Nov 18, 2020 Letter From WIA President Marge Dean

Dear Friends of WIA,

Kamala! How wonderful is it to see a woman reach the office of Vice President of the United States!  I saw so many photos of girls watching her on television with big eyes and glowing faces…young adult women proud and inspired to be ambitious and confident when they set their sights on high level goals…mothers happy to see the world open up for their daughters and softening for their sons. But for me, as an older woman, the joy was something different. She is not a role model for me, something that I aspire to be. She is a dream I never thought I’d live to see. After the disappointment of 2016, I became convinced that there was no chance that the US would catch up with the rest of the world where women are in key government leadership positions.

And then it happened, and I felt the earth shift under my feet. I stood a little more rooted in the ground, inhaled a little more of the air around me, and my presence solidified to be a little more pronounced. I think we’re going to be feeling the growing impact of this event for years to come as more and more women take positions of leadership in every aspect of our lives.

It’s time for the world to experience the full impact of female leadership. It won’t be perfect, but it will be different. With this election, I was also pleased to see more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LBGQTIA+ elected to office. This will change things, as they will approach leadership in ways we haven’t imagined before. The more diverse POVs that we have in the leadership pot, the wider the experience and understanding is, and the better things will get for everyone.

But diverse leadership only comes with commitment and hard work.

“The fabric of democracy is always fragile everywhere because it depends on the will of citizens to protect it, and when they become scared, when it becomes dangerous for them to defend it, it can go very quickly.”

-Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments)

2020 has been a year of revelations. This is partially because of Covid. We are not able to do the activities that have kept us distracted in the past from what was happening around us. Also, the life-threatening reality of Covid made it impossible to not see the dire state of our lives. We saw how vulnerable we are to a microscopic virus and how interconnected we are by both the spread of Covid, but also that our resistance depends on our cooperation with each other.

But we also got a good look at the dark underbelly of humanity, the life-threatening vitriol of racism and misogyny. It’s critical that we see it and remember that it is real. People are being murdered because of the color of their skin. Women are raped, abused and killed because of their gender. Queer folk are constantly in danger simply because they are who they are. Children are neglected. Disabled people are invisible and unrecognized as full human beings. The biases that we all know and practice, consciously or unconsciously, cost people their lives, their ability to support themselves and their families, and their opportunity to have a fully realized existence. This is the everyday reality for too many people. We must continue to see it, learn about it, confront it, and change it.

The single most powerful vaccine to all this is COMMUNITY. David & Goliath is a myth; it really doesn’t work that way. It takes a team or family or community of people to make change happen. Workplace abusers were taken down not when one woman spoke but when a group of women stood up. With natural disasters, neighbors and strangers step up to help those in peril. We donate money and volunteer hours to help because we feel the connection. The power of cooperation is almost unbeatable.

WIA has always been about strengthening and diversifying the animation community. To reach 50-50 by 2025, we know we have to make animation inclusive, not exclusive. From the beginning, WIA has been about bringing people together through our programs and networking events. Our mentoring program has not only given over 1,000 women a chance to learn and network in 2020, but also gave over 100 more people the opportunity to mentor and to give back to the community.

We recognize that building alliances with other advocacy groups will be the most powerful way for us to reach our goals of opening up the industry. Recently, WIA collaborated with Black N’ Animated to host a storyboard workshop through Six Point Harness. Hundreds of people applied and 250 (Zoom cap) were accepted into the full day event. It was a potent day of learning and an amazing community-building event.

We are looking to expand this practice of collaboration through other programs such as our Mentoring platform as well as the Talent Database. Speaking of that, if you are currently working or hope to work in the industry, please help yourself reach that goal by adding your profile to the WIA Talent Database. We have shared it with several of the major studios recently with great results, and everyone is excited to get their hands on it. In the next year, this will become a widely used tool of hiring managers at all the studios.


Please use this link to submit your information:
https://airtable.com/shr7b7yCbdsx0kTKO


We continue to grow our virtual community with panels and other speaker events. For Halloween, we had our traditional HalloWIA party but in a pandemic-safe way as our first social virtual event. People showed off their costumes and had fun moving from Zoom breakout room to breakout room. Although talking about the industry or how to get a job is important, it’s also necessary that folks just get to hang out together and enjoy that sense of community.

