Re-Post. Original article and image published on LinkedIn.com by Lauren McCallum
I’ve always been resilient and driven in any pursuits. When it comes to my own career, even more so.
From a young age I wanted to be an artist, as I grew older that narrowed down to a desire to be a colorist working on movies and television. With this objective held firmly in mind, I started my career in film as a runner 15 years ago and I’m writing this today as Global Managing Director of a visual effects studio, Mill Film.
I am grateful for every female creative who has mentored or coached me in my career, but as a runner I realized quickly that the balance of men to women wasn’t what I expected: there just weren’t enough women. Despite this I pushed on and used curiosity, kindness and a fix-it mentality to quickly get me promoted (making a reliable builders tea didn’t hurt either!) and I steadily made my way up through each discipline on my journey to becoming a colorist.
But here’s the rub: I never made it to becoming a colorist. I often ask myself why and it’s only through my current role that I really understand the answer to the question; I didn’t see myself reflected in the creative leaders surrounding me.
In fact, I experienced a profound sense of otherness, I missed the fierce creative women I’d grown up with and I was hungry for an environment where otherness was prized. The teams I worked with were incredible, but the dynamic and diversity mix didn’t suit me. It’s only now that I can build a studio with diversity and inclusion at its foundation that I realize what a driver it has been in my own career progression.
Then I had the opportunity to join a film production team. Seeing myself reflected in the leaders of the team really motivated me, and opened my eyes. I could work tirelessly for these women, and I invested that knowledge back into my team.Eventually, I discovered that while I needed to see myself in the team that I joined, it was actually the distinctions within the team that were the drivers of its success.
I now acknowledge and celebrate my responsibility to foster a creative environment where our differences are prized, and at Mill Film we are demonstrating for our clients that diversity in our crew results in a diverse creative product.
I’m creating a diverse, opened, and collaborative team of artists, production and technologists for what remains an incredibly creative environment. For those looking to foster diversity within their teams, here are my 3 key learnings.
1. To champion diversity, we need to understand what drove uniformity
Before we could establish our goals we needed to research what diversity could mean within Visual Effects. We took a hard look in the mirror, examined our biases and challenged ourselves to become experts, learning things like why certain demographics didn’t apply to VFX undergraduate programs, why women were choosing to leave VFX at a particular time in their lives, and what we needed to do to support more working parents in our studio.Our industry moves quickly, so we needed to take the time to observe, analyze, and diagnose our issues.
2. Public pledges make a material difference
Within our first months of operation, we set a pledge around our creative crew’s composition and made that public. As we begin our second year, we are holding ourselves to account while challenging ourselves for more [more on that below.]We’ve committed to being fully engaged in sharing our lessons learned, as we cross into new territory and seek to make an impact within our industry.
3. Understand your own power and recognize hers.
At Mill Film we have a strong leadership forum made up of women in creative leadership roles and allies within the studio. Together we’ve developed Leadership training and mentorship programs that identify talent that might need a push towards promotion, or external candidates looking for the right environment. Our leaders have the power to lift up the next generation of women and under-represented groups on their journey upwards, and they understand the responsibility that comes with it.
On International Women’s day and throughout the month of March, you’ll see an increase in content geared towards the women in industries like VFX and Film – where women are still a visible minority. There will be interviews and exposés as we seek to shine a spotlight on those who are under-represented within our fields. My hope is that we never switch that spotlight off, and that we let it shine throughout the year as we champion women, men and non-binary people throughout creative industries. Because the people behind the work should look more and more like the people who enjoy it.
Happy International Women’s day,
Click here for information on Mill Film’s Pledge for Diversity & The Way Forward