Leading Women of Cinesite

 

March 8 is International Women’s Day — a day dedicated to celebrating women and their achievements. To mark the day, we’re celebrating remarkable women, across our studios.

Niovi Phinopoulou, Generalist/ Groom Artist

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
The idea of empowerment for me is a combination of individual success, being independent and receiving support to succeed. Having independence as an individual financially & emotionally enables you to succeed in your environment. 
 
What is your greatest achievement?
So far making it out as an artist. Even though I had my parents’ full support I don’t think my family believed I could make a living as an artist 😛 
 
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
Maya Angelou – she is from a different time but her story, work and words are so inspiring- coming from a time of segregation, facing a lot of troubles yet she didn’t conform to the shoulds and shouldn’ts of her time, and went on her own path to achieve greatness.

Also – even if it sounds cheesy-  I’d say my mum. As an adult working now I see how she was working hard to make a difference, when she was told she wouldn’t be promoted because she was a woman she fought to get the position she deserved, and somehow somewhere in between she managed to raise a whole family (with the support of my dad and grandparents). 

What skills are essential to be a great leader?
I’d say most essential is communication – being able to communicate with the people who surround you about what needs to be done, listening to your team but also making your point; understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and the people you work with and acting accordingly to make the most of every opportunity. I’d also say persuasion and confidence in what you do and say – as a leader you’ll need to make decisions and stand by them – and have people listening/following without questioning every step . Unfortunately, women, generally speaking, tend to be questioned about their (leadership) shills a lot more than men, so confidence in your own skills and knowledge is essential – and grow a thick skin!
 
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
Keep trying. And when you fall and hurt and bleed, get up and try again! Nothing will be handed to you unless you ask for it 🙂

 

Tamara Boutcher, Head of Production Feature Animation

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
That everyone’s voice is heard.  You are empowered if you feel that the community listens to your point of view
 
What is your greatest achievement?
 I feel achievement every day and my greatest is still to come.
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
Any woman who can persevere and succeed with achieving their dreams is admirable.
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
 A person who listens and then builds consensus with their team and then trusts the team to implement those decisions.  Having a sense of humour helps!
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
That everyone should have an equal chance to demonstrate their talent.

Ellie Follows, CG Generalist 

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
My idea of empowerment is seeing my work recognised, hearing my ideas listened to.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
I carved a career out for myself from a standing start, making my own contacts in a notoriously difficult industry for women.
 
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for her chutzpah, but mostly my mother who is the deputy bureau chief of CBS News, one of the worlds’ most powerful news organisations; she defines the term boss b****!
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
Skills that are essential to be a great leader is to listen, give credit where credit is due and to lift up everyone around you so they feel inspired and motivated.
 
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
Do not be afraid to speak louder and do not be apologetic for it.

Nathalie Girard, Head of 2D VFX

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
Having a voice that can be understood and taken seriously. Get women to work together in a collaborative way and join forces to make changes that matter and that will be applied in the VFX and Entertainment industry. “Partnership” is a word to use every day, it should be something that people get in tune with and apply to their vocabulary.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
 Being a mother and having a healthy caring boy is the first thing that come to mind. Having a successful marriage and loving family. Having a fulfilling career that has brought me great changes throughout my life. Being able to have lived in California and apply my VFX passion to a job that I love.
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
I must say my mother, was a great influence in my life.  She was always an example of how woman can be strong, loving, passionate and just how to be a woman.  My mother was combative in a very positive way.  She lived through a lot in her life, being born during the Second World War and losing her father to the war. She lived in South Africa for seven years without seeing her parents during that war and decided to immigrate to Canada by herself in the 60’s. Nevertheless, she ended up building an outstanding career as a Physiotherapist.
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
 Have a clear view of what you want to achieve in your career.  Set yourself goals, and find the best positive ways to get there.
Having a team who is behind you and supports what you want to change – an being supportive of this team. Thank people around you – let them know when they are working hard and that you are noticing their hard work. Finally, be firm on the result but flexible on the way to obtain it.
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
It’s a vast, creative, challenging and stimulating world. So many options are there to provide great variety in a long career. The VFX and Feature Animation world is a field with a huge diversity of people that work together to create exceptional images that can be seen throughout the world by millions of people!

Anne-Sofie Tholander, Compositor 

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment to me is having confidence and not being afraid to fail and make mistakes.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
Moving to a different country to follow my dream of becoming a VFX artist.
 
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
Sara Bennett, who I was so lucky to have as a mentor while participating in NextGen’s Aspiring Women career programme which is aimed at women in film, games and VFX.
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
Honesty, integrity, confidence, the ability to inspire others, commitment, passion, being good at communicating, being able to make decisions, accountability, delegation, empowerment, creativity, innovation and empathy.
 
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
Don’t let worries and insecurities hold you back and be assertive about what you want. The main thing I hear women worry about is how to be a VFX artist and be able to have a family at the same time. If women hold back from going into VFX because of these things the situation will never change, as there will be no one to challenge the way things are now. The change starts with us.