It’s been a crazy and tumultuous time. No doubt it will continue to be that way.   It’s a fine line that we have to walk to keep ourselves hopeful but also see things for what they really are. If you’ve recently been politically active, then don’t stop!  And if you haven’t been, consider volunteering for something. It almost doesn’t matter what. Getting outside of yourself and helping others (even virtually) is the best remedy for that sense of lock down isolation. Reach out to WIA or any of the other advocacy groups–we need all the help we can get. Working toward building the community puts you in the heart of it.  And that’s the safest place to be when the going gets rough.

Sincerely,

Marge Dean
President, Women In Animation

Sep 9, 2020 Letter From WIA President Marge Dean

Women in Animation is an advocacy organization dedicated to making women’s voices heard. We want to open the doors of the animation industry to expand and diversify the talent pool of storytellers and artists. We recognize that the more diverse and inclusive our industry is, the more we can move our world forward. WIA, at its core, is about representation.

In about two months in the U.S., we will face one of the biggest challenges to representation in another sense — our national election. The Presidential election may be particular to the U.S. but its impact will be felt worldwide. The U.S. prides itself on its democratic system of government, a government by the people and for the people. At the core of every democracy is the right to VOTE.

2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment, think about it. White women have only had a say in their government leadership and policies for the last 100 years. For me, my mother was the first generation that had suffrage. The 15th amendment passed about 50 years before that, allowing the vote for citizens regardless of race or color. However, that didn’t guarantee Black men the vote until years later and Black women post 1920 until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited racial discrimination in voting. Native Americans weren’t able to vote until 1947 and Asian-Americans got suffrage in 1952.  Young adults between the ages of 18 -21 were granted the right to vote in 1971.  The language barrier (ballots had been in English only) was lifted in 1975 and polls were required to be accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly in 1984.  It’s been a long trail of change to get to where we are today but don’t think for a minute that this came about through a natural evolution.  It took intentional, organized work and great sacrifice.

Almost as soon as disenfranchised people were enabled to vote, that right was under attack. Poll taxes, literacy requirements, terrorist threats by white supremacy groups or angry husbands, beatings and murders. The Civil Rights movement was about the integration of schools and businesses, but also about voter registration. Gerrymandering, manipulation of the census numbers, interference from international adversaries; dismantling of the USPS, the list goes on of ways that politicians have been trying to repress or manipulate the voice of the people.  There is a long list of martyrs who have died trying to enable people to exercise their legal right to vote.

“No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live.  Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.”  – Justice Hugo Black 1964

IT HAS TO STOP. Without a fair and open mechanism for people to voice their choices, we have no democracy. The attacks on our right to vote are attacks on the essence of the principles we all believed the United States was built on. Obviously, your right to vote is a powerful gift or else there wouldn’t be so much energy being put into preventing it from happening.  It’s powerful and it’s precious.  And for the next two months, we need to protect and support everyone’s right to choose their government… their right for representation.

If you are frustrated with the way things are right now and want to work for change in the US, I suggest that you spend the next 60 days preparing to vote as well as supporting and defending the enfranchisement of others. WIA wants everyone to participate, vote, and use your voice.

Let’s facilitate a record-breaking turnout at the polls in November!  Let’s revive our democracy.

Letter From WIA President Marge Dean June 2, 2020

Dear Friends of WIA,

I appreciate the opportunity to connect with you, especially in our world’s more challenging moments, but this particular letter is one that I can’t write to do it justice. There are other voices that need to be heard rather than mine, so I invited Karen Rupert Toliver to share her thoughts, feelings and perspective in this moment. Karen is the Executive VP of Creative at Sony Pictures Animation, a member of the Advisory Committee of Women in Animation, a mom, and the Oscar-winning producer of the animated short, “Hair Love.”

* * *

These are Karen’s words:

As we have acknowledged, during this devastating pandemic, the Animation community has fared well compared to other industries. We can produce, which helps us stay financially viable, as an industry, and as individuals. It also has allowed most of us a creative outlet, which millions of people no longer have. So I have had a bit of “survivor’s guilt.” Maybe you have it, too. We all probably thought that was bad enough. Grieving became the new normal. My emotions have been all over the place. And then Ahmaud Arbery happened. And then Breonna Taylor happened. And then George Floyd happened. There are many, many others. And I started crying every day for different reasons. Then it hit even closer to home for those of us in Los Angeles and in other affected cities when, on Saturday, peaceful protests turned violent. Maybe some of you started getting scared of your city in a way you hadn’t expected. And the questions came up (thank you, Marge): how do I feel, what do we say, what do we do?

Maybe a place to start the discussion is waking up on Sunday to news coverage of the aftermath and hearing the reporters talking about the successful clean up and rebuilding efforts, i.e. painting over graffiti in Farmers Market, sympathizing with the business owners who, already hit by Covid-19, now suffer another devastating blow with the criminal activity. The thoughtful reporter offered comforting words to the victimized city saying, “The city will bounce back. We always do.”

As a Black woman, that comment intended to comfort partly infuriated me. In that narrative, the business owners are the victims; the looters are the criminals and attackers. The right thing to do is comfort and support the victims and all will be right in the world. Of course it completely ignores the totality of the city of Los Angeles, or the entire country. For the people inside the bubble, it makes complete sense. For Black people, it makes no sense at all. For white America, this is a moment in time. For Black people, it’s an everyday reality. And as Martin Luther King said, “rioting is the language of the unheard.” Maybe a few folks heard them this weekend. But was it only because it hit so close to home?

Why does it take rioting for this to become a national conversation? Weren’t the videos of any of the incidents enough? Would peaceful, countrywide protests without violence have made a dent? And far more depressing, is this national moment in time going to actually change anything in the long run? It was helpful for me to reflect on the civil rights movement and be reminded that sometimes peaceful protests did not move the needle enough. It was only when peaceful Black protesters absorbed white violence that white America took note and partnered with the Black community to make real change. People have a tendency to hide, to turn the other way, to stay in their bubbles. Change requires people to get out of their comfort zones.

Part of our job in entertainment is to help throw focus on that painful reality. We already know that our industry needs to be more diverse and representative. We must keep pushing. It’s urgent. But also advocating for diverse storytelling has a huge part to play. And in this area we are also not doing nearly enough. It’s not just about including Black characters in our stories. We need to influence hearts and minds to think differently. To remind us that we are all connected, that other people’s hurt is everyone’s hurt. We need to encourage people to not look away from uncomfortable things, but instead breathe into that discomfort. We need to use all the resources at our disposal to help move this cause forward. And one powerful resource is fearless storytelling.

Minutes before the curfew started I was parking my Audi, waiting in line at Simply Wholesome in View Park, picking up expensive chicken patties to take them back to my 15 year-old who was waiting in the house that I own. And our biggest concern was that they were out of the jerk chicken and he had to settle for regular chicken. All that to say, we were comfortably in our own “bubble.” I can try to disconnect from some pain of my community, however it’s not really possible as a mother to two Black boys. I worry every day when my teenager wants to leave the house and do something as simple as play ball in a park, or hang out with friends at a mall. And I have a new fear, as many Black people do, thanks to Covid-19, that the mask that my sons are now required to wear makes them more at risk of being shot than on any other normal day.

For myself and my children and my community, I need to decide how to do more than be sad, angry, and hurt because here’s the harsh truth about our personal responsibility: if you aren’t participating in trying to make change, if you are silent, you are complicit in maintaining the status quo. And the status quo continues to target and kill Black men and decimate the Black community. And this cause needs white voices to join the Black community. Do something and do it now. Find a way: Make leaders accountable; Advocate for policy changes; Donate money; Tutor; Get involved in Black community Organizations. Figure it out. Do it now. Force yourself out of your bubble. And stay in touch with this issue so it doesn’t die, again, in the next news cycle.

* * *

Women in Animation will not let this issue die. We stand with the black community and specifically the black community in animation. We are committed to making significant changes in the animation industry, our organization, our families and ourselves. I grew up in New York and remember the Newark riots in 1967, and I lived in mid-Wilshire with my young kids during the LA Uprising in 1992. Each time, we thought things would be different, and yet here we are again. WIA is committed to seeing that permanent change happens this time; even if it’s just in our small part of the world, the animation industry. (Which I say facetiously, knowing that animation is hugely influential.)

