From Compare the Market Meerkats to Black Mirror, Anita Corcoran has covered a wide variety of projects as a CG animator. But it hasn’t always been an easy path in a pressured environment. This is where the Animated Women UK’s Helen North Achieve programme proved extremely beneficial.
“Learning the technical and artistic skills to work in the animation industry is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of skills and knowledge required for the job. It is a very fast paced pressurised industry and you have to work well in a team,” Anita explains. “[The Animated Women UK programme] created a safe space to share experiences and hear advice from my peers who have managed to find solutions to problems I have experienced but feared were impossible to solve - which proved absolutely inspirational.”
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 is run by acknowledged career development experts, informed by in-depth industry research and input from renowned VFX and animation experts, including Louise Hussey, executive VFX producer at Industrial Light and Magic, and Beth Parker, senior manager, production (animation) EMEA at Disney.
Anita undertook the programme last year at the recommendation of a friend. The course consisted of five, three-hour workshops every two weeks that were a mixture of group discussions, individual presentations and self-reflection. “We looked at our own career histories and experiences and were given tools and resources to help find strategies to tackle workplace scenarios, like salary negotiations, conflict resolution, and presenting our work and ideas to a group,” she explains.
Anita enjoyed the challenge of talking about her work in a public way, which she had never done before. “The course facilitators (Marianne and Jan) were so supportive. They are such positive role models as well as great coaches. There was no question deemed silly or unimportant. They listened to everyone with absolute respect.”
During the programme, the more Anita reflected on who she was professionally and what she had achieved, the more excited she became about the possibilities of developing new project ideas and challenges.
This desire is not surprising as animation is what she has always wanted to do. After graduating with a BA in animation from the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin, Anita spent some time in Denmark working at the Animation Workshop where she specialised in Maya character animation.
She is now busy as a freelance animator in London, working for many different companies on commercials, TV series and films, as well as looking after her young son.
“The programme came along at a crucial moment in my career. I was just returning to work after being on maternity leave. I was quite worried about my career prospects as I knew of very few animators who returned to the industry after having children. Without the programme, I would have been quite pessimistic about what opportunities were available to me. Instead it gave me confidence and changed the way I think about myself. It also opened my eyes to how important networking events are, not just for potential employment, but for ideas sharing and career strategising.”
Looking at the broader picture, Anita believes companies want to help women, but maybe don’t know where to start. “Animated Women UK is just so essential for informing and supporting artists, as well as advising companies.”
Thanks to the support Anita received, she has decided to be bold and develop her own idea for a pre-school TV series. “I’m hoping to be ready to pitch to companies later in the year.”