VFX Supervisor - Cinema
Did you have mentors or support networks throughout your career that really helped push you forward? Did you have any female role models in the industry to look up to?
One of my Cal Arts professors, Marge Brown, was a fantastic mentor. She urged me to just push myself forward and explore different media. After I left Cal Arts, I stayed in touch with her and it was just really lovely to be mailing her and keeping in touch. On the industry side, I don't know if I ever had any female role models in visual effects, because there weren't enough of them. There weren't any role models I was working with who were in lead positions at other companies. I had peers who we were moving together and that was lovely. But we never really had any role models, "Oh I could work with her she won an Oscar!(type of people)," until last year (Sarah Bennett, 2016 Academy Award Winner for Best Visual Effects on Ex Machina).
Were there ever times where you felt like being a woman may have impacted your career, or have you ever felt professionally excluded because of it?
Oh, I've definitely felt professionally excluded at different companies. I left one of my first jobs because I was the only compositing supervisor who didn't have a show. And some of the male compositing supervisors were doubling up on shows, and not getting any sleep. But there was kind of an "old school management" at that company. Then I went to Centropolis Effects, which really much more forwarding thinking. ESC Entertainment was also very forward thinking, I never felt limited there. Then finally, I ended up coming to ILM and we actually have a lot of women in leadership positions, especially on the production side.
How do you feel about the current state of the VFX industry or Hollywood and its inclusion of women and diversity?
I would like to see half of the directors of features films be women. I would like to see half of the artists, half of the crew be women. We make up half of the damn world's population, we should be just as represented. I would like to see more minority women. There are almost none in Hollywood anywhere. It's really hard to walk into a room and be the only woman in the room and it's just a sea of white faces and it's sad. So, I think that needs to be changed.
There's the argument that people say we need to hit a quota of 50/50 men and women. But there are also people who say you should just hire the best person for the job. What are your thoughts and feelings about that?
"Meritocracy is a joke," is my counter argument for why hire the best. Women, quite often are forced out of their careers by harassment, by negative job placement before they can even get the experienced required to work at a top level company like Industrial Light and Magic. If you look at say, animation schools and how many women are coming into the first year class and how many graduate - it used to be a huge attrition rate of women just across those years as an animation school, just as a student, not even before you got into the industry. So in order to get women and let them show they can be just as good as men and to develop that talent pool and give them the opportunity to develop their talent pool I think you need 50% ratio, otherwise women will constantly be criticized by the men around them and will probably be forced out early.
Any words of advice you have for future generations of women interested in VFX?
Keep pushing, do not let men tell you what you can and can't do. Don't let them push you deliberately into a role, saying, "Oh that's more artistic you can do that." You can do anything you want. You can be a programmer. You can be a developer. You can be a layout artist. You can be a compositor. You can be a VFX supervisor. Go ahead and do what you can. If you feel limited by the company you're in, go to another company.
What was your favorite project?
I would have to say there are two of them. The Patriot, because that was as photo real as we could make it. It had to historically accurate as we could make it. I had a lot of creative control as an artist. I also got to act as a carpenter in it. In the final shot, I'm building Mel Gibson's house. But the most fun one, I would say is just really enjoyable to watch, is Rango. We had a really really good time putting all the pieces together to make it look like an old western, like a photo real animated movie with just tiny cameras, and tiny sets, and tiny towns. So that was I think the most satisfying of all the films I worked on, up to now.
Learn More About Cristin!
Years in Visual Effects: 21
Education: Harvard University - AB, Visual & Environmental Studies
CalArts - MFA, Experimental Animation/Cinematography
Hometown: Rockland, Maine
Favorite project: The Patriot/Rango