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June 14
2022

ISSUE

Summer 2022

Sheena Duggal: Uplifting Women Who Lead in VFX

Sheena Duggal is an acclaimed visual effects supervisor and artist whose work has shaped numerous studio tent-pole and Academy Award nominated productions. Most recently, Duggal was Visual Effects Supervisor on the box office blockbuster Venom: Let There Be Carnage and was a BAFTA nominee this year for Best Special Effects for her work on the Oscars VFX-shortlisted Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Sheena is the only woman VFX Supervisor to earn that level of recognition from the Academy this awards season. She was the first woman to be honored with the VES Award for Creative Excellence, bestowed in 2020.

Sheena Duggal

The lack of female visual effects supervisors is definitely the result of a lack of opportunity and unconscious bias – and that is fixable. Earlier in my career, I was told that the goal was to promote the male supervisors, and watched as guys who had worked under my VFX supervision were promoted up the ranks and given opportunities on large VFX shows. It never occurred to me that my gender would hold me back, and I was always surprised when it did. I am a strong believer in diversity and inclusion, not just because I am a bi-racial woman, but because I believe that greater diversity leads to freer thinking and greater creativity.

Good girls get nowhere. Be disobedient, be persistent, never take disrespect thrown your way… be smart and graceful and remember you are equal.

Never stop fighting for the right to be the best you can be. Women spend too much time being congenial, and it’s time for us to speak up about our achievements and the opportunities we’ve created for ourselves. We’re talented, we’re here, and we’re ready.

Even if women break though the glass ceiling, they end up on a glass cliff where they can be pushed off, because there, is no cadre of women to cheerlead in support that is equivalent to a “boy’s club.” We need to be building an industry culture and a structure that supports women in the field and sets them up for success. I take my opportunity to be a role model and a voice for other women seriously; I want to not just open doors, but bust through them.

Change can happen fast if everyone is motivated. We need to do it now.

In having this inevitable conversation, we can’t exclude men or accuse them if we want to create the change we want to see. We must do it together. Women are almost always expected to solve the systemic problems we did not create or perpetuate in a patriarchal culture. A lot of well-meaning people lack self-awareness or fail to understand their role in enabling sexism or great inequities. If meritocracy fails to work, then uplifting women needs to be a conscious choice. I would ask all men in VFX to go through implicit bias training and be active problem-solvers and advocates for women, because people still give men’s voices more credibility. It takes a lot of people to create success for an outlier.

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