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Animated Insights for Non Artists:
Encouraging Young Women in Animation Careers
by Shannon Muir

In 2001, I received an invitation to be an online guest speaker for a virtual chat as part of Take Our Daughters to Work® Day, which happens yearly in the United States during the month of April. In fact, April 25, 2002, is the tenth anniversary of Take Our Daughters to Work® Day. Started by the Ms. Foundation for Women, the day's intent is to show young ladies on the verge of being able to select their career paths what their opportunities and options are. As that's always been my goal with my columns and my panel appearances, and knowing many interested youth wouldn't be able to get such information directly, it pleased me to offer my services as part of a whole day's lineup of chats from all sorts of industries.

If you are someone reading this involved in any aspect of the animation industry, artist or not, do you have some young lady around you who seems to be interested in animation? Perhaps even just a young woman unsure of what she can be? Introduce her to your animated world! It doesn't have to be your own daughter per se, just someone who sees you as a role model. Consider seeing if you can set a day (even if it can't be Take Our Daughters To Work Day®) aside to help broaden her knowledge and find out what careers interest her. After clearing things with both your boss and the young woman's parent or guardian (assuming she's not your own daughter), let her spend after school with you at the studio or production company you work at, possibly accompanied by with the parent or guardian depending on the arrangement agreed upon.

Alternatively, if you work as a freelancer -- such as a writer or timer -- tell the young woman how you manage a freelance career at home, from what your job entails to the business side. In today's age of liability, I'm not sure I can recommend a freelancer actually taking an interested young woman to their home, even if it also functions as their office. Finding a public place you can sit and talk for a while, where you can bring visual aids of your work such as scripts or exposure sheets, and discuss them in detail should work. Perhaps you can make arrangements to tour the studio you freelance for in the company of one of its regular staff, giving an excellent opportunity to let the young woman learn the differences between staff and freelance jobs.

You may be reading this and thinking it all sounds great, but you personally don't know any young women. The Ms. Foundation's website for Take Our Daughters To Work Day®, located at http://www.takeourdaughterstowork.org, offers suggestions for find a girl to mentor. Approach your local Girl Scout, Girls Incorporated, or similar organization to see if they are matching mentors and girls for this event; perhaps a local womens' organization might be able to help.

If you're reading this in an area without access to animation studios, but have connections to commercial art studios, magazine publishers, or similar occupations, consider taking a young woman interested in animation there. Magazine publishers, for example, have some similar roles (such as Production Assistants and Coordinators) that perform similar functions as their animation counterparts to reach a different end result. Based on what you've learned from my column and elsewhere, be prepared to discuss the differences between print art and animation, but also point out similarities in the processes. Also make that intent clear to the young woman, who might be confused at first why you're taking her to one type of location when she's interested in another. Despite animation being my primary interest as a youth, I got the opportunity to tour a newspaper one-on-one (not as a group tour) in junior high school. Understanding that process and knowing a newspaper differs from creating an animated episode -- though both involve the processing of art -- has heightened my appreciation for both mediums.

I'd like to end with this: even though this article highly promotes showing young women their possibilities in animation, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a mentor to a young man. If the opportunity presents itself to work with any young person who shows interest in the animation field, and you feel that you can give that person a quality experience, I say go for it. You may make all the difference in the world.

Note: Take Our Daughters To Work® is a registered trademark of the Ms. Foundation for Women, used with permission.


Shannon Muir is known in the animation industry for her work as a production coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker at conventions like Comic Con International.

Muir moved to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately 8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business. Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality, whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles about the industry.

You can email Shannon Muir at shanemuir@aol.com.

All editorialized columns, including this one, that appear in Digital Media FX are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of Digital Media FX, its partner sites, and its advertisers.

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