Member Snapshot: Genevieve Leonard
Adjunct Professor – 3D Animation, Freelance VFX Artist, and Co-Lead of the NY Chapter of WIA
March 2022, Interview facilitated by Tracey Miller-Zarneke
Please describe how you got to your current role. What are some of the challenges you had to face to get there?
I’ve been teaching for the last 20 years. My mentor in graduate school advised me to pursue a career in arts education because he recognized my potential while student teaching for a non-profit organization. After managing the VFX program in Philadelphia, I was appointed to Department Chair of Digital Filmmaking at the Art Institute of New York City. I was 30 years old. It was challenging to manage people who were twice as old as I was. No one took me seriously because of my gender and age. I was able to overcome their misconceptions by fostering a personal approach to my management style. Now, I plan to transition back into studio work. I look forward to the new challenge!
What is your favorite part of your role? Most challenging part?
I enjoy connecting with young artists. Their enthusiasm for creating and sharing their art motivates me to be persistent as an artist. The most challenging part is to consistently be familiar with every part of the filmmaking process as technology changes. I appreciate the challenge but it takes up so much of my time 🙂
Who were/are your mentors, inside or outside of animation? How have they affected you?
My graduate school mentors were the late sculptor/animator Leo Hobaica Jr. and feminist filmmaker Nina Menkes. They both encouraged and challenged my process in filmmaking.
Share with us a moment of exhilaration in your career.
Attending the final screening of my first senior projects class at Pratt Institute. I was so proud of my students!
Do you have any advice for others who want to break into the animation industry?
This is an industry built on relationships. Attend events where you can meet peers and professionals. Keep in touch by sharing your work with them.
What is your favorite animated movie or animated character, and why?
I love the film Fantastic Planet. The illustration style is unique and expressive.
Who or what inspires your work?
Nature inspires my work. I like the interconnected nature of our surroundings and the people who interact within it.
What is your earliest memory of being interested in animation?
I had to choose a major in undergraduate school. I liked to draw and I liked films. It seemed like a good fit.
Which school did you attend?
University of the Arts, California Institute of the Arts
Why is an organization like WIA important to you?
The filmmaking community tends to be insular and nepotistic. I feel that diverse storytelling/design will be able to reach, educate, and inspire more communities when those communities have access to this industry.
How long have you been a member of WIA?
I have been a member since 2017.
What have you enjoyed most about being part of WIA?
I have enjoyed networking with artists at so many different levels of their career!
Any other professional insights or experiences you would like to share with our membership?
I feel it’s important to love what you do. That dedication to your work will help you grow and inspire positive change.