 

Julie McDonald, VFX Producer

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment for me is closely tied to the ability to speak truthfully and accurately, especially in difficult situations. Being able to speak the truth about a situation, kindly but with incisive ideas, taking into account each person’s contribution with respect. I work to stretch my personal empowerment to include all team members giving special consideration to the challenges of a show, the financial reality and the demands of the marketplace. I believe deeply in co-creating success by empowering myself “with” others.  Empowerment is best achieved when a group of people are working together as true collaborators. The ability to listen well, and to maintain composure when addressing problems helps to encourage others to be truly empowered. Ethical and smart empowerment helps companies grow and achieve success.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
I had already worked for NASA when I was hired by John Lasseter, Bonnie Arnold and Steve Jobs on Toy Story 1, but contributing to TS1 was a fantastic experience, along with the entire team at Pixar Animation Studios. We created something totally new, for the very first time.  We launched an entire industry and created many careers. So, in terms of film achievements, this remains a top success.  Personally, as a Producer, making the investment in my own education by getting my MBA, and raising my family is also something I’m proud of. I knew that to excel as an ethical leader I needed more education about how companies make decisions in a fast-paced world. The ability to remain kind and compassionate, while being a strong leader is my continued goal. Guiding a team towards success and positive well-being is a great achievement I continue to strive for. We do not have to sacrifice our well-being for revenue. We can achieve both.
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
I admire Sonia Sotomayor, United States Supreme Court Justice, because she came from a challenging background without a lot of privilege. She is a woman of color who has risen above her challenges to be a strong leader in the US. In our own industry Bonnie Arnold, former Head of Animation at DreamWorks, remains an inspiration to me and had been my mentor for many decades.  Bonnie is a focused leader who seeks solutions and has never lost her ability to connect with each crew member. Jinko Gotoh, Producer is a woman who elevates other women in our industry and builds strong networks of support and education. Jinko is generous with her time.
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
Primary skill to be a great leader is to be able to listen while applying analytic and quantitative reasoning to problems. Taking those skills, of listening and adding incisive and analytic skills will empower strong decision making. Teams appreciate leaders who can make tough decisions and handle the emotional experience of having to make a hard decision, and still be present and communicative with the team. 
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
The world is changing fast in very positive and meaningful ways for women, no matter our age. Do not hesitate to dream as big as you wish.  Be courageous, be bold.  You do not need someone outside of yourself to say, “You are allowed to succeed”.  Empower yourself with skills, education, mentors and tools and take the next step. Do not neglect the details of learning the tools used in Animation and VFX. Write to HR departments for guidance.  Companies are always looking for motivated and vibrant team members.  Join Women in VFX or Women in Animation and start to talk openly about your goals.  You will find helpers showing up along the way. When the voice of doubt becomes too loud in your mind, take a rest, but only a rest.  Do not stop until you are where you want to be.  There is no external reason to stop yourself. If you are already working, look around to see who you can help to meet their goals.  Keep your eyes and ears wide open.  Remain open minded and kind.

Jenn Epstein, Senior Compositor 

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
Being able to value yourself and know your worth in the face of obstacles while never allowing failure to defeat your sense of purpose.  Sometimes it’s hard to push through adversity, but even if things don’t work out the first time at the very least you learn a lesson and there is so much to gain if things work out. My mother gave me some advice when I was first starting out in the vfx industry when I was nervous about asking for a promotion. She told me “All they can say is no and you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t asked in the first place. So what do you have to lose.”
 
What is your greatest achievement?
Following and accomplishing the dream of being a compositor on films.
 
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Definitely can’t keep her down!
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
Valuing others opinions, being open to alternate ideas you might not of thought of and delegating and trusting your team.
 

Marie-Claude Chauvette, Head of HR & Recruiting, Montreal 

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
To me, empowerment means providing the leadership, guidance and support to help others become independent and developed in their careers. Individuals are empowered through positive reinforcement, through the genuine belief that they can achieve success and through providing them with the tools to do so.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
One of the achievements in my career that I’m the proudest of is to have built such an amazing and strong team here at Cinesite, both studio-wide and for my own department. Contributing to the growth in a studio is an incredible experience with many challenges and learning opportunities! I was lucky enough to find talented, professional and devoted people to successfully handle this growth with me, and to have fun along the way!
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
What I admire are specific personality traits and achievements of many exceptional women I have had the chance to cross paths with have inspired me to persevere, to cultivate a positive environment, to shift my perspectives (see difficulties as challenges, see failures as learning experience) and to always look ahead, the future is bright!

 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
A great leader shows integrity and humility, fosters trusting relationships, empowers others, has the ability to inspire and motivate, and creates a positive and collaborative atmosphere.
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX or Feature Animation?
Keep pushing yourself to excel professionally and trust yourself! We need you!

 

 

Sabine Janetzka, Senior Compositor 

What does the idea of empowerment mean to you?
Equality and support for any artist who seeks to succeed and I hope for greater unity in the future.
 
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is being authentic as a teacher and honest as an artist. As a teacher it’s a balancing act of communication to keep people interested in the content whilst cultivating talent. Being a mentor made me more open when receiving feedback and it taught me awareness and how important it is to approach different levels of skill in various ways. Ultimately I want them to succeed and have fun on that journey to success. I strongly believe enjoying what you do is key to being successful in any craft.
 
Which influential woman do you admire the most?
My mum, because she taught me that it’s your actions rather than your gender that matter. She always assured me I could learn anything and succeed so long as I did it with honesty and kindness.
 
What skills are essential to be a great leader?
A great leader to me is someone who is open to ideas and treats everyone fairly. They need to have an understanding that every artist comes with a unique mindset and adapt’s to situations differently.  A good leader can also can share knowledge and is approachable and inclusive to all team members. They must also have the strength to address problems and start looking for solutions with a target orientated mind. Lastly, he or she has their teams back and is aware that success is team effort!
On this International Women‘s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers in VFX?
Be the change you want to see! Go and create, practise and learn as much as you can from different sources. If  you have the chance to study / learn in different countries do so. If you have to stay in your local area – try to learn from as many artists as you can. And always stay open to new techniques or approaches. Be patient with yourself and don’t shy away if you have to address an issue. Do it in a constructive way. Be kind, be open! 
 

 ~Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.~

Helen Keller

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