The award-winning definitive authority on all things visual effects in the world of film, TV, gaming, virtual reality, commercials, theme parks, and other new media.
Winner of three prestigious Folio Awards for excellence in publishing.
Ellen Poon grew up in Hong Kong in the 1960s in a film-going family. Her creative aesthetic was highly influenced by the combination of British and Chinese cultures. A world-renowned expert in visual effects and animation, Ellen is a founding member of MPC’s Computer Graphics department. During her tenure at Industrial Light and Magic, she was the first woman to be made Visual Effects Supervisor. Ellen has a passion for Chinese film projects and has won two Hong Kong Film Awards for her work on Hero and Monster Hunt. Her filmography includes Jurassic Park, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Jumanji, Frozen and Raya and The Last Dragon. Ellen advocates for increased diversity and inclusion as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Executive Committee.
Starting out, I wanted a mentor, but couldn’t find anyone because computer graphics was in its infancy and there was no one in the field like me. What I’ve learned: when you are trying to forge a new path – for the industry and yourself – you need people who are kind and supportive in your corner. Mentors don’t need to be offering something tangible, like a job; they need to offer guidance, especially on how to navigate the microaggressions that women and minorities experience in our industry. To maintain focus, you need to have a very strong compass. Know who you are, what you’re trying to do,and maintain a sense of professionalism.
“Bold leaps are life defining moments; take them when you have the chance.”
Being the first woman to be named VFX Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic was a great privilege and a huge responsibility. I felt the weight of representing all women, all minority women, and the need to be not just good – but excellent. I’ve seen how implicit bias manifests – the looks of disbelief from crew and clients that I could be a supervisor, or the unknown quantity that many people find hard to accept because there are just so few of us. It is harder to get work as a female supervisor, but the obstacles have increased my resolve to do well in this business and prove them wrong. For people starting out, this environment can be discouraging, so I am committed to sharing what I’ve learned.
As an artist in a position to lead others, it’s important to stay deeply connected to your craft. It takes budgets and pipelines to make our shows run, but to feed my artistry, I need to be creating at my workstation and imagining out loud. Technology changes nonstop, and to be a good supervisor capable of selling it into a project, you must keep your hands dirty.
Do not be afraid to dare greatly and listen to your inner calling. While working at ILM, a lot of great films came out of Hong Kong, China and Asia. I felt like I had a role to play in making these movies, as well as a connection to helping the business go further technologically in my hometown, the place that shaped me. I pursued the chance to work with the best Asian filmmakers on Hero by quitting my job at ILM to follow my passion. Bold leaps are life defining moments; take them when you have the chance.
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