This doesn’t end here.
#BlackLivesMatter

Interview with America Castillo: #WIAwfh Challenge Winner

Selena Portrait by America Castillo

Interview with America Castillo: #WIAwfh Challenge Winner

America Castillo is the winner of last month’s WIA Work From Home Drawing Challenge and was given the opportunity to speak with Becki Tower of Pixar Animation Studios for a one-on-one Q&A session. In speaking with America, though, we were struck by her life’s story, her talent, and her love for the medium of animation. So much so that we wanted to highlight her in a spotlight of her own. Below, we talk with America about how animation helped her relate to other kids, who in the industry inspires her, and her passion and talent for fine art, animation, journalism, and much more.

Tell us about yourself! 

My name is America Castillo, I was born in Puebla, Mexico and was brought to the United States when I was 4 years old. I grew up all over the San Fernando Valley until my parents decided to settle in Simi Valley. I am getting ready to enter my senior year at California State University, Northridge studying Broadcast/Radio Journalism. I have been drawing since I could remember and attended Santa Susana Magnet High School where I was able to pursue my interest in art by taking more art and graphic design classes. I started community college as Graphic Design major but while I was trying to get a paid/unpaid position on the school paper as a graphic designer for experience, I was told I had to take a journalism class first and that’s where I started to lean towards other interests I’ve always had: news media, producing, and storytelling. This sounds cheesy, but I’m a curious person who loves to learn about how life works and enjoys listening to other people talk and I hate to admit it, because it’s stressful at the time, but I like the pressure of a deadline, so I changed my major to Journalism because I felt like it was a creative way to be able to do everything I am interested in, which is a lot of things.  When I am not working or going to school, I enjoy just hanging out with my cat and eating food with my sister and my friends.

Why did you decide to join as a WIA member? 

I became a WIA member as a way to reconnect with myself as an artist. Since I didn’t go to art school or major in art, I was looking for more workshops to enhance my skills since I was getting very rusty. At one point I let the negative parts of life get in the way and I stopped drawing for a while, so I needed a place that will keep me motivated and encourage me to get back into drawing. I was telling my friend from work how, although I was happy my writing was improving, that I was starting to miss just drawing and was almost regretting not sticking with fine art and just wanted to improve my skills. She had mentioned her mom was part of WIA and that she loved it because it was a helpful way to connect with people, because they do a lot of workshops and mixers. I immediately thanked her and signed up in early January 2020 I believe and love it.

“Zoom Etiquette” by America Castillo

What are you currently working on? 

I’m working on this small comic that is about learning to love yourself and allowing yourself to follow your dreams. It will be dedicated to all the DREAMers out there. I’m realizing this is a scary question because once you say it it’s expected out of you haha but I actually got this idea a couple of years ago and I abandoned the idea because I realized I had no idea what I’m doing, but that’s actually the point of this comic. I’m glad I gave myself more time though, I’ve learned a lot since the original idea. I’m just working on how to begin the storyline and whether I want this on the web or printed. Time is ticking though, I want to decide quick but this is also a project very close to my heart so I also don’t want to rush things or publish anything until I feel ready. Whether I go through with it or not, I am just so happy to finally find something I am passionate about that got me out of my funk and back to the drawing board.

What inspired you to get into animation? 

I love this question because it’s one of the few things I remember from my childhood. Animation has always been there for me and it took me years to realize that. When I was in pre-school one of my classmate’s dad was an animator. He came into our class and taught us how to draw Tarzan which I thought was so cool because I had seen the movie in Mexico with my aunt right before coming to the United States. I believe Tarzan was the second movie I ever saw, but it was the first movie that made me feel so many emotions with the opening scene. It may be my last memory of living in Mexico. While my parents were always working, I would take care of my younger brother and sister and to keep us entertained we would watch an unhealthy amount of cartoons and TV shows haha. However, I also learned a lot from animated shows like Blue’s Clues and Dora and they did help me navigate my way into this new country. When my friends were sad I would draw them photos of their favorite character to try and cheer them up. Not sure if it ever worked but at least it was the best way I knew to make them happy. Animation just reminds me that it’s not just for kids but it’s for adults too and it’s a fun and unique way to share stories that take us away from reality and the stress that comes with being an adult.

