Vision & Craft: People

IN THE SPOTLIGHT – KAORI OGINO


A Q&A SERIES

Tell us about your role at ILM, and how long you've been in the film industry.

As CG Technology Supervisor of ILM, I work with the CG artist leads across our global studios, internal engineering groups, as well as with outside partners, to define and drive short and long-term technology strategy for ILM. I have 14 years of experience in the film industry as a vfx professional.

What is your background? What was your main course of study in school?

I majored in Philosophy and Comparative Literature at Brown University, then went on to be a senior management consultant at a business consulting firm for several years, before switching careers into the vfx field. My technical and CG skills are all mostly self-taught with some combination of “as-needed” courses taken at NYU and UC Berkeley, and of course “on the job” learning once I got my first job in vfx at Rhythm & Hues working as a character rigger.

What inspired you to go into visual effects?

I had always had a love of film and art and technology. An introductory 3D computer graphics class I took at NYU really made me realize how much I enjoyed CG work - both for the creative and technical aspects.

What was the most challenging point in your career and how did you rise above it and persevere?

The biggest challenge for me was switching careers from business consulting to vfx. I had a liberal arts degree that had very little to do with computer science or computer graphics, and all of my professional experience to date had been in an unrelated field. I went about learning as much as I could as broadly as I could about the vfx field, and most importantly, I formulated my own “learning path;” I managed to cherry-pick a few classes that I felt would expedite my learning, and filled in the rest with just learning on my own time. There are so many publicly available resources for learning both programming as well as computer graphics that it is really possible to teach yourself and get from point A to B quickly without enrolling in a lengthy, costly program or having some official certificate.

Did you have specific mentors or role models that helped push you forward?

My mentors on the artist and technical side have all been men, but they have all been exceptional in giving me advice, development opportunities and encouragement. My most powerful female role model is my mother, who had a very successful professional career as a designer and is the artist I most admire. Art is an essential part of her being and way of living, but she has also always pursued her passion with incomparable moral integrity. Just as valuable to me is the role my father played in my upbringing. He also worked as a designer, but was very involved as a parent. I have many fond memories of him being involved at my school and taking me to and from my Japanese Saturday school, and teaching me things and being creative together. I think for opportunities for women in society to really change, girls need to see strong, successful women thriving in their chosen professions, but they also need to see that if they choose to raise children with a partner, that partner can be supportive and complementary of their needs. I think that paradigm shift can be liberating for many men as well, whose societal roles and expectations may in some cases constrain them from having richer relationships with their children.

What's your favorite motivational mantra?

I do not have a particular mantra, but my children are all the reminder I need to give my best professionally and personally so that I can be the parent they deserve, and do my part to leave the world a better place for their generation.

How do you think the film industry can better encourage girls and women of all ages to get involved in filmmaking?

It needs to start very early - my own children even at 3 or 4 years old have noticed and asked why certain professions or activities are “all boys” - whether it’s something they noticed in a book or observing the real world around them. Whether they ask about it explicitly or not, those models are being reinforced (and therefore more likely to be replicated) from a very early age. I think providing opportunities to girls in school with filmmaking projects, classes, camps etc. is essential to getting more girls interested in a field that otherwise appears very homogenous and prohibitive. And I think telling the positive stories of female filmmakers and other women in the industry is also critical, to show girls and young women that it is possible to succeed and enjoy a career in this field.

What advice would you give to women considering film, and specifically visual effects, as a career choice?

It is a continually evolving field so it is important to be flexible, curious, and enjoy being a constant learner. Follow and pursue the kind of work that you truly feel joy and excitement doing.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take her career to the next level?

Always listen inwardly to what it is you want to be doing and how you want to be growing and let that define what “the next level” is for your career at your own pace; what you want may not exist directly in that next box up on the org chart - it may be somewhere else. Or it may be something that is not a box at all, that you end up drawing up on your own! Career success would be being able to develop, hone and expand the ways in which you as an individual can uniquely create value, and feeling fulfilled in doing so. Don’t be afraid to find and even create the opportunities for yourself that meet those needs.