News 25.11.21

PARTNERS IN STORYTELLING SPOTLIGHT: MEET THE WOMEN OF MR. X ADELAIDE

Our Partners in Storytelling Spotlight is a new series of interviews that celebrates creative talent within MR. X

For our first spotlight session, we sat down with six inspirational women at our Adelaide studio; three in leadership positions, and three graduates of our Technicolor Academy. We discuss what inspired them to pursue a career within VFX, share advice for the next generation of women wanting to join, and take us through their thoughts on diversity & inclusion within the creative industry.

There has rightfully been a real call, for more diversity and inclusion within VFX. Have you noticed changes? And do you have advice for ways the industry could improve further?

Sunny Munn, Lighting lead:
The switch to work from home (WFH) since the start of the pandemic has been a powerful lesson in how suddenly old ways of thinking and doing things can be overturned when the will exists to make a change. Since the work of caring (for children, parents, sick family members) still falls disproportionately on women, the added flexibility of WFH is a huge opportunity to bring many talented women back into the industry who may not be able to commit to full-time work in the office.

Eleni Taylor, Lighting Lead:
I have been working in the industry on and off for almost 15 years now, so in that time I have seen a huge change. At the beginning of my career, it was very rare to come across a female VFX artist and this has obviously changed quite dramatically.

I think previously becoming a mother meant women in VFX almost had to put their careers on hold and it made it hard to be able to advance into more senior roles. I think the realisation that more flexibility is needed and having the ability to Work From Home has meant that parents can have that balance and confidence to further their careers. This has been the most dramatic change for me.

Kaylee Boden, 3DDMP Artist (3D Digital Matte Painting):
I honestly feel that MR.X has a lot of diversity here, it’s so amazing meeting people that are from all corners of the world.  There are also so many talented women in our studio, it’s so great to see the departments be 50/50 men and women! I feel that the industry has been doing a great job to have more diversity and inclusion, though I would love to see studios help celebrate holidays and events that aren’t common here in Australia but are important to others from overseas.

Hsin-Yi Fan-Chiang, Lighting Artist:
I have been lucky in my personal experiences within the VFX industry. The level I work at has been rich with people from diverse backgrounds. I have worked with people from around the world, people with different cultural backgrounds, and from many different walks of life. I have been very fortunate to have worked in teams that have held inclusivity at their heart, and social and networking events have always catered to all employees.

However, the creative industry and the artistic world thrive on the many varied perspectives of people from every walk of life and all corners of the world.

Courtney Whitaker, 3DDMP Artist:
I haven’t worked in the industry long enough to notice changes, however, walking into MR. X (formerly Mill Film) the company already feels as diverse and inclusive as you can get!
However, there are a couple of ways in which I think the industry could improve further; one of those would be increasing support for families and understanding that a person’s family generally comes first!

Another is the protection of individual beliefs, whether it be religious or personal. This is quite quickly becoming a serious issue with the increased segregation currently happening in Australia and all around the globe, and I am personally already experiencing the effects of this in the workplace. Freedom of choice is an extremely important aspect of an individual to respect and uphold.

Hazel Gow, Lighting Lead:
There is a broader representation of marginalized groups in the industry than ever before, which is fantastic and inspiring to see we have to be prudent to ensure further representation continues to be based on merit rather than quota. Moving forward, I believe inclusivity is about treating everyone with the same level of respect and expectation, all genders and identities alike. It’s exciting to be in the industry during these times of progression!

Any advice for the next generation of women wanting to join the VFX industry?

Sunny: Say yes to every new opportunity and work really hard to make the most of them.

Eleni: It’s something that I have only just figured out recently, but it is possible to have a family, be a great mum and also have a career in the visual effects Industry. I put my career on hold for quite some time because I lacked the confidence to ask for flexibility in my role. It’s important to ask for that flexibility so that you can balance your career in VFX and your role as a parent. This advice is important for any parent, not just women.