“Telenovelas” by America Castillo

Are there any animators/creators that are a big inspiration to you? 

A lot of my friends are creators, not necessarily in fine art but in other ways, and honestly they inspire me so much. I love being surrounded by people who just love and appreciate art. As for animators right now I am really inspired by Natalie Nourigat because she gives me hope that I can have a career in animation without a degree in animation if I work hard enough for it and Zoe Si because not only is she a cartoonist but a lawyer. Growing up I’ve been told to choose one thing for my career and she proves that you can have more than one career.

How did you prepare for your meeting with Becki Tower? 

I’m treating this like I am writing a feature news story about her. I did a lot of research. Not just on her but on her role and other roles that I may not have heard off before.This also gave me an opportunity to stop bouncing around and ask myself what I really want to do. I know I want to focus on storytelling techniques and how to stand out when applying for jobs and just to see her journey.

Anything else you would like to say to the WIA community? 

I am just thankful to have found a community that wants to see me grow. I am so blessed to be part of it and I did the WIA challenge for fun and as a way to get myself to start drawing and posting and sharing again and I forgot a prize was even involved. It was fun and more than I could ask for. I am excited for any future workshop and events that are coming. This a community I would recommend to anyone who is looking to be more engaged in animation. I am just excited to continue to grow with you guys.

“Rocky Peak” by America Castillo

Letter From WIA President Marge Dean May 6, 2020

Dear Friends of Women in Animation (WIA),

I’ve been trying to write this letter for a couple of weeks now because I’ve been really thinking about the working from home scenario and how the animation industry has an opportunity to take the lead in changing the culture of work in entertainment. But I kept stumbling over survivor’s guilt. I read about the thousands of people who file for unemployment each week and I don’t know how I can talk from the perspective of someone still earning a salary.

But then I had my “Sullivan’s Travels” moment and realized that we in animation have an important role in all of this. We’re not just making cartoons, we’re bringing entertainment to people when they need it the most. We should be grateful that animation is a medium that can withstand a pandemic; we must embrace it and do our best work.

Everyone is talking about what the “new-normal” will look like when the quarantine is lessened or lifted completely. How do we transition back to what? Since we’ve never lived through a pandemic before, it’s anyone’s guess. I’m not going to opine on what it will be but I have been thinking about what it could be.

What if we didn’t dismantle the production pipeline that we put together in response to the pandemic?  Let’s say we keep the possibility of doing animation production from home alive. Ideally, employees would have a choice. For some people, based on their job as well as their disposition, they would be better off in an office environment. But for many others, the option of working from home all or part of the time could be more effective for them and the team. We now see that our industry can exist in a remote situation, we are able to safely continue making content in quarantine, and as we transition out. And we know we are prepared if another infectious surge comes up in the fall or winter.

During quarantine, the response of the Human Resource teams in most companies has been thoughtful and supportive. We were asked if we had everything we needed to do our jobs well from home. There was concern about staff feeling isolated from their teams. We were encouraged to break from work and go outside to take a walk or exercise or just see daylight. Supervisors spent a portion of meetings asking people how they are doing and what new skills did they master. Colleagues who normally don’t socialize shared updates of their activities at home.

The intersection of life and work suddenly expanded; the line has blurred.

Before the pandemic, co-workers often hid their family life. There was no place for it in the office. The ideal staff person was unencumbered or always appeared that way. Parents were known to lie about absences related to family obligations to not appear that they were anything but 150{020ad75afc402dc607f2e21a956e158a0784aef4f885c16c8694a9af19f47f70} committed to their job. People with health challenges (physical or emotional) had to discreetly deal with them and hope that no one would notice or judge them less fit.

But what if our personal side didn’t have to be checked at the studio door?

I propose that a more humanized work environment is a more productive one. A balanced, flexible, and healthy work culture attracts and retains balanced, creative, and strong talent. Lots of money is spent on recruiting and talent development; perhaps additional consideration should be put toward altering the work climate. Since we re-launched Women in Animation, our core message has been that diversity means access to a greater talent pool. Supporting a virtual pipeline and the subsequent humanizing of the work culture will open the doors for an even greater reach and wider access to new talent. People who cannot easily work in a studio in a major animation hub because of family obligations, physical or other limitations, or geographic restrictions can join teams; they can bring new voices and expand the talent pool to be truly global.

