Women’s Special VFX Interview – Marine Lelièvre, Head of Corporate affairs & Relations, Folks VFX
March 7, 2019 – March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the incredible achievements of women throughout history. International Women’s Day is such a wonderful way to celebrate the value women bring to the world.
Marine Lelièvre, Head of Corporate affairs & Relations at Folks VFX, used to be the VP Strategy & International Alliances at Persistant Studios / PopcornFX, previously created effects MTL, the biggest international VFX & Animation conference east-coast North America, in addition, was VFX-Animation-video game Event Director & Program chair… Marine demonstrates a profound knowledge of the creative process and production. Her forward-thinking vision enables her to solidify long-term working partnerships, based on trust. Marine has over 20 years of experience in multimedia: video games, music & movie industries, VFX & animation, motion capture, sound production, live shows/international tours, artist management, post production & corporate advertisement. Marine has a wide array of skills and experience in the audiovisual industry, including many years as Casting and Production Director/Special effects for Ubisoft. She was also in charge of special effects on set and acted as a production buyer for television series and films.
Today, Marine Lelièvre talks to us about her experience as a woman working in the VFX and Animation industry.
// From Marine Lelièvre, Head of Corporate affairs & Relations, Folks VFX
How do you describe yourself professionally?
I am a creative international strategist, expert in corporate development, alliances & public relations. My forward-thinking vision enables me to solidify long-term business relationships, based on trust.
What sparked your interest in visual effects? What made you choose visual effects, what was the primary inspiration, and how long did it take before you finally ‘made it’ to the big league?
In fact, everything started more than 20 years ago, while I was managing recording studios and international artists (Warner Music Group/EMI Music, Capitol & Blue Note Records); so I evolved naturally towards video games, motion capture & Post-production, having positions such as Casting & Production Director (Ubisoft), Head of Corporate Development & alliances (Game On), and finally move into film industry; beginning by coordinating special effects on set, production buyer for TV series and films, producer (Muse Entertainment, Les Productions de l’Intrigue, Ubisoft), then being the cluster Director of the Quebec Film and Television Council (QFTC), later creating effects MTL, the biggest international VFX & Animation Conference east coast north America and becoming the head of Corporate development & partnership in realtime VFX / XR (PopcornFX). And I am really excited to announce that I am presently the Head of Corporate affairs & Relations for Folks VFX.
Even if I share my time between, Canada, USA and Europe, the truth is that it actually really started longer than that! Originally coming from the French Riviera (near Cannes, South east of France), I grew up attending Cannes Film Festival (including “Un certain regard” & “La Quinzaine des réalisateurs” films selection) and never missed any “Jazz à Juan” or “Cimiez Nice Jazz music festival”, so my education & origins drove me naturally to creative industries).
How would you describe in visual effects? What’s your special achievements in VFX and Animation Industry?
I am committed and passionate, so what motivates me the most is creating added value for Tech. & Creative industries’ ecosystem. That was the aim creating “effects MTL” five years ago and running it for 3 editions, the biggest international VFX & Animation conference east coast North America.
The idea came up, when I was on the road, attending VFX, animation & video game Trade shows & festivals, but also, running the TV & Movie Council cluster, discussing studios issues during our VFX committees.
The goal was to showcase talent to international leaders, share knowledge & expertise, create business & creative opportunities for companies in Québec (Canada), which is a huge international creative hub (film, video game, AI), to encourage government to keep supporting it, increasing help with production & distribution of IPs, And to help with studios HR sourcing & education issues, but offer the film industry a great Rendez-vous to meet-up once a year!
I have the same ambition in my current position at Folks VFX, and, being one of the new board of directors at Visual effects Society (Montréal, Qc, Canada Chapter). Showcase talent and create great opportunities for this amazing creative industry to match make, share expertise and make great movies & feature that drive international creativity.
How different was the industry when you first started? How did it make you feel?
The industry and its talents are always growing, there have been changes in terms of production pipeline and tools (with the arrival in particular of video game engines, 3D, VR, Cloud, the presence of more and more pre-dominantly of the AI in production, machine learning). The competition is Consistently tough and the stakes always important for the survival of the studios and the creative teams (recruitment of qualified labor) with increased demand in terms of production and content creation (less production time to deliver more content) and new and demanding distribution platforms, such as Netflix… These evolutions are sometimes interesting, but give us a lot of challenge at all levels! So that is why we have to be even more imaginative to reach out our targets and to deliver great features, games & movies!
In this tight context, this is the reason why, talent (including business, management & executive skills), working conditions and means to achieve those goals & deliver, make the difference nowadays, more than ever in VFX, Animation or video games studios. Before all these are humans who create & produce these movies and games, so we all need the best conditions to synergize, team-up the best way, so as to be the most effective.
What is the current state for women in the industry?
