TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT ILM, AND HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN IN THE FILM INDUSTRY.
I am a production manager at ILM Vancouver, which means I’m responsible for the crewing and schedule of the show. I’ve been at ILM for 4 years. I coordinated on shows in some amazing legacy franchises like ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ before becoming a PM. My first show in my current role was ‘Transformers: The Last Knight.’
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? WHAT WAS YOUR MAIN COURSE OF STUDY IN SCHOOL?
I went to the University of Illinois and got a B.Sc. in Media Studies. While I was at University, I worked at the local PBS station, WILL-TV. That’s where I learned how rewarding it is to work on projects that reach a wide audience. After I graduated, I worked as a videographer/editor at Wolfram Research, the technical computing software firm that makes Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha. We made videos highlighting the developers the made and the scientists/engineers that used our software. I felt very privileged to have so much access to these amazing people- to ask questions, learn, and then share their stories. Being in production is very much the same in that I get to talk to everyone, make the connections and help the plan come together.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO INTO VISUAL EFFECTS?
I was one of those Star Wars obsessed kids. And I knew from my time of at Wolfram that I loved working around extremely smart people using tech in innovative ways. When I heard ILM had opened a studio in Vancouver and was hiring, I was really excited about the possibility of working with the best in the biz.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING POINT IN YOUR CAREER AND HOW DID YOU RISE ABOVE IT AND PERSEVERE?
The step up from production coordinator to production manager was a big one. I was used to being in the trenches- planning task by task and shot by shot with my artists. To suddenly zoom way out and take responsibility for the schedule and the crew and the budget gave me vertigo at first. But I asked a lot of questions, got a lot of answers and then tried to make the best choice for the show. It was a close collaboration between the awesome production teams in SF and Vancouver that made it all work.
DID YOU HAVE SPECIFIC FEMALE MENTORS OR ROLE MODELS THAT HELPED PUSH YOU FORWARD?
I’m lucky to have a lot of strong female mentors in my orbit! First of all is my mother, Cindy Shepherd. She modeled strong and loving leadership my entire life. There’s also Jilyan Landon, who was the video producer I worked with at Wolfram Research. She taught me how to listen and ask questions to piece together the solution to a problem. She also showed me how rewarding work can be when you have a strong connection with your team of co-workers. Another important one is Emily Williams, who was the PM on the first show I ever worked and is now my direct manager. She’s always believed in me when I told her I was ready to take the next step and given me the opportunities to do so.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOTIVATIONAL MANTRA?
How do you eat a giant? One bite at a time.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE FILM INDUSTRY CAN BETTER ENCOURAGE GIRLS AND WOMEN OF ALL AGES TO GET INVOLVED IN FILMMAKING?
Hire them. Fund them. Screen their films.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN CONSIDERING FILM, AND SPECIFICALLY VISUAL EFFECTS, AS A CAREER CHOICE?
Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table. Every team is much stronger with diverse perspectives and ideas.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO TAKE HER CAREER TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
Make your contributions visible. I think there are a lot of extremely talented women doing excellent work who think that means their managers will automatically notice. Don’t expect or wait for them to. You’ve got to let them know what you are doing and how it helps the project.
HOW CAN MEN BE BETTER ALLIES TO WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE?
Make opportunities for women to speak and actively listen. If you have hiring power, make a conscious effort to bring in more female candidates. And one smaller thing, let’s all cool it with comments like “You look stressed” or “You are looking under the weather”. Unless someone has personally told you that they aren’t feeling well, even these well-meaning comments can remind that their appearance is being scrutinized.