The creative industry is awash with beautiful designs, animations and incredible imagery, created for one reason – to entertain and capture our imagination. An industry creating such amazing visualisations should represent all viewers, from different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures and orientations. ACCESS:VFX, could be the answer to a more diverse and inclusive industry, by connecting young people through the power of education, mentoring and events across the UK and beyond.
Diversity in numbers
A recent survey of over 1,150 industry members by Screen Alliance in conjunction with Animation UK and ACCESS:VFX revealed the need for improvement in developing diversity and inclusion across animation, VFX and post-production sectors. It also called for more equality, particularly for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic People) in senior management, as well as more representation and inclusion of people with disabilities.
The report fills in a data gap which was highlighted by a BFI commissioned evidence review in 2018 and by the recent ScreenSkills Assessment for 2018-19, which called for more granular research at sub-sectoral industry level into inclusion and diversity. With the UK’s VFX industry worth an estimated £1 billion, it’s time the industry became more inclusive.
In the VFX sector, people of colour make up 19% of the workforce. In animation, BAME representation is currently 14% and in post-production, just 18%. The latest report however does show some positives, as all three sectors exceed the 14% UK average for people of colour in the working-age population - leaving room for improvement. Additionally, the statistics show only 8% of senior management roles are performed by people of colour, while only 12% of the respondents have at least one physical disability, mental or neurological condition.
“Inclusion in Post, VFX and Animation where longer and more permanent employment models are common will have a very different dynamic to those parts of our industry that crew-up for short-term projects with freelancers through informal networks. The recruitment focus in VFX, post and animation is firmly on skill and potential. It is quite rightly not about, “who you know” as the gateway to getting a job,” said UK Screen’s CEO, Neil Hatton.
The US industry is also in need of more inclusion. Today, the US’ video post-production sector is estimated to be worth more than $8 billion to the US economy, yet only about 3% of women of an ethnic background are head’s of animation and 4% are directors. They are the most unrepresented group in the industry!
ACCESS to VFX
The good news is that Animation, VFX and post-production sectors are set to become a more inclusive space, as a team of industry peers have joined forces to promote diversity and inclusion to actively create career opportunities for young people from varying backgrounds, across the globe.
Founded by Simon Devereux, group head of learning & development of VFX house, The Mill, ACCESS:VFX is an industry-led, non-profit coalition of 49 leading employers, industry bodies and educational establishments in the VFX, animation and games industries. Actively pursuing and encouraging inclusion, diversity, awareness and opportunity, ACCESS:VFX is founded upon four pillars, Inspiration, Education, Mentoring and Recruitment. The initiative made up of industry competitors, including Foundry, Framestore and many more are seeking new mentors, mentees and sponsors across the UK and throughout North America.
The initiative sets the competition aside to focus on something much more important, creating a more accessible industry for generations to come. Driven by equal opportunities, their work is expected to positively influence the creative market, building teams of diverse thoughts and ideas –with the core principle of “getting sh*t done.”
ACCESS:VFX’s innovative e-mentoring programme is powered by online comms platform Slack and managed by Prospela, a network connecting aspirational students looking to discover career opportunities. With 70% of its mentees BAME and/or female, it’s been designed to place young people with experienced professionals across the creative industry to help with career choices, interviews and work placements. Connecting over 100 young people aged 13 to 18 to supportive VFX industry professionals, the initiative has members from some of the biggest companies in the industry, recently partnering with the likes of Foundry. The creative software developers, along with others, are helping to meet ambitions to grow the programme to 350 by the end of 2019 and continue expansion across the Atlantic to its regional hubs in New York, Chicago and Montreal.
Alongside the e-mentoring programme, ACCESS:VFX and Q-VFX - an associated LGBTQ+ initiative - run global events across the UK and throughout the US and Canada. Each regional event includes VFX, animation and post-production professionals conducting presentations and hands-on workshops for young people, run at schools, colleges and local studios. From various Q-VFX events, to an action-packed Animation Summer School, people from varying backgrounds are getting the chance to speak to industry pros and find out what it’s all about. Industry leaders continue to support the initiative, with technology company HP recently sponsoring ACCESS:VFX to go to the ‘world’s greatest science festival’ New Scientist Live to engage with over 40,000 excited, engaged, eager-to-learn attendees.
Looking ahead, ACCESS:VFX are planning an Autumn takeover, a series of regional events in the UK, including Bolton, Stoke, Nottingham and Norwich, amongst others - with more key events planned across North America with new chapters in Montreal, New York and Chicago, “Our aim is to spread diversity and encourage inclusion, we do our best to make sure all of our events and workshops offer more opportunities for people of varying backgrounds. We’ve also seen great engagement globally, pushing our initiative is of international importance,” sums up Simon.
Visit www.accessvfx.org to find out more about future events, how to become a mentor, join the international collaboration or become a partner.