I can’t help but think that the more integrated life and work is, the better both would be. We could soften or humanize the concept of professionalism. Rather than the model professional being a high-powered elite whose life is driven by ambition, advancement, and the job, we could define the ideal professional as someone who is working toward a rich, balanced, and good life. If you adjust the basic paradigm, then everything changes.

Let’s not go back to the way it was. Let’s continue to build a more balanced, flexible and efficient way of working that keeps job and home commitments more complementary. Let’s develop a production plan that is built around the personal needs of individuals, allowing them the flexibility to work their best on the job while maintaining a home life for themselves and/or their families from wherever in the world that they choose to live.

In an effort to create a global culture of connectivity and support during this isolating time, Women in Animation has successfully converted all our programs to a virtual experience. We are hosting online webinars, guest lectures, and more: you can find out about them all on our website, womeninanimation.org.

This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we are hosting a Parents in Animation panel led by Nicole Rivera. We’ll have some animation superstars who also happen to be parents talking about their experiences. It is on Thursday, May 7th.  You can get the details on our website.

In June, we will launch our 2020 Mentor Program with mentoring circles that is not limited by geography. We are looking to offer twice the number of circles than in the past in order to support more people. Some will be skill-based groups, but we are also expanding into other formats and themes including four circles that will be led by life coaches. If you are interested in leading a mentoring group, please contact us. Volunteering is one of the best antidotes to possible feelings of powerlessness brought on by the dire situation we’re currently in.

Additionally, we are forming a collaboration with The Animation Guild (TAG) to raise awareness of the need for parental support. In particular, there is a growing concern that as the pandemic continues or when we transition out of quarantine, the burden on parents will be overwhelming. With schools closed at least until September and summer programs being canceled, parents have lost the child support assistance of pre-pandemic days. Additionally, it is estimated that about 20{020ad75afc402dc607f2e21a956e158a0784aef4f885c16c8694a9af19f47f70} of existing childcare programs will have gone out of business by the time we return to the workplace. So, there will be less of the already limited resources.

For a parent, having sufficient and appropriate childcare is equivalent to having the right piece of equipment or software. They will do much more effective and creative work with the right support. It is to the communities’ benefit that we support them in this time of need.

How can the animation community support our colleagues in an extremely challenging situation? What can the studios do to help their employees? What can we as individuals do to help our friends?

We look forward to working with TAG to help answer these questions and to garner support from the industry and community.

Take care of yourselves and each other. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that carries with it responsibilities and big rewards, if you choose to be part of the community. Show your full self at home and at work…which happens to be the same place right now, but you know what I mean.

Wishing you continued health, happiness, and balance…

 

Sincerely,
Marge Dean
President, Women in Animation

Welcome The Austin Chapter of Women in Animation!

Today we are happy to announce that the Austin chapter of Women in Animation is finally here! Thanks to Rooster Teeth, Powerhouse Animation and the Texas Film Commission, the WIA Austin chapter will serve the local Austin community to support WIA’s mission of increasing representation and inclusion of women in the animation industry.

To help celebrate the launch and spread the word, follow WIA Austin on Twitter and share our first post!

May 1 Chapter Launch Virtual Event

On May 1, WIA Austin will host its first event to inaugurate the chapter. Register to attend this virtual panel using the link below and meet some of the Austin creative community.

As an organization, Women in Animation is dedicated to advancing women in the field of animation. Austin is home to a growing group of women talent in animation, powering different studios across our city.

Join moderator and President of Women in Animation, Marge Dean in discussion with panelists Steph Swope, Co-founder and Producer at Minnow Mountain, Yssa Badiola, writer/director/animator at Rooster Teeth, Julie Newberry-Olson, Storyboard Artist at Powerhouse Animation, and Gracie Arenas Strittmatter, Technical Art Director and Deputy Director of Art & Animation at BioWare, as they talk about the stories they’re working on today and their successes in the field of animation.

The launch of WIA Austin would not be possible without the hard work of its board, the Texas Film Commission, and the support of two of the biggest animation studios in Texas, Rooster Teeth and Powerhouse Animation.

