March 8th, 2016

NextGen Aspiring Women is a professional development programme aimed at women working within the games, animation and VFX industries. The programme was designed to assist self-motivated mid-career level professionals reach their personal and professional goals. Along with one-to-one guidance given by mentors, the Aspiring Women participate in a series of seminars, workshops, masterclasses and networking events that have been designed to enhance skills, boost confidence and provide ongoing support in a peer-to-peer environment.

Meet the talented Mill Aspiring Women taking part in the programme and check back this Summer when we follow-up on their growth and progress at its conclusion:

Elizabeth Mitchell

3D Artist, The Mill London

Why did you decide to participate in the NextGen Aspiring Women Development Programme?

When I read about the NextGen Programme, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet like-minded women in the industry and to learn from experienced women in high-profile positions. I love my job and am pleased with the role, but I'm keen to push to the next level and hoped the programme would help with my confidence and ability to do that.

How has the experience been so far?

It's been great meeting so many women in similar situations and I can already see how everyone's confidence has grown. It's been helpful to learn about each person's experience and swap stories and I have learnt some valuable skills. I leave each workshop feeling more self-assured.

How did you get into the world of VFX? Why did you choose 3D?

I have been at The Mill for nearly 10 years after starting my career here as a runner. I've wanted to be in 3D since watching the animators work on Toy Story years ago, and I loved art and maths in school, so working in a technically creative role is perfect.

Who are  your role models, mentors or inspiration?

As part of the NextGen course, my mentor is Sheila Wickens, Head of 2D at Lipsync. She is a great person to learn from and it has been inspiring to meet a woman with a family that is heading up a department. There isn't a senior woman in my department so it was important to meet a woman in this type of a role and I hope to learn a lot from her.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I recently worked on a big project for ‘Dance’. I was fortunate to lead the team alongside Dave Fleet, Head of 3D in London, so I was able to shadow him as we worked together. I learn most when I work on an entire project, so I enjoyed attending the shoot and working along the complete pipeline to the final rendering. I like character animation and the story of the ad is fun and upbeat, so overall is was a really enjoyable project.

Elena Pagliei

Producer, The Mill London


Why did you decide to participate in the NextGen Aspiring Women Development Programme?

The Aspiring Women sounded like an inspiring initiative and I’m delighted to have been selected. The programme includes workshops on leadership, project management, confidence building and more, which are all very precious for my career development. When the application came through, I had just been promoted and I thought the programme would be a great support for me at this stage of my career. Also, having a personal mentor is an invaluable learning opportunity and I was keen to make the most of it. I hope the programme will help me develop my career by improving skills like decision-making, client management and leadership.

How has the experience been so far?

The experience has been great, I have been able to meet many other women who work in the games, animation and VFX industry, and we’ve been sharing knowledge and experience from different backgrounds. The workshops have been focusing on confidence strengthening and leadership skills development, and I’ve already been able to ask my mentor plenty of questions about VFX production management.

How did you get into the world of VFX? Why did you choose Production?

I joined The Mill as a Production intern straight after finishing my degree course at Bournemouth University. I had previously completed a summer internship at BlueBolt Ltd and took any opportunity to get more production experience, from working on short films and documentaries to co-directing an international film festival.

I love to be involved in the projects from beginning to end and contribute on all the stages of the production, and it’s a real joy to be surrounded by such talented people every day. It’s great to be part of a team that tells stories through beautiful and groundbreaking visuals, and I could not imagine myself working in any other field in the creative industry.

Who are your role models, mentors or inspiration?

When I was at university, I spent a lot of time researching about how to get into the industry. I ended up reading interviews with Bonnie Arnold, a producer whose credits include Toy Story and How To Train Your Dragon. She is a strong female leader in the animation industry and she has definitely been an inspiration for me.

At The Mill, I have been blessed with the mentorship and support of great artists and producers, especially Graham Pryor, Amy Cooper, Angela Toner, Zoe Verrier-Stunt, Paul Mosley, Jimmy Kiddell and Jorge Montiel, who I have been working with very closely. They have been, and still are, great mentors and sources of inspiration.

Two more people who have played a very important role in my life and career are my university friends Gabriele Cannizzaro and Tanvi Deshpande. They have taught me so much and they are the reason why it all started for me in the production world.

What project are you most proud of and why?

The project I enjoyed the most is the latest ‘Ninja Idents’, which I finished just before Christmas. This was the first big project I produced myself and I'm very happy of what we achieved. The team of artists was great and it was a real pleasure to work with them.

The full CG idents have great character, with comic and cartoony storylines. This project was a great experience to learn more about coordinating artists and managing the relationship with the client. It also strengthened my knowledge about full CG workflows and animation techniques.

Anne-Sofie Tholander

2D Artist, The Mill London


Why did you decide to participate in the NextGen Aspiring Women Development Programme?

Seeing as there are so few women in VFX, NGAW is a really great opportunity to meet others who not only have high career aspirations but also share the common goal of wanting to take our career a step further.

I hope to get a better overview of my own career and where I want to take it, along with becoming better at tackling difficult situations, pinpointing my strengths and not being afraid of diving into new challenges.

How has the experience been so far?

It has been really interesting and almost surprising to meet women from such different places in the industry that share so many of the same challenges. Learning that you aren’t as alone as you thought makes a huge difference and I really look forward to the rest of the master classes we have lined up.

How did you get into the world of VFX? Why did you choose 2D?

I always knew that I wanted to do something creative. When I was a teenager, I discovered The Animation Workshop and I knew that was the school for me. After graduating from high school, I then started the process of refining my craft. First attending a seven-month classical drawing school in Copenhagen, Denmark, followed by one year at The Drawing Academy in Viborg, Denmark. This enabled me to create a portfolio that got me accepted into a bachelor programme of Computer Graphic Arts at The Animation Workshop. In between all this, I was already getting my first industry experience by working as a freelance Illustrator with Bella Sara as my biggest client.

As part of my bachelor’s degree, I had an internship and I was so fortunate to have been offered four-months in The Mill’s 3D department. Despite starting out in 3D, I was offered the opportunity of working in the 2D department, so in that way you could say that 2D chose me and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.


Who are your role models, mentors or inspiration?

During my time at The Animation Workshop we had a whole variety of very inspirational teachers from the industry. One of them was Peter Chan, who is a visual artist that has worked on numerous titles such as  Grim Fandango, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Monsters UniversityHe taught us concept design and his passion, talent and knowledge is something that I will never forget.

Apart from Peter and the people who inspire me every day, my all time inspiration for even venturing into the creative industry in the first place was the 1986 film Labyrinth. I was absolutely captivated by the magical world and working in VFX enables me to create my own magic every day.

What project are you most proud of and why?

The project that I consider my first milestone is Cif ‘ Sleeping Beauty’. I was so fortunate to co-lead it together with Hugo Guerra. This was my first time leading a project and Hugo was an excellent mentor and supervisor. Without all his support, I would not be where I am today.

My second milestone is the Sky Movies ‘Star Wars Ident’, which has to date been my most technically challenging project. This was my first Mill+ project leading on my own. I had an amazing team and together we managed to overcome the challenges and create an amazing piece of work that I am very proud of.

Find out more about the programme here.