In the UK Screen Alliance and Animation UK’s 2019 report looking into inclusion and diversity in the UK’s VFX, animation and post-production sectors, it was found that women make up 34% of the VFX workforce. A rather dour statistic, especially when delving deeper, looking at the disparity of women in leadership roles and from the BAME community.
Animation tells a more positive story, with women representing 46% of the animation community.
From looking at data and the obvious lack of women in creative tech roles, especially seen in VFX, it is without doubt more must be done from a grassroots level. Raising awareness from an early age, and showing young girls that STEAM subjects are accessible is imperative.
We know how important it is to have role models. That’s why in celebration of International Women's Day, we had a chat with some of our fantastic women at Jellyfish Pictures; Emma Walsh, Production Supervisor, Alba Barrusio, Groom Artist, Sofia Caldeira, Lead Layout Artist and Amber Ducker, Producer. Take a read of the below to hear from the women who have excelled in a heavily dominated male industry, as they share their female career inspirations, female heroes growing up, how to change the status quo and advice to women.
Who were your female heroes growing up?
Emma Walsh: I find inspiration from what is in front of me, growing up I found my local youth club leader an inspiration, she led the Duke of Edinburgh group so well; always making it focused and fun.
Sofia Caldeira: My mother and sister were always strong positive influences for me growing up. They inspired and supported me in my journey to make my dream come true.
Outside my household, I actually had to think twice about this question. At the time, there were not many visible women in influential or power positions, so I felt my options were narrowed to public figures from film/music or fictional characters. I am happy that the younger generations have Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, Michele Obama, Amanda Gorman and many others to inspire them nowadays. Nevertheless, I remember feeling inspired by the work done by Angelina Jolie as Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In the Fictional world, Hermione Granger and Lara Croft were superb examples of strong, intelligent and independent women that I adored.
What could change the current status quo with women in VFX and animation?
Alba Barriuso: I am lucky to work in a company where there are quite a lot of women. I think it is just a matter of time, I keep seeing every day more and more women working in the VFX/Animation industry.
Emma Walsh: More diversity at the top of organisations, please! It provides more role models for people to look up to.
Amber Ducker: Unfortunately, Women are a minority when it comes to VFX and Animation, especially within the artist pool. When I started, I would say 90% of the artists were men and there were rarely any female leads, supervisors or women in leadership/company director roles. It has been recognised throughout the industry and there’s a lot of courses, events and groups which aim to inspire and encourage women to learn the craft of animation, FX, compositing etc. There is still a way to go but it is slowly changing, and I’ve seen the positive change over the last 10 years. I’ve recently been lucky to work alongside some great female artists, leads, supervisors as well as directors and supervisors on the production side. Who knows…maybe in another 10 years boys club will have become girls club?!
Sofia Caldeira: In recent years we have seen a big drive to introduce the VFX and Animation industry to girls and young women as a career option, and hopefully we can see that reflected in the increased number of female applicants for entry jobs. So now it’s the time for the industry to work on how to retain this talent. Some important questions that need to be asked at the top level of VFX and Animations studios are: Are we biased in hiring women vs men if they display intention of having children in the near future, or have small children that might demand reduced work hours? Do we welcome women back to work if they were on leave for a whole year, or will this be a turn off for recruitment?
Needless to say that offering a stable work environment with long-term contracts and without the need to continuously relocate would ensure that, in the long term, this is a career worth pursuing.
What advice would you give to someone following a similar path to you?
Amber Ducker: My advice to anyone wanting to follow a similar path to me is to start in a junior role (reception, runner, assistant, coffee maker for example!) and work your way up. 12 years ago I didn’t know anything about animation, visual effects or production until I spent a couple of years on reception at a VFX house immersing myself in every aspect of the company, listening to everything and taking it all in. In my opinion, production isn’t something you can learn from a textbook or through school. Real experience picked up on the job is key. You must be prepared to work as part of a team in a busy and constantly changing environment, multitask, problem solves, work under pressure, manage tight deadlines, listen and be patient!
Sofia Caldeira: If you just graduated and are looking for a first job, make sure to attend industry events and network, show your face, make sure people know your name and your work. Once in the industry, work hard and keep your skills up to date. Be kind to your colleagues but never turn a blind eye for things you don’t think are correct. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Emma Walsh: There is a lot of support out there, I joined Woman In Animation last year and have made some awesome connections through their mentorship group, they also have lots of great resources online.
Alba Barriuso: Keep working hard. Try to be up to date, as every day there are new software and techniques to learn.
Who are your female career inspirations?
Alba Barriuso: My colleagues. Throughout my career, I have found other women working side by side with me and are always willing to offer advice. They have walked the same path I have and at that time they were kind of what I wanted to become. They were a big inspiration for me, proving that I could do what they had already done.
Sofia Caldeira: Unfortunately, in this industry, we don’t find many women in senior or supervising roles. So even though I have had extremely talented female colleagues, I will expand this answer to filmmakers in general. I strongly admire the work of film directors Julie Taymor and Patty Jenkins, particularly their portrayal of two powerful female icons: Frida Khalo and Wonder Woman, respectively. They understood their depth and importance in a way that I believe only women could have done. Additionally, I feel extremely inspired by the work of Ava DuVernay, not only as a director but as a powerful voice against social injustice. Recently, she used her influence to found Array, independent film distribution and resource collective dedicated to the amplification of independent films by people of colour and women filmmakers globally. Throughout my career, I hope I can also help amplify women's voices and support them in this industry.