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June 01
2022

ISSUE

Summer 2022

Bay Area Revisited: Lifting Up Diverse Voices in VFX

By NAOMI GOLDMAN

VES Bay Area “Virtual FAANG Panel” held during the pandemic, featuring Polly Ing, Adobe; Leslie Valentino, Facebook Reality Labs; Maggie Oh, Google; and Alan Boucek, Tippett Studio, moderated by Camille Eden, Nickelodeon.

VES Bay Area “Virtual FAANG Panel” held during the pandemic, featuring Polly Ing, Adobe; Leslie Valentino, Facebook Reality Labs; Maggie Oh, Google; and Alan Boucek, Tippett Studio, moderated by Camille Eden, Nickelodeon.

VES Bay Area hosted a virtual workshop on “Shifting Gears: Next Level Storytelling” featuring Diana Williams, Kinetic Energy Entertainment; Colum Slevin, Facebook Reality Labs; Miles Perkins, Epic; and Alonso Martinez, Google AI, moderated by Corey Rosen, Tippett Studio, and Maggie Oh, Google.

VES Bay Area hosted a virtual workshop on “Shifting Gears: Next Level Storytelling” featuring Diana Williams, Kinetic Energy Entertainment; Colum Slevin, Facebook Reality Labs; Miles Perkins, Epic; and Alonso Martinez, Google AI, moderated by Corey Rosen, Tippett Studio, and Maggie Oh, Google.

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

The VES’ international presence grows stronger every year, and so much of that is because of our regional VFX communities and their work to advance the Society and bring people together. VES Bay Area is the Society’s first and oldest Section, and continues to thrive with 500+ members. Home to Lucasfilm, ILM, Pixar and Tippett Studio, as well as Dolby HQ, dozens of smaller VFX studios focused on commercial production and games and the entirety of Silicon Valley, the Section is proud to carry the distinction of being one of the only places that lives at the center of these various endeavors.

Like the rest of the industry, VES Bay Area revised its programming during the pandemic to a largely virtual platform to address the needs of its members and serve as a point of comfort, connection and continuity during a time of uncertainty. The Section invested in producing events focused on Virtual Production, Working Remotely, Creative Storytelling and leveraging VFX skills in other industries to provide robust education and forums for networking, career development and social interaction.

“We forged ahead with a series of educational programs billed as FAANG events (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google), given the booming growth of tech companies in the region and need for people with visual effects skills, especially as these companies move from being service and tech entities to media production companies creating art,” said Cory Rosen, VES Bay Area Treasurer. “These forums have been great opportunities for people to share their experiences on pivoting from working at traditional VFX companies to career opportunities in the tech field. It was easy to keep these programs going during the pandemic and invite diverse voices to be represented on these panels.”

The Section’s efforts to address issues around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were borne out of the FAANG panels and deepened. “From the experience with the FAANG events, we wanted to further the topic of DEI and anti-racism, and at the end 2021, we started an anti-racism book club,” continued Rosen. “Our first book was How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, and our members have shared that these moderated conversations have been among the most meaningful events they have been a part of during the pandemic. It is very rewarding to know that we are delivering something with that kind of value and impact to our community.”

Continuing on the theme of diversity, the Section is focused on expanding the segments of the industry represented in its membership and finding ways to highlight the talent on the Board and the entire member community. “It’s very exciting to be working with a Board that is intergenerational and boasts leaders who bring diversity in thought and life experience,” said Alan Boucek, VES Bay Area Chair. “We have a great amalgam of voices across our leadership, who are propelling us to program on ‘the new and the now’ – not just on retrospectives that harken to our history.”

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

As the pandemic ebbed and flowed, VES Bay Area held a number of in-person events as allowed by health protocols. In 2021, the Section held screenings of The Matrix Resurrections two weeks before it opened, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals. The Section was overjoyed to be able to host its two cornerstone events in person – the Annual Summer BBQ (featuring beloved Star Wars characters as special guests) and the Holiday Party in December.

Boucek continued, “Building on all that we accomplished over the last two years, I’m interested in developing live and virtual programming that resonates with many different sub-communities in the industry. That ranges from convening a forum of freelancers to share their experiences navigating challenges and opportunities, to further engaging people from the games industry, to gathering alumni of the Unreal fellowship program to share lessons learned, to using our resources to build and support the pipeline of younger VFX professionals to help them get the requisite experience needed to qualify for VES membership. There is so much we are doing and can be doing to nurture aspiring professionals and deepen our connections across the industry.”

Marking the Society’s milestone 25th anniversary, the Section leaders shared their insights. “As a community, we are all interconnected, and have genuine pride and a sense of support for each other,” said Boucek. “The VES brings people together to share the passion and challenges of what it means to be a working VFX professional. The essence of the VES is being surrounded by people who see you and know you and understand you. We are the whole sum experience of our members, and we provide an opportunity for shared connection that is truly unique in all the world.”

“In the early part of my career at ILM – before I was a VES member – I recall the industry as being contentious and tribal, with people reticent and fearful to share knowledge and information,” said Rosen. “I truly feel the VES opened up that dialogue and community, which was transformational in my life and career. In 25 years, the VES has proven that we can break down barriers and build meaningful connections and we have so much to be proud of.”

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests enjoy the Summer 2021 picnic with special friends from Star Wars joining the festivities. (Photos: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests celebrate the season at the 2021 Holiday Party. (Photo: Anet Hershey Photography)

VES Bay Area members and guests celebrate the season at the 2021 Holiday Party. (Photo: Anet Hershey Photography)


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