Programming & Events – Laura Yates, Brooke Olson
Development, Membership & Outreach – Sara McConnell, Emily Hamel
Treasury, Finance – Nicole Fisher
PR – Sophie Turcotte
Legal – Laney Ingram

For more information follow Women in Animation Austin at https://twitter.com/wia_austin and contact them at austin@womeninanimation.org.

Thriving in an analogue Hollywood

Re-post of original article from ibc.org


Organizing people, money and time is Margaret Dean’s mantle. The Women in Animation chief tells IBC365 of the “tremendous” social impact animation as an art form has and the business changes occurring as the virtual pipeline becomes industry standard. 

It has taken a pandemic to clear the canal waters in Venice, make the air cleaner in China and for production firms to take advantage of technology to move workflows remotely as countries around the globe lockdown.

The media and entertainment industry has been greatly affected, with cinemas and theatres forced to shut their doors, studios production schedules halted, and freelancers furloughed until further notice. The animation industry is also changing rapidly with virtual studio pipelines implemented and artists working remotely becoming normalised overnight.

“Change is not easy to come by and usually it is something external to human beings that forces that change, whether that be a pandemic or a social movement,” explains Marge Dean, who admits she has a “certain pessimism on change” as it is not something often witnessed and almost always is triggered beyond control.

Emmy-award winner and head of studio at anime brand Crunchyroll, as well as president of Women in Animation (WIA), Dean has had a colourful and varied career. From starting out in experimental film to networking at film festivals and working in production management, she is renowned for building and redesigning studios and animation pipelines for some of the largest production houses in Hollywood.

Prior to Crunchyroll, Dean was the general manager of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the largest stop motion studio in Southern California, where she supervised production of Emmy award-winning Robot Chicken for Adult Swim and Buddy Thunderstruck for Netflix, as well as being responsible for expanding Stoopid Buddy’s range of work to include 2D and 3D CGI.

Dean has headed up WIA as president since October 2013 where she has witnessed the industry change and grow with the invention of new technology and dedicated the group to advancing women in the field of animation both behind the scenes and on the screen, to move society forward to ensure women are equally represented,

The group is a primarily a volunteer organisation with a staff of 3.5 full time employees who coordinate and project manage, while Dean acts as the lead to its 4,000+ members which has grown since its inception in 1995.

Dean, who spoke to IBC365 from her Californian home, acknowledged the disruption and chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, she pointed to the opportunity remote working could promise for parents, people with disabilities and diversity of talent into the animation workforce.

“Not only having this technology and the existence of this technology but the fact everybody is now using it and is getting used to the idea of working remotely and experiencing what working parents experience everyday – the interface of managing work and family is a game changer,” Dean says.

Working in production is challenging. Dean knows all too well the demands of the industry having cut her teeth in various roles at Columbia-TriStar TV, Warner Bros. Animation, Mattel’s Playground Production, Omation, Technicolor Animation and Wildbrain Entertainment. She says the resistance and hesitation to join the industry – from parents with children, disabled persons and young women coming out of school with reluctance to join the sector – could be overcome now with the embrace of remote working solutions.

Reflecting over the last few weeks, Dean says she has found that “people are finding it possible to work remotely and becoming familiar with this new kind of environment, they’re comfortable which makes it easier to accept and adopt this style of business for those working in production beyond the pandemic,” she notes.

Staying savvy and sane
The animation industry has changed “right before our eyes,” Dean explains.

“Necessity is the mother of invention and people are coming up with some amazing creations to keep things going and getting things done.”

On a personal note, she used a recent open letter to friends of the WIA network to explain how enormous this change has been to her life. Dean wrote: “Because of my age and health challenges, I am completely sequestered. I have people buying me groceries, mailing packages to my kid and not petting my adorable little dog (who’s very confused by the whole thing).

“I am a fiercely self-reliant woman who has pretty much fended for herself all of her adult life and it is weird to now have other people doing basic things for me. The pandemic is teaching me an important lesson of being open and receptive to care from others.

“But this is true for all of us. Covid-19 is opening our eyes to a different kind of life.”

The additional layer of communication means Dean is twice as busy and recognising how technically savvy she and her colleagues have become. She says: “I feel fortunate there are a number of tools that can be used for communication and people are getting super creative which I find interesting and a silver lining to the pandemic.”

