and before this studied animation in France. Chloé moved back to the UK with one goal in mind: to work at Blue Zoo, which she achieved.
JoAnne Salmon is an animator at LoveLove Films. JoAnne talked about how she didn’t know where to go following graduation to her first director’s role at LoveLove Films, directing Chin Up, an animated documentary about her journey, which was funded by MoFilm.
Hannah Elder is a junior production manager at the Disney Company, currently working on 101 Dalmatian Street, which is based on the novels and original Disney films (and Hannah mentioned that she is often referred to as a ‘puppy wrangle’r because of her work on the series!). Following a TV Degree at Bournemouth University, Hannah did an internship at the Disney Company, before moving to HIT Entertainment, and going back to Disney when she was contacted with the opportunity to work on 101 Dalmatian Street.
Natalie McKay is an Acquisitions and animation coordinator at the Disney Company, and also did an internship with the Walt Disney company. Initially, Natalie started at Woodcut Media working in factual a couple of days a week, before finishing her TV Degree at Bournemouth University and going back to work with Disney.
After the introductions, Georgina Hurcombe led the panel through a series of questions meant to guide the audience members on getting their first job, and navigating their way through the complex media and animation industries.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
In this question, not having a clear direction following education was a common issue for Hannah Elder, JoAnne Salmon and Chloe Deneuve. Chloe highlighted her difficulty in getting companies to see her in person, rather than just through emails. To combat this, she stayed with a friend in Paris for a week, and told companies that she was there for just a few days and whether she could meet them – this got the companies’ attention, and got Chloe into actual meetings with the companies.
Natalie Llewellyn said that her challenge also came from getting into the industry, when there were no media degrees available. Natalie knew that she loved stories, and wanted fiercely to move into that kind of space. Natalie overcame her challenge by doing a number of internships for different companies, and proving her passion and interest to them.
Lizzie Hicks touched upon imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re not as good as other people are at work, which two-thirds of women suffer from in the UK (Forbes, 2018). Lizzie said she felt as though someone would “find her out”, but knowing that she deserved her place at Blue Zoo was a big step for her.
“My boss always says that the most you should want from a conversation is another conversation”
Natalie McKay – The Walt Disney Company
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU THINK YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO SHOWCASE WHEN LOOKING FOR A JOB?
Answers for this varied depending on the roles, with Natalie McKay and Hannah Elder highlighting the importance of good, natural emails and following up after a conversation. Natalie Llewellyn said that she sometimes spends hours on an email, because that becomes the first impression when it lands in an inbox, so each one should count for something.
For all of the women, research as key – research the company you are emailing or sending a showreel to, and tailor everything specifically to them.
Lizzie Hicks said that she looks at a showreel straight away, so students should put their best work first, not spend loads of time animating their name at the beginning, and showing story based work rather than just animation exercises.
Georgina told the story of one of her staff members, Joe, who put together an animated cover letter when applying for his job. He then went on to do a placement at LoveLove Films, and a permanent role was created specifically for him because of his hard work, and eagerness to learn.
“Don’t get too upset if someone doesn’t like your stuff – so much of the industry is about personal taste”
Lizzie Hicks – Blue Zoo
WHAT CAN INTERNS OR PLACEMENT STUDENTS DO TO STAND OUT?
Much of the advice for interns was similar from all of the women on the panel: be friendly, know what you want to get out of the experience, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Natalie Llewellyn noted that a can-do attitude and passion are key, and that doing something that you love can be a springboard for a great future. Chloe Deneuve and Hannah Elder said that writing things down is impressive for them, and something they did themselves to keep track of everything they were learning. Natalie McKay said that knowing what you’re good at, and how you want interviewers or employers to remember you is great for interns.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS ON GETTING INTO THE INDUSTRY?
Natalie McKay began the responses to this question by highlighting the importance of getting on with people in a natural way in the media industry. Natalie said “my boss always says that the most you should want from a conversation is another conversation.”
Hannah Elder also talked about the importance of meeting people and keeping in contact – events like those held by Animated Women UK are a great way to get to know people in the industry. Hannah also stressed that students should use their time wisely, and gain as much experience as they can. Hannah finished by telling the audience not to give up – the industry can be competitive but persevering is worth it.
JoAnne Salmon had some wise words for the audience: enjoy what you are doing, and meet other people who love what they do. Keep learning, ask questions and be nice to people as it’s how you get where you want to be in the industry.
Chloe Deneuve said that networking – not just inside the industry – was super important for her. Networking with people in other industries can open up your mind and help you to learn even more. Chloe also highlighted the importance of listening – really listening – to what people are telling you, and showing an interest.
For Natalie Llewellyn, a sense of humour was key – you will meet wonderful, creative and ‘interesting’ people. Natalie said she once heard a great bit of advice – be nice to people on the way up because you may meet them on the way down, which she has kept in mind throughout her career. Natalie also said that being kind to yourself is important too, but be realistic in your skillsets and open to learning from those more senior than you.
Georgina Hurcombe discussed the value of networking going to film festivals in the industry that you are interested in, and volunteering opportunities for them – such as the CMC volunteering, if possible. Branching outside of film festivals to other types of festivals is also useful, as you never know who you will meet. Georgina mentioned one of her favourite mottos – if you don’t ask, you don’t get, stressing the importance of seeking out opportunities in the industry.
Lizzie Hicks finished the question with one important piece of advice – don’t forget to be creative!
The panel also took questions from the audience, and gave advice to the audience members. The overall message from the panel was very positive, discussing the new opportunities available for women, and how inspiring it is to see women in a range of roles in Animation and VFX. One audience member stated “Inspiring words for next gen female animators, film students and passionate digital creators. (@TraceyMayHowes).
Animated Women UK was founded in 2013 by Lindsay Watson, and exists to positively support, represent, celebrate and encourage women in the animation and VFX industries in the UK. They aim to change the gender landscape by building a vibrant network that facilitates mentoring, knowledge exchange and education resulting in women fulfilling their potential. Find out more about Animated Women UK and the Helen North Programme here: http://www.animatedwomenuk.com/membership/