It's the magic of a flying wizard, the recreation of the Sistine Chapel, the darkness of a black hole. It takes us on journeys through time and space - sometimes chronologically or sometimes not at all. It creates rivers and waterfalls, or makes them disappear completely. Sometimes it's in our face; sometimes we don't even notice it. Welcome to the world of visual effects (VFX).
Lucky us - this month we chat with Lucy Cooper, Managing Director of Union VFX, a visual effects company based in London's SOHO neighborhood. When you've sat in front of a screen over the past few months, odds are you've seen the work of Union (think recently nominated BAFTA films 'The Dig,' 'Emma,' 'The Mauritanian,' 'Misbehaviour').
Lucy, named one of the Inspirational Women in Tech 2020, shares a bit about her job, how to get involved in the industry and why she loves being active.
1. Can you tell us about your position at Union VFX and where some of our Mini Mermaids and their families may have seen the work you do?
I’m Managing Director at Union. I work with the founders to set the goals we want the business to achieve. Then, I'm responsible for working with the team to make them happen. This includes everything from business operations, people and new ventures to ensuring that we preserve our culture and identity.
In addition to this year's BAFTA-nominated films, some other things we've worked on include 'The Crown,' 'Swallows and Amazons,' 'The Hustle' and 'Mamma Mia! Here we go again.'
2. You are passionate about women supporting women, including your work with Animated Women UK. Why is this so important to you?
I work in a very male-dominated industry - although it is getting better. By asking questions, we’ve learned that the women in our industry face some unique challenges and benefit from support and guidance from more experienced female mentors.
It’s proven that diversity of all kinds makes for a more successful business and I truly believe that a representative workforce (51% of the UK population is female) creates a great balance and culture for everyone.
3. What would you say to young girls who might have interest in VFX and animation?
It’s a great industry to work in. I love being around creative people, seeing something develop from an idea into a finished film or television programme and being able to watch and enjoy the work that my team help create.
If you’re interested, have a go! Make short films or animations with your friends. You’ll learn so much and have fun! There are lots of free tools and guidance out there.
A great place to start is ACCESS:VFX. They have lots of free resources to help you find out more about the industry as well as a great podcast and access to mentors in a safe online environment for anyone over 13.
4. In Mini Mermaids, we have two characters - Mini Mermaid (our inner cheerleader) and Siren (our inner critic) to help girls process, understand and manage the messages they hear, both internally and externally. Have you had an experience where you’ve reframed a situation to channel your inner cheerleader?
It’s totally normal to have an inner critic. Mine can be quite vocal. I am often asked to speak at events or on panels, which can be quite daunting. My Siren voice will be saying ‘what do you have to say of relevance? What if you mess up and get trolled on Twitter?’ And so on it goes.
Everything always sounds scarier than it is and, thankfully, my Mini Mermaid voice talks some sense and overrides my Siren. It says ‘of course you do, you wouldn’t be doing your job if you weren’t capable.’ I find in most scenarios as long as you do your homework and are honest and human, you can’t go that far wrong.
5. How does physical activity fit into your life? What are some of your favourite ways of being active and why is this important to you?
I like being active. It makes me feel good, but it’s not always easy to find the motivation to do active things. For me, it’s important to do something I actually enjoy as that makes me keep doing it. Also, doing it with friends really helps as you’d be letting them down if you didn’t make the effort - and often you get to go for coffee/brunch afterwards :)
My advice would be to try lots of things. I love everything from hill climbing and snowboarding to running (sometimes), pilates and walking the dog. During lockdown it’s been challenging as you can’t really do things with your friends in the same way and organised / group fitness has been off the cards. However, I’ve found meeting friends to walk my dog (when allowed) and doing online fitness classes has helped me a lot to keep well in my body and head.