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Creating Equal Representation On and Behind the Screen with WIA Vancouver

women in action
women in action
Photo courtesy of WIA Vancouver
Rose Ann Tisserand

Rose-Ann Tisserand

ACE Founder and Co-Executive Producer

Kylie Ellis

Kylie Ellis

Chair, WIA Vancouver

Women in Animation Vancouver is an organization with a mission to create 50/50 gender parity in the animation industry by 2025. Here’s how:


Tell us a bit about Women in Animation (WIA) Vancouver and what your organization has accomplished. 

Women in Animation (WIA) Vancouver is a chapter of WIA Global with its headquarters based in Los Angeles. The female industry leaders in Vancouver felt a need to create a chapter in Vancouver because there was an obvious gap of opportunity for marginalized folks seeking creative roles in our animation community.

Also, the popularity of animation has grown and has a diverse audience. As the growth continues, so does the need to ensure that the content represents the world we live in, which means equal representation on and behind the screen.

Successful programs, such as the Animation Career EXCELerator Program (ACE), provide opportunities that have historically been hard to obtain for women. Programs like ACE help to round out the industry, grow revenues and contribute to pushing the cultural momentum forward. 


What sparked the need for WIA Vancouver’s ACE Program? 

WIA’s global mission is 50/50 gender parity by 2025. To support this mission, one of WIA’s goals is to help advance women in key creative roles. A personal goal was to see more intellectual property created in Vancouver. In 2016, we determined we needed data to quantify how many women held key creative roles in the animation industry in Vancouver. We collected data on the roles of Director, Writer, Art Director, Animation Director, and Producer. The results were very clear, our key creative numbers were very low.

In 2017 we started developing a program with the group Women in View. Women in View ran a very successful live-action program for female creatives, we were able to drill down to why it worked and adapt it to animation.

There was a huge shift as we designed the program to provide success in advancing careers. The ACE program is an intensive 1.5-to-2-year program where six women, and those who identify as women, assume the key creative roles of Writer, Producer, Director, Art Director, Animation Director and Composer/ to create and produce a short film.  Once the film is complete, they own the film. The participants are provided with hands-on experience, training, and mentorship. ACE provides that crucial first key creative credit which is often a challenge to obtain due to the lack of opportunities for women.  ACE also provides market and festival pitch training, where the participants attend a market or festival with a festival/conference mentor to promote the short film and discuss their experience in the EXCELerator Program. The women are also promoted through social media, panel attendance and industry networking opportunities.

Our first iteration of ACE was comprised of 5 key creative roles, the second and current iteration includes the additional role of Composer. With Netflix Canada’s support, we are launching ACE 3 which expands the program across Canada and another, 7th, key creative role (TBD).

The participants from our first iteration have all advanced in their careers. Our current candidates are excited for the next steps in their careers once the film is complete (October 20, 2021).

I have been in this industry for 10 years, having produced multiple children’s animated TV series. It is unbelievable that in 2020 and with all that experience, I have never been pitched by a female music composer for any of my TV shows. Kudos to the organizers of this for doing this and focusing on these very distinct roles, which are so needed. I want to hire both composers – Shabnam Rezaei – Co-Founder & President, Big Bad Boo Studios & Oznoz

Participating in this jury process has introduced me to a community of amazing women creatives in our local animation community. I have been blown away by the talent and creativity exhibited by every individual with whom we met and cannot underline the importance of this program in advancing women in key creative roles – Teri Snelgrove – Producer, National Film Board of Canada’s BC & Yukon Studio


Why is mentoring, support, and training so important for women looking to find a place in the business world?

Mentoring and training are key, in order to set women up for success and provide them with the skills to excel in their roles.  It also helps studios to be more confident in taking the chance on hiring women into new positions, as they know they have the background and experience for them to be successful.

Where to begin? Mentoring is everything to our program. We have pitch and presentation mentors, soft skills mentors and individual role-specific mentors. It is a safe space and participants know we have their back and are here for their success. We know women hire more women; their success is a success for our entire community.

Some specific data for ACE 2:

• 12 Mentors

• 19 workshop instructors

• 9 Women in Studio Lead roles as our Jury

• A supportive and passionate animation community that allows candidates to juggle schedules or use their infrastructure

• Generous sponsors providing financial or in-kind support

Every part of the industry needs a programme like ACE.  Participants made up of emerging female talent will change the animation landscape. It’s uniquely designed to help all participants – not just those final few selected to make the short film. It is supportive, inspiring, inclusive, challenging and it connects talent with the industry – that’s the most exciting part – Jan Miller – International Consultant and Pitch and Content Specialist


Where do you see the future of Canada’s animation industry headed?  

I see the future of Canada’s animation as being rich – rich with diversity, rich with content, rich with passion and growth for everyone. There are so many hard-working individuals and organizations creating programs like this one, all with the goal of advancing BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, women and Canadians in our industry.

I am incredibly proud and honoured to have been on the jury panel for WIA’s ACE program with like-minded passionate women who are in leadership positions in our industry, exemplifying support for one another and providing opportunities for aspiring future female leaders. The program spearheaded by Rose-Ann Tisserand and Tracey Mack has given women an invaluable training and mentoring experience, which will benefit our animation community with more female representation in key creative roles – Brenda Gilbert

None of this is possible without our amazing sponsors. These are this year’s sponsors:

WIA sponsors resized

Special thanks to Netflix Canada for coming on board for ACE Iteration 3 allowing us to bring the program across Canada.

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