It’s no secret that women have for many years been under-represented in animation, visual effects, and cg production. But a number of events, including the upcoming VIEW Conference in Italy, are aiming to buck that trend and highlight the growing contribution of women in these industries.
Now in its 18th year, VIEW will feature as always several of the world’s top directors, animators, supervisors, producers, and artists. Women working in these fields will be heavily represented, including from big studios such as Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, and Sony Pictures Animation, and from a raft of other vfx and animation studios, independent outfits, and technology and software providers.
Cartoon Brew previews some of the talks being headlined by women at VIEW – running from October 23 to 27 in Turin – and we talk to conference director Prof. Maria Elena Gutierrez about her take on women in the visual effects and animation industries.
Before Gutierrez ran VIEW, she was herself a researcher in film studies, including at Stanford University and the State University of New York. Both as an academic and in her conference curation, Gutierrez has been conscious of the changing role of women in animation, cg, and vfx.
“Women in this industry are often in less visible, supporting roles,” Gutierrez told Cartoon Brew. “But I am seeing more women rising to supervisory levels, to positions that invite more public recognition. In the past they were less likely than men to study science and technology, which obviously posed a problem for a sector that is largely tech-driven, but many universities are now encouraging women to move in that direction, and this is producing an impact.”
Gutierrez says she feels it is important to “make sure the powerful, creative women in this industry are included at events like VIEW.” A look through the program reveals several notable films and projects being presented on by the women leading them.
Production designer Noelle Triaureau is headlining two sessions on Sony Pictures Animations’ Smurfs: The Lost Village. The first is a workshop on color symbolism and design, and the second is a broader making-of session, in which she’ll be joined by visual effects supervisor Mike Ford. Triaureau previously worked at Sony on films including Surf’s Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania.
Director Cinzia Angelini is also anchoring two talks at VIEW. She is behind the cg animated short Mila, a film about the impact of war that’s also notable for being an online collaborative effort between around 350 artists from 35 countries. Angelini is delivering a talk on the film and a workshop at VIEW about how to become a story artist.
Regular VIEW attendee Kim White, who is a director of photography at Pixar, will be showcasing the lighting work on Cars 3 at the conference. White has been at Pixar since 1997, which means she’s worked on everything from A Bugs Life to Inside Out, and of course this latest Cars incarnation; this film took full advantage of RenderMan’s new RIS ray tracing properties.
Vicki Dobbs Beck is the executive in charge at Industrial Light & Magic’s immersive, vr, ar, and mixed reality division ILMxLAB. A lot has been happening with ILMxLAB, especially related to Lucasfilm and Disney’s Star Wars properties. Dobbs Beck will be looking at just some of these projects the division has shown off so far, and she’s also part of a ‘Future of Storytelling’ panel with visual effects supervisors and other immersive studio heads.
Maureen Fan is the CEO and co-founder of Baobab Studios, a vr studio that has quickly made its name in bringing traditional animation concepts to immersive worlds. Their projects include Invasion!, Asteroids!, and Rainbow Crow. Fan’s talk at VIEW is entitled ‘A Girl Crying on a Park Bench…’ and will deal with the empathy that vr films might be able to provide that games and traditional narrative films can’t.
Elaina Scott is the animation supervisor on The CW’s Supergirl, and her role at Encore Hollywood also involves animation on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. She’s presenting a workshop about previs animation and another talk specifically on the challenges of episodic television with Supergirl.
Simone Kraus is the CEO and animation supervisor at Trixter, a visual effects studio in Germany that has made its name of late by working on some crucial scenes in several Marvel films. One of the most recent is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Kraus will be part of the keynote on this film at VIEW.
These are just some of the women presenting at VIEW – for the full list of speakers head to the VIEW website. In addition to more women working in the industry and presenting on their work each year at VIEW, the number of women attending the conference has also increased, according to Gutierrez.
“As with any conference targeting computer graphics, visual effects, and animation, the men outnumber the women in the audience, but I’m seeing more and more female students and young professionals attending VIEW Conference each year, which is wonderful. We are getting closer to a 50-50 balance.”
And of course, it’s not just VIEW where women in visual effects, animation, and computer graphics have been finding more recognition. Other events such as SIGGRAPH, Spark Animation, and FMX have featured female presenters and held special panels to highlight the expanded roles that women play. A number of groups such as Women in Animation and Women in Visual Effects have also been highlighting and advocating female representation.
Gutierrez hopes this recognition will increase even further. “There is a huge need for a women-centered viewpoint in the industry, starting with storytelling, and this means that there are more opportunities for young women than one may perceive from outside.”