As I am a very positive person and I am willing to solve, so I would say that there are still not enough women in the industry, but it is still evolving. We have more and more women at key position in the industry right now around the world; Charmaine Chan, Senior Compositor at Industrial Light & Magic, Chloé Grysole, Managing Director at Framestore and VES Montréal Chapter Chair, Catherine Nadeau, Alchemy24, VP co-founder, Sylvie Talbot, communication Director, Hybride, Christa Dickenson, executive Director Telefilm Canada, Lena Scanlan, VFX Producer Weta, Archita Ghosh, Executive producer ED Films, Sabine Laimer, Compositing Supervisor, Weta Digital…
For me too it is not always easy to evolve in a very masculine sector, especially 20 years ago, it was not too common for a woman to set-up studio recording sessions, manage album releases of artist such Korn, to go on tours with Cypress Hill… Or to coordinate SPFX on set while shooting Life of Pi, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine…! It was really intense sometimes.
Will the balance be established someday? We start from far! But it has also evolved thanks to the beautiful initiatives of organizations like Women in VFX, Women in Games (WIG), Visual Effects Society, Women in Film & Television (WIFT), Women in Animation and studios, schools, conference film festivals.
I am very passionate to support this move, being speaker and Women in Games member (WIG), developing all sorts of projects to promote the development of women’s careers in industry (mentoring, training programs, studios open doors, panels, schools information sessions, game jams & contests…). Being at an executive level, I have always helped to make the talent shine the most that I could. And as a VFX/Animation/Video game conference program Chair, I always gave a chance to women to give sessions and share knowledge.
So as to maintain objectivity on this issue, we must also value the fact that many men support and encourage women development and diversity in creative industries.
But my point is, nowadays, even if the wage gap, the harassment problems and the conditions are not resolved or optimal everywhere, is the big question is about gender, ethnic minorities, LGBT, or more about encouraging individuals, talent, creativity, boosting skills, being ready to think differently, giving the chance to people to bring their input and create all together accepting to integrate novelty within teams and production pipelines or project management. The diversity and the created differences of wealth in the broad sense and the energy released is more powerful than anything. So why not jumping to this change faster?
What is it like to work as a woman in your current place of work?
I cannot tell right now, I am new at Folks VFX but the team looks very diverse, there are women in key positions; Amélie Poitras, VFX executive producer, Alexandra Vaillancourt Senior VFX producers, Andrea Espinal, VFX Supervisor, Moika Sabourin Art Director…, and people from all backgrounds. I get the feeling that they encourage talent a lot, they gave a chance to a Mediterranean girl form the French Riviera at a very strategic position for the studio, Indeed I am the Head of Corporate Affairs & Relations at Folks VFX, based in Montréal and Toronto, providing a variety of services, ranging from concepts, storyboards, pre-visualization to visual effects supervision for TV, film and advertising.
In any case, what I like with this VFX Studio so far (we used to collaborate in the past on partnerships) is that, they are demanding, have a very personalized approach in supporting the development of projects and encourage the privileged relationship with producers and directors. This quality approach fits me Really.
What was your Best VFX/Animation project worked for?
Batman: Arkham Origins video game (Fights Motion Capture), Life of Pi (Ang Lee), X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine: Le combat de l’immortel (SPFX coordination on set & production buyer), were very exciting projects to work on and great crew, I have amazing shooting souvenirs!
Which is your favorite film in VFX and Animation and why?
There are so many, but recently, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: a huge synergy feeling! Creativity at all levels! Animation, character design, script, sound production…WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: research work on monkeys by animators, textures, light and moods in the film, sets, animation, comp, script, rhythm, I cannot list everything, there is so much talent in there, it is an amazing work!
These productions, get movies screening a real entertainment, a real good time inspiring where we let ourselves go and time stops, we need it to feed and rejuvenate! So thank you to all these teams for this amazing work!
Otherwise, some references also for me would be The Nightmare Before Christmas, My Neighbor Totoro, The Ghost in the Shell (the original post-cyberpunk feature), Death note (the original fantastic manga), there is a lot of delicacy and poetry in these features and great hot topics in there (future, society, ethics, humanity…).
How do you think the industry could improve in those areas? What advice do you have for studios to increase diversity? Do you have any suggestions for VFX/Animation Studios?
Collaborating even more with any organization and all initiatives that give the opportunity to showcase talent and maximize match making & creativity.
But another important issue to mention here is, the retention rate of skilled workers in the studios, I spoke about it at the beginning of this interview, when I evoked crew’s working conditions and changing mentality, which must go on, giving more chance and more room to the individual.
We should also call-up more teams to co-create and implement a shared vision. This would include reviving “Missing” conversations in studios and organizations, which would benefit to the whole industry and its ecosystem.
Which direction would you like to take your career in the near future?
My biggest motivation that drives me is to bring value to the ecosystem, synergizing with individuals at an international level, team-up and make the most bridges possible to boost creativity, maximizing processes, always being able to learn and grow up myself!
I am really excited by my new challenge at Folks VFX and ready to keep on brainstorming with directors, supervisors, producers, artists around the world in markets and film festivals on creative options for their movies production.
Keep on going sharing my expertise and huge energy with all organizations I am part of (Visual effects Society, Digital Spring, Women in Games). VES Montréal chapter gave Me the chance to join the Board of Directors this year, I am very touched by the trust that the industry has given me here, we have many new projects to develop for our VES members, on which I will actively invest!
And what advice do you have for young women wanting to enter the industry?
Be curious, develop a sense of Active Listening, never give up, share your knowledge, become a mentor and never lose any passion whatever the context is and position you get! Have fun and smile our industry is the best!