A diverse group of nine female creative professionals working at Pixomondo share their career histories, motivations and insights from navigating a male-led industry.
Nine women from international design studio Pixomondo who shared their histories, motivations and insights for this story: (Top row, L-R) Adela Baborova, Jennifer Friedman, Jenne Guerra and Divya Gupta. (Bottom row, L-R) Tricia Kim, Stella Ying Li, Gayle Munro, Kristin Patterson and Anna Seidl.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, AWN is pleased to share with readers the stories of nine women, all visual effects professionals working at the international visual design and special effects studio Pixomondo, who have excelled in a difficult, highly competitive segment of the entertainment industry, a historically notorious “boys club” dominated by men, not just in positions of creative production but in creative leadership as well.
VFX production is a tireless, grueling business, half sprint, half marathon and half tug of war. Calling it relentless is like referring to a tornado as a gentle breeze. Exacting attention to visual details, crushing deadlines, razor thin profit margins… and that’s on a good day. Career longevity means a steady diet of patience, perseverance and dedication. Especially for women.
Talk to women working in animation and VFX and you get a sense that while the industry has made significant strides of late in addressing historic disparities in the number of jobs, as well as compensation levels and decision-making roles afforded to women as opposed to men, there is still a long way to go in eliminating gender bias at all levels of the workforce, let alone addressing additional steps needed to make workplaces safe and free from all forms of bias and harassment. The prevailing sentiment seems to be: “Things are much better than they used to be. But, so much more must be done.” Expertise in creating all manner of stunning, touching and funny imagery hasn’t immunized the industry from suffering through its share of ugly #MeToo moments. The pictures have not always been shiny and pretty.
And the numbers paint a pretty dismal picture as well. According to Women in Animation, more than 60% of all animation and art school students are women, while only 20% of the creative jobs are held by women. With a stated organizational goal of 50/50 equal gender employment levels by 2025, Women in Animation’s ongoing efforts to positively influence, encourage and lead industry change, to address head-on stark gender inequality, shows both the courage of their convictions as well as the uphill battle they face. While there are many reasons more women don’t take up careers in animation and visual effects, the historic lack of an industry embrace, as well as the fear of an unwanted one, are certainly factors.
As one of the industry’s leading creative studios, Pixomondo maintains a diversified portfolio of business activities which includes feature films, episodic, gaming, themed entertainment, previz and virtual reality, as well as the development and creation of innovative original concepts. It has won three Emmys for its dragon work on Game of Thrones and an Academy Award for its VFX work on Martin Scorsese Hugo. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the company has facilities in six cities: Canada’s Toronto and Vancouver, Germany’s Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and China’s Beijing and Shanghai.
According to Pixomondo COO Sara Mustafa, “Pixomondo has always been gender neutral when it comes to our hiring process. We don’t give special treatment to women, but we certainly give them fair treatment! And that’s what each woman strives for - a fair chance and opportunity in a predominately male industry. We also have female mentors and role models at the studios and partake in events such as ‘Women in VFX and Media.’ We believe it’s important for all our artists - in particular female artists - to flourish and expand on their talents.”
Participating in this story are a group of nine women from the studio, who have volunteered their histories, motivations and insights:
Adela Baborova, Associate VFX Producer (Vancouver)
Jennifer Friedman, previs artist and animator (Los Angeles)
Jenne Guerra, Head of Production / VFX Supervisor (Vancouver)
Divya Gupta, compositor (Los Angeles)
Tricia Kim, Matchmove Supervisor (Toronto)