A panel made up of working professionals in the VFX and animation industry joined the recent 2022 BFX festival, creating a space for conversation and dialogue.

Comprising the first diversity and inclusivity panel were Dara McGarry and Boyan Georgiev from DNEG, Sid Harrington-Odedra, Misc Studios, Engy Jarrouj, Framestore, and Amy Backwell of ILM. They describe their own journeys to attendees.

Dara McGarry started her career at Disney in 1997. She reflects, “it was about having a title. The culture was making employees become what they thought corporations wanted. People were changing to fit the mould.

However, there’s been a shift, studios are asking for unique voices. With everyone being their individual selves, present culture is about uniqueness.”

Engy Jarrouj elaborated with her experience at Framestore, “we were unsure as to why we might be losing applicants during the recruitment process. We surveyed candidates looking at unconscious bias. We’ve learned and begun to implement safe spaces to review our bias and particularly work to decrease unconscious bias.

Now, we list jobs on more diverse platforms, and work with specific organisations to get our career opportunities in front of all people.”

The audience prompted discussion about finding yourself in a company culture. In essence feeling it doesn’t reflect who you are, experiencing a disconnection and a lack of belonging. Boyan Georgiev highlighted his experience, “In this situation if you feel like you don’t belong in a company’s culture my advice is, change it.

When I started at DNEG there wasn’t anything established. So, we started our LGBT+ group to raise awareness and money for charities through events. It led to creating a space for the community to talk. Create the culture you are striving to see. Be bold. Working for the change you want to see.”

Amy Backwell uses her role at ILM to “ensure everyone knows they have a place in the industry. It’s about raising awareness. Starting the diversity and disability group has been a huge blessing to bring people at ILM together.

Especially from a neuro-diverse perspective, for me, I was diagnosed with ADHD later in life, and deadlines and work pressures were overwhelming. Having a diagnosis gives me the confidence to verbalise my needs. Being in a company culture that’s adaptable helps people to thrive; change might be uncomfortable, but it must be sat with for change to happen.”

Sid Harrington-Odedra commented, “in my experience management teams at large VFX corporations are evolving. It tended to be white men, finally, I feel like they have started to listen, and we are being surrounded by people who want to make inclusive changes.”

Georgiev expands, “we certainly need more equality in the narratives we create as people in the storytelling business. I’m tired of seeing stories about people in my community being shown as dying or having an existential crisis. It’s time to create LBGTQIA+ characters without trauma or being included to make a profit from pride merch. It’s about getting investors onboard.”

The final advice given from the diversity and inclusivity panel attendees was “use the platforms available to you and ignite themes of change in people’s minds. Find your allies, bringing support if you feel marginalised. You can’t fight a battle by yourself, as a collective group you can do a lot of change.”