Tell us about your role at The Mill
I’m the head of learning and development, which means I’m responsible for building our learning strategy, plus I design, develop and deliver a training curriculum for the group. In 2016, I was tasked with working on a diversity and inclusion strategy for The Mill that grew into the global industry movement that we now call ACCESS:VFX.
What are your main focuses right now?
Now that we’re well into February, the A:VFX team are currently gearing up for four days at the Birmingham NEC Big Bang Science Fair in March that attracts 80,000 people. We hope to inspire young people aged between 7 and 17 from across the UK to pursue visual effects and creative technology as a career. We’re also planning our second annual Animation Summer School, an ACCESS:VFX event designed to get parents and families convinced on the viability of creative careers, equipping them with the knowledge on where their children can channel their creative leanings. Along with a range of other action-focused outreach events, continuing to grow our global e-mentoring platform and focusing on our bi-weekly podcast is going to make it a busy 2020!
You’ve just been nominated for the Visionary Honours 2020 ‘Community Person of The Year’ award (congrats!), what are you involved in that has led to this happening?
Being nominated for something like this is an incredible honour, which for me acknowledges the action-based work the wider ACCESS:VFX team does throughout the year. A:VFX is truly a team-effort, I just happen to be the Founder and Director, and as much as being nominated for a gong like this is amazing, I’m more excited about the platform The Visionary Arts Foundation have given ACCESS:VFX by putting us in the running. This is the first award nomination for our work, and our first interaction with the Foundation who have taken notice of our actions on generating true inclusion and connection for people.
You’re on the board at Access VFX, tell us about the importance of this non-profit?
ACCESS:VFX is an industry movement unlike no other! We’ve managed to mobilise the visual effects, animation and games industry and unite a group of 50+ competitors under a one shared goal: to increase inclusion, diversity, awareness and opportunity within our creative industry. Our strategy as a unit of nearly 200 industry peers is to simply ‘get sh*t done’, which means whatever we deliver there has to be a call-to-action, so that we’re not simply talking about the lack of diversity in our sector. The question we always ask of any initiative is ‘where’s the action?’. I meet people all the time who say their introduction to our industry was at an ACCESS:VFX event, and that sums up the importance of what we’re doing – creating thousands of ‘that’s what I want to do with my future’ light bulb moments for kids who never knew our industry existed in the first place!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the creative/VFX industry?
The key is to show some creative literacy. You have to care about art, cinema, photography, storytelling, the moving image. Have an opinion about what works and what you care passionately about! I know it sounds corny, but you have to be yourself, tell us what makes you interesting and the different perspective you bring; the software, craft and the tech know-how you can learn on the job. You’ve also got to demonstrate good-old fashioned people skills, or what is commonly referred to as ‘soft skills’, (a term I’m not a fan of) as communication, collaboration, feedback, resilience are all fundamental to the work we do and should be re-named ‘essential skills’. We’ve proven that in the last 5 years of hiring apprentices in VFX that it is potential we look for, you don’t have to be the finished article. Also, register and show your face at free events and use sites like LinkedIn strategically. Don’t just connect with studio recruiters and talent managers, watch the credits and connect with assistant and mid-level artists, be curious, ask questions and act on advice. The career path of someone who is early-on in their career is going to be so much more relevant and the advice much more actionable than with someone with 25 years in the game. Finally, go to the ACCESS:VFX website at accessvfx.org/mentors to sign up for an industry e-mentor where if you’re as young as 13 you can be connected to an industry professional on a private Slack channel from a studio from any one of our A:VFX chapters in the UK, New York, Chicago or Montreal.
What’s currently inspiring you?
As a creative at heart and ‘Instagram artist’ on my personal page ‘Devznoodles’, I follow an endless range of incredible artists who inspire me to do and be better daily. Whether it’s the beautiful caricature work of Diego Riselli, the wonderful unashamed comic-book joy of Dan Hipp or the genius, often hilarious work of Scott C or Tom Gauld, I find Instagram a constant source of artistic inspiration whenever I need it, all in the palm of my hand!
Tell us about the best project/initiative you’ve seen recently?
A project I’ve been blown away with recently has been the level of artistry, amazing VFX, storytelling and raw talent from The Mill’s last series of PlayStation commercials, particularly the emotive punch of ‘Feel The Power of Pro’ or ‘Tear’ as it’s referred to internally. If I had to pick an in initiative, Cephas Williams’ ’56 Black Men’ campaign still resonates as one of the best examples of breaking down negative stereotypes which strikes the balance of being both powerful and creative.
Visionary Arts Foundation | Visionary Honours 2020 Nominations
To check out the Visionary Arts nominations and vote, click here. Voting is open until Sunday 1st March.
Podcast (Soundcloud): https://soundcloud.com/accessvfx