International Women's Day 2017

International Women's Day

Women in the Creative Industries #BeBoldForChange

We're really proud of the achievements of the women we work with in the Creative Industries.  Many of our female Escapees have worked on inspiring projects including Dr Strange, Beauty and the Beast and Inside Out, so what better time to celebrate their successes, than on International Women's Day 2017!

We asked our Head of Compositing Davi Stein, who has worked on The Matrix trilogy, and some of our female Escapee's to share their thoughts on women in the VFX, Animation and Games industries.

Davi Stein - Head of Compositing 

Thoughts on the future of VFX?

The VFX industry is changing so fast technically and creatively. The software now can give artists incredible tools that manifest our wildest creative thoughts into visual masterpieces. Thus, the needs of companies is changing just as fast. They don't want button pushers.  They want creatives who can express their ideas and deliver innovative visuals. So I see VFX getting more experimental and visually more varied. VFX is already an integral part of VR/AR/MR and will grow dramatically into new mediums which will be very exciting as that technology advances. 

What are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the VFX industry?

I sense there is still some pay inequality. The gap has narrowed which is great. Hence I hope that a women can be considered for a technical position just as equally as a man and be paid the equivalent. Also flexible hours is a programme that has worked well for some VFX companies when a mother, or even a father, want to share in raising a family. I have known mothers who partake in a shared work scheme both working part-time and sharing the project responsibilities, thus balancing well family needs and work deadlines. It would be great to hear of more companies that can support that program. 

What was your breakthrough project?

My career boost was working on 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions'.
Creatively and technically it was a fabulous project to be a part of. There was a great sense of camaraderie and creative drive in all the artists to make it look outstanding. I learned many new techniques from colleagues which raised my skill level on feature films in a short time.  The team and the project really inspired me to reach for high standards and push the boundaries in VFX at the time. 

Have you had any mentors along the way?

I've had several mentors throughout my career.  Early on, I learned all of my technical broadcast skills from an engineer who recognised my dedication in learning the craft and putting the extra hours to study and practice new skills. Later on, I had a fabulous mentor who really guided me in understanding and learning all skills related to VFX including artistically, technically and from a VFX producer's perspective too. I had lots of encouragement and support to keep learning and trying new things. I am very grateful for their guidance. 

Who inspires you?

All types of people inspire me, men and women, young and old. I am inspired by people who keep pushing their boundaries to excel at their creative talents. Those that are hungry for knowledge and pursue their dreams by working through the obstacles also inspire me. My inspiration also comes from those that help and willingly learn from each other. This industry is all about team effort and life is too.  So the more we support each other, the cooler the creative art shines and the more fun we have reaching that goal. 

Industry Partner - The Mill

The Mill are actively involved in increasing diversty in the creative industries.

"We began talking about the importance of inclusion at The Mill early 2016 on the back of our collaboration with Next Gen Skills Academy and Animated Women UK - namely the Aspiring Women professional development programme. As we delved further we became acutely aware of our own shortfalls in representing ‘difference’ at our studio, in particular the lack of women and black and minority ethnic employees in senior creative and technical roles. We concluded that as a world-leading content creation studio, building an inclusive culture is a no-brainer if we are to retain our position both from a creative and commercial perspective.  Our Diversity and Inclusion strategy was therefore born and is now fully embedded into the culture of The Mill. It means we host a number of events, panels and programmes so as to further drive awareness industry wide. The ‘Be Bold for Change’ panel is an extension of this and one that we are very excited about. Diversity + Inclusion = Creativity."

Simon Devereux, Group Head of L&D

The Mill

Holly Pickering - Games Artist

Who inspires you?

I'm inspired by most things and actively chose to not limit myself to games. I'm inspired by game makers doing great and experimental things, film makers, musicians, interior designers and architects. I'm a big believer in taking inspiration and learning lessons from all types of creative fields. Having a wide knowledge outside of your own discipline gives you a bigger pool to pull from in your own work and help you solve problems in new and exciting ways that no one may have thought of.That said, if I had to pick an individual who has inspired me, I would have to say Jade Raymond. I know for a lot of women my age she was a huge influence. So many of us were amazed by her showing of Assassin's Creed at E3 in 2006. She really stuck out as someone to break the hyper male world that was E3 at the time. Which for so many of us was our only view into the games industry at the time. Something clicked inside me that maybe this could be something I could do as well; seeing her made me feel like I had permission to follow my passion for how games and turn it into my career. Since then I've attended a talk on Jade's  work at BAFTA and she was truly inspiring. It is no wonder she has been leading studios for many years now and acted as a beacon for so many of us.

What are your thoughts on the future of Games?

