Katherine Roberts is Head of Pipeline at Double Negative and the last superhero in our ‘Dneg’s Wonder Women’ series.
What drew you to a career in VFX?
I’ve always been split down the middle of technical and creative. At school I loved science and maths, but was also very into art and music. I couldn’t really see a way to combine the two – but when I started looking into computer graphics, and specifically Visual Effects, everything clicked. There are roles from the completely technical to the completely creative with everything in between, and for that reason it seemed perfect for me!
How did you get into the Business?
I did a degree in Maths and Computing at University and in my second year did an internship at an Investment Bank – it took me all of 5 minutes to realise that really wasn’t the career for me! I started researching different industries, courses and companies where I might be able to use my technical skills as well as be creative – and that’s how I came across the Masters degree programmes at Bournemouth University. I did an MSc in Computer Animation, landed a job at Dneg off the back of that – and I’ve been here ever since (15 years this year, eek!)
Women are still under-represented in the VFX industry – why do you think that is and what can we do to attract more women to join the industry?
There is a bit of a vicious cycle – with fewer women in the industry there are fewer female role models people can see and relate to, and as the saying goes “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Making sure that our female role models are visible is a good start!
Even before they get to thinking about careers, at school, girls are surrounded by stereotypes including ones about the kind of work that they should want to do versus boys. Many girls at that stage won’t realise the variety of tech careers open to them and also the potential for those roles to be highly creative. Challenging these stereotypes from a young age, and arming girls the confidence and information to choose a career that excites and interests them, whatever that may be, is really important.
As an industry we also need to be promoting all the different kinds of roles that are available – from creating beautiful imagery to developing cutting edge software to supporting the company in HR and recruitment – it’s definitely not just an industry of people all with the same skills doing the same job! Fortunately there are a lot of people who are very passionate about trying to address the gender imbalance, both at Dneg and also across the industry as a whole, which is great to be a part of.
What are your thoughts about the success of Wonder Woman and what do you think it means to the industry?
It’s just fantastic to see a superhero movie with a female protagonist, not to mention a female director, do so well! The film’s success underlines the fact that gender has nothing to do with whether a film is actually good or can be successful, and will hopefully inspire and add more momentum to the gender balance movement in Visual Effects as well as the film industry in general. Hopefully this will lead to more opportunities for female directors as well as artists right across the film industry, and a more balanced representation of the genders both in front of and behind the camera (and computer screen!).
What would be your advice to the next generation of women coming into the industry?
Visual Effects is a fast paced, exciting industry, but also one that attracts genuinely creative, laid-back, fun and above all talented people. Getting your head round how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together can be difficult, but never be afraid of asking your colleagues questions, they’ll always be keen to help. Above all, enjoy being part of a team that brings stories to life on the big screen – there’s nothing like seeing your name in the credits for the first time! Intelligence, skill and creativity aren’t gender specific, so there really are no limits to what you can achieve.