We caught with one of our alumni Mary Lapena who studied with us back in 2011 to discuss her career as a woman in the creative industries and some of the projects she’s worked as a Compositor on including Ant-Man and The Wasp, Dumbo and Black Panther.
What are your thoughts on the future of VFX?
I think VFX is slowly moving in the right direction for bringing more diversity into the workplace. Since I started I have seen more women entering higher positions and I have more female colleagues compared to 8 years ago. There is also more promotion around women in VFX and it’s bringing more women to work in this industry, which I think is great.
What was the moment you knew you wanted to be in the creative industries?
Seeing the ‘making of’ featurettes on dvd’s when I was growing up. I always loved watching them and was always interested in how they made the films. I will always remember watching the making of Casper and Jurassic Park and being mesmerised but how it was all done.
What were your first impressions? And what are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the VFX industry?
It was no surprise to see that working in VFX is a male dominated industry. It was the same case at university, where there were only five female students doing a Computer Animation course. This might be because women don’t know that this is an industry that they can get into. The biggest challenge I think about being a woman in the industry is being treated differently compared to men. As an artist I have heard that women are not given the big action shots, instead they are given easy or “fluffy/girly” shots because they don’t think girls can handle “manly” shots. There is also the issue that due to the long working hours, starting a family is difficult and the fear of taking time off work to start one could risk your career.
What was your breakthrough project?
Black Panther. This was the first superhero movie I worked on, the first film to be part of a VFX team that won a BAFTA and I got to work on action shots without having to ask for it too.
Have you had any mentors along the way?
I would say my supervisors and leads on each project I’ve done have been my mentors throughout my career. I feel really privileged and blessed to have worked with people who care to nurture talent, share their experiences as an artist and their knowledge to help me grow and succeed.
Who/what inspires you?
The four female teachers/leads/supervisors that I’ve had the privilege to work with are my inspiration. Seeing these women being able to be in higher positions while also being able to do what they love and have a family is something that makes believe that I too can have the same.
In your opinion, why is it important that more women get into VFX?
It’s important for more women to get into VFX to bring balance to studios as we behave and think differently to men and they can offer new insights that may not have been thought of before. VFX is an exciting career path, being able to be creative and work on great projects is a huge plus.