Women in Animation (WiA) has released a featurette during Annecy Film Festival highlighting the valuable work of its mentorship program.
The 14-minute video sees testimonies from both mentors – including animation writer Aydrea Walden, Alice Goldstone of Sony Pictures Animation and Pixar Animation’s Becki Tower – and mentees, many of whom have built portfolios and even gotten their first jobs after participating in the program. The program also caters to those who are further along in their careers and looking to make the next professional or creative jump.
“The one thing that we know for a fact is that there is no shortage of female talent,” WiA president and head of Crunchyroll Studios Marge Dean tells Variety. “Just looking at the numbers of women who pursue careers in animation by going to schools and really, any kind of entry level activity is usually overwhelmingly female.”
Yet those same women don’t seem to materialize in studios. Which is why mentorship is key, according to Dean.
WiA’s mentorship program was first launched in 2014 and in recent years has focused on mentorship “circles,” in addition to one-to-one mentorship, in order to allow participants to broaden their networks and find like-minded peers and mentors. Each circle consists of one mentor and between six and ten professional peers, each meeting once or twice a month.
Led by Walden, the spring program’s focus was on Women of Color in order to reach more BIPOC mentors and mentees, for which WiA partnered with LatinX in Animation, Rise Up Animation and Black N’ Animated. Topics covered included “How to Get Ahead in 3D Animation” and “Surviving and Thriving in the Animation World.”
“What we’ve done with our mentoring program is to allow these circles to create these communities, so that these relationships go beyond just the mentoring that they’re doing and allows them to build that community so that they have a support system,” WiA’s Vice President and Oscar-nominated producer Jinko Gotoh (“Klaus”) tells Variety.
Among the case studies spotlighted by WiA is that of DreamWorks Animation TV staff writer Emma Dudley who enrolled in the mentorshop program as a mentee and was paired with top directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The LEGO Movie”). Their mentorship enabled her to meet a raft of female executives at their company, Lord Miller, as well receive valuable notes on a pitch she was working on.
“We had lunch and got to know her and just gave our reflections on what she was working on. We helped her develop a pitch and went through several rounds of notes,” Lord recounts. “The pitch got better and better. Throughout the process we just tried to just encourage Emma to be the most Emma she could possibly be in her writing.” By the end of the program Lord Miller had optioned one of Dudley’s feature scripts, which is a result by anyone’s count.
As Walden says in the video: “We work in an industry where people hire people they know and we’re probably not going to change that anytime soon. So let’s help more people get to know more people.”
For more case studies head to: WomenInAnimation.org. WiA’s mentorship featurette is available for Annecy badge-holders and WiA members this week. It will be available to the general public to view starting June 20 but Variety readers can check out an exclusive sneak peek below: