Animator Hanna Chuieva

Hanna’s desire and drive to be a quality animator is evident. Growing up in Ukraine she was afforded few opportunities, but has since been on a learning journey with strong support from Animated Women UK.

“I wanted to be an animator as a kid, but it was hard to do it in Ukraine,” explains Hanna. “We didn't have proper animation schools and not many animation studios. So I studied graphic design in university. But I didn't give up on my dream and I had a chance to get into the animation industry when I went to St Petersburg in Russia.”

There she studied at the Melnitsa animation studio, completing a three-month course for people who can draw and want to become animators. She learned the basic principles of 2D traditional animation before taking the giant leap as an animator on her first feature film.

“It was amazing. We drew on paper and it was very old school, but I think I'm lucky to have had this experience in my life,” Hanna enthuses about the opportunity to work with storyboard artists, renderers and colour artists.

But she soon realised that she also needed to grasp 3D animation, so worked for a few studios in Moscow to master the art, including at the DA-Studio where she worked on the feature length film Sergiy Radonegskiy, and at the Petrushka Studio on another feature, Princess and Dragon.

Moving to London, she worked for Blue Zoo Animation Studio on 3D character animation for the BBC series Go Jetters 2 – while also completing an online animation diploma through the US-based Animschool.

It was during her time there that she received an email that proved to be a huge game changer. “It was offering the opportunity for women to take part in the Helen North Achieve Programme,” says Hanna. “I thought it would be a great chance to meet new people from the industry and learn from their experience.”

The Helen North Achieve Programme is an intensive introduction to strategic career management for women in VFX and animation. Backed by the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund with contributions from UK animation productions and with additional support from Escape Studios, the programme addresses real challenges and barriers in order to help women fulfil their potential.

“The programme was based on five workshops, covering different topics, such as career potential, negotiation, work-life balance, and developing your personal brand,” explains Hanna. “We had homework, some exercises during the workshops, theory, and, of course, a lot of opportunities to share and learn from each other’s experiences.”

She found the workshops about negotiation and personal brand particularly helpful, giving her more confidence at interviews. But it was the chance to share stories and gain advice from others that proved the most beneficial.

Hanna even created a WhatsApp group with other participants, so they could continue sharing their thoughts and support one another after the course. “Our industry lacks the women in leadership roles and this programme has been created to change that and to help everyone to achieve their personal goals,” she says.

When her contract with Blue Zoo ended last year and she was searching for a new job, she received support from the women on the programme who passed her contact details to HR people and gave her advice.

She now works for DNEG as an animator, and is currently working on their first animated film. “I’m enjoying the job and focused on creating meaningful stories through the language of animation,” she concludes.