Games are beginning to break out of genre tropes. Either by making new ones or creating things that are more experiential than about "winning" in the traditional sense. These open games up to people who don't label themselves as gamers. But also gives more depth of experience to those of us that have been playing games for a long time. Another advance has come with the introduction of home systems for virtual reality. VR has the capability to add to the experiential games on a whole new level. Being able to transport players into the game world can create a very immersive experience that has a greater impact on the players than single screen play we are used to. As we learn how to use the technology, and providing it becomes more affordable and more main-stream, we'll have the chance to make a huge impact with how games are made and consumed in the future. Hopefully leading to a deeper dialogue between game makers and players.

What are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the Games industry?

For me personally, it has been fighting the internal misogyny we all have. Whether that's underestimating my fellow women, I have done this myself and it's important to recognise when you do this and examine why you had those thoughts. So often, it is just our gut speaking to what society has led us to believe, rather than anything to do with that person's actual capabilities.

What was your break-through project?

The current project I am working on is the first project as an Art Director, taking on a lot more responsibility than my previous roles as an Artist. It's a very ambitious game and I'm personally really impressed with what we have been able to do so far. More information about the game can be found at bradwellelectronics.com, with more details coming soon! 

Have you had any mentors along the way?

Leads and other artists I have worked with throughout my career so far, have all been people to learn from. The most impactful mentor I have had is Georg Backer who is the Game Director on our current project. He has let me have a lot of freedom within the project to contribute and has helped me when I've struggled with learning how to manage others. His support and belief in my ability has really pulled me through development, especially the really tough times.

Kim Bryde - Producer 

Thoughts on the future of VFX?

Technology is developing at an exponential rate, and I'm going to have to jump on the bandwagon and say VR! While I'm unsure of its practical use in advertising, I think it could be an interesting way to view film for a full 360 degree experience, both literally and figuratively!

What was your breakthrough project?

In October 2015 at Smoke, New York, I worked with Saatchi & Saatchi to produce a series of adverts for Walmart's "Greenlight A Vet" campaign. Featuring exclusively real-life veterans of the US military, the spots encouraged consumers to raise veteran awareness by purchasing green lightbulbs from Walmart and placing them in their front windows, thereby "shining a light" on our country's often unsung heroes. In American literature, the colour green often represents hope and progress, hence the campaign's motif. The spot was even nominated for a couple of Webby awards!

Who inspires you?

Our EP of Creative Production here at Smoke London, Donna Head. While I was the new kid on the block upon moving back to London this fall, she made me feel so welcome and has been a great source of support. Her warmth, humour, and post-production pedigree have inspired me to pay it forward - I'm now always looking for rising production assistants to groom into producers by teaching them about specs, software, and client services. The earlier they learn, the better producers they'll be! This initiative definitely stemmed from the way Donna's helped me.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

Surprisingly enough, my mentor comes from a different industry entirely - the financial consulting sector! Her name is Tania Neild, and she gave me my first production job out of college wherein I supported the video arm of her company. I did everything from editing to research to client services, to even babysitting her four kids! She's been a source of tireless support and has become a close friend, constantly providing me with guidance and advice even after I moved on from her company to Smoke & Mirrors. Every time I'm back in New York we carve out some time to catch up!

Laura Macfayden - Matte Painter

Thoughts on the future of VFX?

I believe there will always be visual effects there for creating beautiful cinematic spectacles. As technology advances and techniques improve I think the level of storytelling using visual effects will become more and more immersive, really making the audience feel as though it is real, that they could reach out and touch it.

What are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the VFX industry?

The VFX industry is male dominant, however I do not feel this affects me personally in any way, I work hard to prove my worth and I feel I am treated just as well as any of my male counterparts. There are also strong female influences in high-up roles that I find very influential.

What was your breakthrough project?

My first project that allowed me to show what I could do and get my probationary contract extended to a rolling contract was Winter's Tale starring Colin Farrell.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

Not mentors per se, I build on all the great talent around me and learn what I can from everyone! It's important for me to have a good team around me who are open to sharing and helping to build on each person’s individual skills.

Who inspires you?

I've had a few people along my professional journey that have inspired me, I look up to their management skills and team building qualities and aspire to build on those qualities myself. I hope I do them justice!

Catarina Goncalves - Compositor

Thoughts on the future of VFX?

People are always requesting and pushing for more. There's a lot of things that us as humans can't do or would put our lives in danger and as such, the push for digi doubles and new characters will never cease to exist.

What are the biggest challeneges of being a woman in VFX?

I'm a Roto Prep Artist and I've had no trouble being a female VFX Artist. You sometimes get underestimated, but I guess that's because I look fairly young. It's always nice to prove that you know what you're doing.

What was your breakthrough project?


My breakthrough project was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. With the amount of CG needed the work was plentiful and super exciting!