I spent way too long on the internet as a teenager, creating characters with my friends and making up stories. When I was 13 I remember being gifted a special edition DVD of The Lion King – I’d already worn my VHS copy out – which included lots of behind the scenes footage of how the movie was made. Then it clicked. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I bought a copy of The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams and started making my own very crude animations with a custom lightbox and peg bar my Dad made me. I was lucky to live close to The Arts University, Bournemouth, where I attended a summer school and learnt more about how to animate. I was determined to study there, so spent my time in college improving my drawing skills and crafting my portfolio. In 2010 I got accepted onto the Animation Production course, and it started becoming real.
Lack of diversity
I didn’t realise I was gay until the second year of uni, and I didn’t start telling people until my third year. It just wasn’t on my radar – I was too focused on animation to care about anything else. I was incredibly lucky to have a supportive network, and I’m pretty sure most people knew before I did. Since graduating in 2013 I’ve lived and worked in London as a character animator. I just finished working at Studio AKA on a 30-minute film Here We Are for AppleTV, and currently I am a senior animator at Jellyfish Pictures on a feature project.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to evaluate my queerness and its relationship to my professional life. When I started working at Framestore in 2013, I was the only person on my team who wasn’t a man. I don’t think I realised how this made me feel at the time. The larger the studio, the bigger the discrepancy, and the more prevalent old-fashioned mindsets are; women sometimes do get undermined or talked over in meetings, and jokes at the expense of gay people, or fatphobic jokes, happen. But it is changing, and these attitudes are being called out more often.
As of today, I’ve worked on teams where the gender split has been 50:50, sometimes even tipped in favour of women, although I am still often the only queer person. What’s amazing is that everybody, not just women, expresses how this balance creates a much healthier, happier environment for everyone.
Why I mentor others
I am determined to continue to make space for more queer people like me in the industry. That’s why I joined QVFX in 2019, an inclusive hub for professionals and students to access information, events, mentorship and support.
I mentor young people looking to get into the industry, but this isn’t where the work ends. We have to all put in the effort to make sure our work environments are safe, accepting spaces for everyone, especially those who identify as LGBTQIA+. The job isn’t just mine as a queer person, it’s for everyone to do, especially those in positions of power.
Mindsets are changing
I can’t wait to see what the industry looks like in another 10 years. There’s still work ahead of us, but I think this is the most exciting time for young people to be joining our industry and getting involved. Mindsets are changing, and women and queer people are beginning to emerge into leadership positions.
I have my own ambitions and goals – I can’t wait for the day that I can animate a queer character on the big screen, or be involved in the telling of queer stories in animated content – but right now I’m enjoying the journey and reconnecting with what made me love animation in the first place; the telling of stories with which we can all relate.
For more information about QVFX, visit: www.accessvfx.org/qvfx