Kaylee: My advice is to go for it! If you’re thinking about applying don’t hesitate, there is so much opportunity and growth in the industry. Plus, there are so many helpful and talented people to learn from that will help you improve along the way.

Hsin-Yi: Trying to find your way may feel quite hard in the beginning, but don’t get discouraged if it is something you enjoy and are passionate about. With a little perseverance, and a great team (family, friends, and teachers) supporting you, things will become easier. Always give it your all and try your best. Be willing to learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid to turn to your peers for advice.

The creative industry is about working together to create the unimaginable. Practice and always ask for feedback. Your own eyes can only take you so far. Seeking constructive and critical feedback is imperative to learning how to better your work. Being willing to put aside pride and listen to feedback is an important step forward to bettering your skillset.

Courtney: Always trust your intuition and know when to say “no”!

Hazel: Stay diligent and let your work be the advocate for who you are as an artist.

Women of Mr X. L-R: Kaylee Boden, Courtney Whitaker, Eleni Taylor, Hsin-Yi Fan-Chiang , Sunny Munn, Hazel Gow.

What do you enjoy most about working within the VFX industry in Australia?

Sunny: I started my VFX career in Canada and we have only just returned to Australia. Without a doubt, so far the highlight has been all of the positive, friendly, interesting people I’ve met here at Mr.X, and the opportunity to further my career in such a laid-back, livable city as Adelaide.

Eleni: I enjoy the diversity of the people you come across. People from all parts of Australia and the world. But I also love that the industry is small enough that you always cross path with familiar faces.

Kaylee: The thing I enjoy most is the people. We are so lucky in Australia to have people come and work here from all over the world. It’s incredible meeting so many unique people that all share the same passion.

Hsin-Yi: Definitely the people.

“You meet so many different people, and despite our different backgrounds and experiences, we all ended up where we are because of our shared love of art. It’s always interesting to learn the different roads someone took to enter the industry and what their personal motivations are. My team is full of so many different talents, and I’m always learning new techniques or approaches to styling my work. That’s the beauty of working in art, everyone’s perspective is different, and from those differences comes an infinite ocean of skill to pull from. Couple this with the friendly Australian culture, and I have a job that I look forward to each day.”

Hsin-Yi Fan-Chiang

Courtney: I was born and raised in rural Australia, in fact, I still live rural to this day and so, my favourite part of working in VFX are the diverse people I work with. I love meeting with people who come from different cultural backgrounds and listening to their stories. The people I work with are always pushing me to be a better version of myself and I hope to do the same for them!

Hazel: I love the diversity of people that I’ve met working in Australia and the ability to have a good work/life balance.

What’s been your favourite project to work on?

Sunny: I was in the Animation department at MPC Montreal while we were making Call of the Wild. It’s my favourite project so far because it’s my five-year-old son’s favourite!

Eleni: My favourite project so far has definitely been Finch. Such a fun project with the most amazing team.

Kaylee: So far, my favourite project I’ve worked on is Love and Monsters. This project was one of my first major films and where I fell in love with the industry. I learnt so much about VFX and was taught by some incredible people. Love and Monsters was also my first credit, and I was so excited to see my name on the big screen for the first time.

Hsin-Yi: That would probably be Finch. It was the first film I worked on when I started working in VFX. It was a great first project. It showed me just what to expect as a lighting artist in the VFX industry. The feedback from review session meetings really helped me fine-tune my work in those early days. It also carried a little bit of that magic, that sense of wonder that came with the idea of working in “showbiz”.

Courtney: I thoroughly enjoyed working on Finch during my time with Mill Film. Finch was my first major production, and it will always be the one I remember the most. I still get teary-eyed when I think about the amazing people that I worked with. Finch pushed me out of my comfort zone!

Hazel: The very first project I worked on was a slate of full CGI episodes to accompany the Halo 4 Spartan ops game mode – I hold this project very dear to my heart as it was a franchise I was fully immersed in and the team on the project was full of inspirational artists and leaders from whom I learned an incredible amount.