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March 30

Rise Up: Building a Culture of Trust and Community

SPIN VFX President Neishaw Ali’s career journey is the embodiment of forward movement – rising from the company’s office manager to the leader of this internally recognized visual effects studio, with teams in Toronto, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Raised in British Guyana, one of 10 children in a family of limited means, Neishaw tapped into her imagination to create games that transported her to different worlds. Today, Neishaw is a guiding force, working to advance the film and animation industry through leadership positions with the Computer Animation Studios of Ontario, Toronto Film, Television & Digital Media Board, The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and as a Board member of the VES. 

The impact and benefits of a diverse workforce are immense. We employ artists and a production team from 100+ countries who speak more than 30 languages, and I’m proud that our team has 51 percent female leads. Of the 250 people we have on staff, I have hired about 200 of them, it’s that important to me to be hands-on. In building our team, I’m always looking for exceptionally qualified professionals, whose personal vision aligns with ours – because the people are our best asset, delivery upon delivery. And every day that we learn something new from one another, I’m truly inspired. 

Neishaw Ali, Founding Partner, President and Executive Producer of SPIN VFX

“The impact  and benefits of a diverse workforce are immense. I’m proud that our team has 51 percent female leads.”

As a woman, I find that some people have preconceived notions about me until we sit down at the table and  they realize I know the work, the pipeline, what every piece of software can do and the role of every department. After 25 years at SPIN, that deep understanding of our infrastructure is what allows me to build trust and lead us forward. Our ecosystem is a gathering of artists and trusted entrepreneurs, studio producers and directors, and our success is absolutely driven by mutual respect. 

When you’re creating a company, you’re building a living entity of learning, and giving back to the community in an integral part of our culture. One way we’ve strived to make a difference is by developing a youth mentoring program to cast a wider net and share this potential career path with promising students. We have invested in these aspiring artists by offering an intensive training and mentoring program, and I’m so proud that from the last class of mentees, we hired nine “graduates” to join our company fulltime. By providing an opportunity for these young practitioners to have a future where they can be productive and feel ownership and harness their talent – and to know that we helped make that happen – it’s profoundly rewarding. 

What’s the passion that drives me? I feel that when I leave this world, I want each generation to be better than the last. And I want to deliver for my team, with my team. I don’t ask for the easy work. I want to create new worlds, I want to build whole new environments, I want us to keep pushing the envelope of what’s possible – working together. 

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