With gender equality rising in all areas of profession– specifically in male dominated ones, like the world of animation, we are seeing some incredibly powerful women emerge, and Boiling Point Media (BPM) is here for it! The animation industry being a bit of a “boys club” is an exhausted stereotype that needs to be squashed once and for all. In recent years we are already starting to see change in the way products are marketed towards women, and it is assumed that it’s largely thanks to more women being a part of the teams that create the work. However, the lack of women in higher positions of animation will not change overnight. With empowering women fulfilling roles in animation like our very own Stephanie Bellgardt, BPM Lead Animator and Character Artist, and Kristy Ausland, BPM Junior 3D Animator, the rise of female animators is near. Keep reading to find out what our female animators say about the matter.
The controversial term “gamer girl” brings attention to the fact that in previous years, the gaming, animation, CGI, and all other industry related positions are primarily male dominated. To no surprise, many women in these roles prefer to leave gender out of it and rely on the quality of the work produced—like it should. Ausland has a bachelor’s degree in Gaming and Animation and has been working for BPM for 4 months but has been a “gamer girl” since elementary school. “I’ve been interested in animation since 4th grade when I learned about the 2D animation program Flipnote Hatena on the Nintendo DSi,” Ausland said, “I had always been interested in drawing and storytelling, but it was then that I learned that animation was accessible to nonprofessionals.”
Bellgardt has been working for BPM for 6 years and has a degree in Gaming and Animation, but instead of video games, she was inspired by movie animations. “I was in high school when I watched How to Train Your Dragon,” Bellgardt said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to tell stories as an animator. I have a degree in Gaming and Animation, but most of what I learned came from doing work on my own and comparing it with characters on the big screen.” With the BPM VFX team consisting of only 10 people, Bellgardt and Ausland have had many opportunities to redefine the term “gamer girls” in showing their animation work as “boss women” while also having fun in the process. “I get to be an actress from behind the camera,” Bellgardt said. “For a whole day, I become a talking cat or an evil dragon or a cute alien. I’m also a pretty big dinosaur nerd and we do a lot of dino-related projects, so I’m always extra happy to work on those.” Let’s face it. Sometimes women just do things better.
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Gender equality has been a movement since the 1800s, and over 200 years later, we are starting to see equality and the support for it. For example, within the animation industry, there is a group of empowering women, Women in Animation (WIA) whose goal is, “[To] bring together the global animation community to empower and advocate for people of underrepresented gender identities in the art, technology, production, and business of animation, inspiring excellence and justice in all facets of the industry.” Gender equality in numerous professions has slowly been changing to a more even playing field, and employees at BPM are no exception to this positive change. “I always strive to create good work and strengthen my skills in any capacity, but I don’t think I feel that I have to ‘prove myself’ due to my gender,” Ausland said. “When I feel that I have to prove myself to someone, it’s more for my own sake, because I hate to fail the goals and promises I set for myself. I feel empowered to simply be able to reproduce the motions that I’m imagining in my head when animating. It’s especially satisfying when your first take on a shot is exactly what’s been requested with little or no changes.”
Bellgardt, having more experience in the industry, has been lucky enough to work in an environment where her work isn’t based on her gender, but rather the quality of the things she produces. “Being a woman has never mattered in my journey to become a CGI artist,” Bellgardt said. “I can’t speak to every visual effects studio in the world, but in my experience, it doesn’t matter what age or race you are, if you’re a man or a woman, or what background you have. The only things that matter are your skills and your work ethic… the only thing I’ve ever had to prove was that I could deliver a good shot for the screen, and I love that about this field. I’m always trying to improve my work and I learn so much from my team every day, guys and gals alike.” Judgements in the workplace are starting to be more based off of work, and less off of who does the work—how it should be.
Creating good animations takes practice, patience, and a clear set of goals. “My goal in animation is to make things enjoyed by others,” Ausland said. “I want to make animations full of life and appeal, and to have strength in realistic animation as well as exaggerated, cartoony animation. My favorite part is seeing the animation come together,” Ausland said. “At least once a week I’ll think, wow. I can animate?? But at BPM, we can have other things to do outside of animation, so we have an opportunity to learn other tools.” Unfortunately, no matter what industry you go into, you are guaranteed to have to work hard for, but everyone has to start somewhere. “My advice for women interested in the animation industry is that you should be fully prepared to work hard for it,” Ausland said. “Animation is just like any other skill- it requires dedication to build up and a willingness to take criticism and learn– don’t be shy to get feedback. In the case of 3D animation specifically, you don’t have to make every asset from scratch. A good character rig with good animation will outdo a poor, self-made rig with the same animation. I speak from personal experience on this.”
It takes a good animation observer to become a good animator–regardless of gender. “[My goal as an animator is] To make people forget they’re watching an animation and to get them totally absorbed in the story and the character’s emotions and personality,” Bellgardt said. “I heard a quote one time that I agreed with: an animator’s job is to show what a character is thinking, not what they’re saying. My advice to any prospective animators would be to watch lots of references, compare your work to that of industry professionals, study what makes characters and creatures appealing and lifelike, and practice, practice, practice. There are lots of free resources online, free rigs, and free tutorials for all aspects of visual effects. Having a degree isn’t necessary for this field, and you may find yourself learning and improving much more efficiently just by studying on your own or taking online courses tailored for animation (or whichever discipline you choose to pursue.) But college can be helpful in making industry connections, and it provides a structured learning environment that you may prefer.”
Boiling Point Media: The Future of Animation
Boiling Point Media has an agency side where Ausland and Bellgardt work on client animations like True Sky Credit Union’s Rosie. However, BPM also has a film side where our superpowered animators have been working on creatures for Jurassic Age to Outer Space and other big projects. “We just signed on for a Medusa movie, so I’ve been creating her model,” Bellgardt said “We’re also working on the dinosaurs for The Adventures of Jurassic Pet: The Lost Secret, as well as the alien characters for a movie called Space Pups. Other creatures in our current roster include cats, crocodiles, and demons.”
Make sure to visit our website to see all the new and upcoming films we are producing as well as to see the adorable Rosie at True Sky. Boiling Point Media is a full-service marketing, advertising, and production agency and we would love to work with you. If you are interested in how to become an animator in a work environment that’s gender neutral, then apply online, give us a call, send us an email or stop by in person for a chat!