Today we sat down with our Head of 2D, Davi Stein to discuss her career as a woman in VFX, projects she’s worked on and her advice for women wanting to get into the industry. Davi teaches compositing to our undergraduate VFX students and has worked in the industry for 15 years and worked in higher education for 7 years.
Davi has an impressive range of compositing experience and it's hard to know where to start with her credits, because she’s worked on so many iconic films. Davi was Senior Compositor on ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ and ‘Australia’. She also composited the Davy Jones character for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest’ and the Hall of Prophecies sequence for ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’.
Tell me about your career so far
I started in the visual effects industry as a Compositor and worked up the ranks to become a Senior Compositor both in the USA and London. From there I transitioned into teaching, starting with the MA and short courses to undergraduate courses at Escape Studios.
I didn’t go to university or get a qualification in visual effects so I learnt everything on the job. It was a challenge, especially when I worked on commercials, clients would be in the room which sometimes made things a little bit more difficult. But I’ve had amazing mentors along the way and I always love learning from my colleagues.
When I first started in the industry I had to do a lot of research on how to get started. I knew that I wanted to get into films whether it was editing or cinematography, and at that point I didn't know about visual effects. I got into a post production company as a receptionist as that was one easy way of getting in and a number of other women I know did the same. I would sit on the front desk reading manuals and textbooks and other people saw that I was serious about getting into the industry and took me under their wing and mentored me. I did get some people say that men should only be given technical roles. Because I moved off the desk into a technical training position, I did have to prove myself but anyone who wants their first break has to prove themselves and show that they’ll put in the extra hours and effort. Thanks to my mentors that trained me up after a while, I was ready to move on to a different company and jump into my first role.
What inspires you?
There are a number of people who inspire me, young and old. Even meeting new applicants who come in for their creative workshops, seeing their great work and fabulous ideas inspire me.
**Trends in the industry **
Female and male brains think differently. For some women picking up new skills such as coding can be more challenging to some extent but younger people are now being taught how to code which will make learning new software etc easier. The industry is more of a mix nowadays. And I think a lot of people are realising that there is a technical side but you don't need to be super geeky or super technical, it helps but a company hires someone for their visual talent and training of software can always be taught. This seems to discourage some women but visual effects is now more of a craft and has been for a while. Its shifting because of the amazing tools and software. I know many women who have come from very scientific backgrounds and have made the change to visual effects and become successful in the industry.
There is also a bit of a gender gap in VFX Supervisor roles. I know some who hold this role but I think it's still a challenge and I’m not sure why. Whether it's because women aren't being recognised early on their career to be given the opportunity because the talents out there. All male teams and all female teams have different dynamics but I think it's more interesting when they mix. I believe in equality and everyone should be given a chance.
Do you have any advice for women who want to get into the industry?
If anyone starts to tell you it's too technical or you can't do it or just general discouragement, don’t listen to them. If you're interested in getting into the industry, try it out. There’s lots of free online tutorials and programs out there and coding is a lot more fun now as well. Get mentors, go to meetups, talk to people you admire and ask them what were their obstacles and what have they learnt. Bound with people and anyone that encourages you to try something. If you don’t like it then try something else.