The importance of inclusion despite the solidarity of remote working is “critical,” Dean says: “This is true for all productions, feeling as though you are part of the team and working collaboratively and in sync with a team “because there is not one person or role that is responsible for the whole thing, the collaboration is the essence of how it all comes together.”

Championing women in animation
Back in 2013 the WIA leadership recognised that the organisation was looking tired and needed “fresh blood or to be put to bed” Dean explains. She points to the growth from its 125 members in 2013 to over 4,000 now, saying it is “very impressive and one of the reasons I am very proud of our organisation.”

Currently WIA is working on member feedback and conducting surveys on the state of the industry.

She says: “Something we are moving towards with the Covid-19 situation which has amped up and lit a fire for us, is our intention to move into being a building a virtual community and take advantage of the technology out there to bring people together.”

While Covid-19 might action this change to a virtual environment, it has been Dean’s plan for the last two years with the aim to connective and inspire women working in the animation industry around the world.

“Building a virtual community is phase one, as we are about to branch out and do virtual programming. We are learning a tremendous amount about securely setting up these communities to connect people and get valuable information, insight and have some fun.”

Advice Dean would offer new entrants into the industry as well as her peers is to “be flexible and learn technology,” she adds: “Understand people and different perspectives to help open doorways and portals into the industry.”

Working for a technology company – Crunchyroll – has made her realise how “analogue Hollywood is, and how so much happens because of who you know and networking in person,” she explains.

“The industry needs fresh blood and how we bridge that gap to help people get into the business is what we need to figure out.”

She points to the “startling statistics” of the number of women studying animation versus the number of women in creative jobs.

“In 2013 when I started looking at the stats, women made up 60-62% of the student body, while some 20% of the creative jobs were held by women and the numbers are getting better, with about 29% of creative jobs held by women and are increasing.

A pivotal point and juncture is the transition for women leaving the classroom and entering the studio, WIA are working to make a resource to help women enter the industry.

According to the Animation Guild, some 40% of new hires are women, despite only 29% of the jobs today are held by women, “there is a big influx of women coming and its more than likely those retiring are male. We believe our call to action to have 50/50 workforce by 2025 is very possible.”

Changing state of the animation business
Dean jokes about animation being “the bastard step child” of the entertainment industry and often an afterthought to film and TV productions. However, she says despite the Covid-19 crisis “we are still standing and producing and we will continue to do so when the writers’ strike because animation writers are not part of the Writers Guild. Even when live productions stop, animation continues.”

Animation as an industry “often gets side-lined and forgotten about when people talk about movies and entertainment, despite it being one of the big money makers,” she continues. “And the kind of content that makes a lot of money, millions of people watch animation, children all across the world watch animation and the social impact this art form has is tremendous, hitting children and human beings at the early developmental stage – the power of it is amazing.”

On the programming side of the business she said it is tricky to comment not knowing what the likes of Netflix, Hulu. HBO Max and Disney+ have stockpiled and “they could have a vault of animation and live action content.”

The changes the industry is facing has “fortified our position of importance in the entertainment business and things have changed tremendously. Often the growth of adult animation and love and audience out there,” however, she adds: “I don’t think animation will ever replace live action because we will always be seen as a ‘for kids’ or niche kind of content.”

Truly understanding the state of the animation industry has been a focus for Dean, gathering information from Hollywood and beyond. She says: “It seems that per the Animation Guild they have not seen anyone lose their jobs because of the virus. People are flowing in and out of jobs as a freelancer, but those people regularly working are still working, and jobs are ending because the production has ended.”

She adds her conversations with other industry experts has highlighted the opening for recruits seeking new hires, with Facebook and LinkedIn jobs posting pointing to the fact that “big studios are still continuing animation production and they are hiring, not maintaining people for new productions though.”

She says the top tier of networking including Netflix, Disney, DreamWorks and Sony are included in this while, mid-sized studios and smaller indie studios have also not shut down productions because of the virus.

“They are working to continue productions, but real question is will there be more work after that? I want to understand what is happening with development and how long is this going to last, if we are back at work in July, it might be a small bubble but two to three months versus the end of the year in lockdown, I can’t make sense of what that will mean for us.”


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