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April 6th, 2018

Inspired by Women’s History month (March), we sat down with five talented and inspirational women who make up the extraordinary and diverse group of people that work at The Mill’s New York studio.

Artistry and people are at the heart of The Mill, and in this blog we’ll take a closer look at some of the women who contribute towards New York’s award-winning studio.

They share some insight into their wisdom, inspiration and creative process, as well as their hopes for the industry and for future generations.


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Isabelle Du Plessis

PR & Marketing Manager

What do you do here at The Mill?

I manage the Marketing & PR team here in New York. Alongside my team, I focus on developing wide-reaching campaigns and communications, that are designed to raise the profile of the New York studio, as well as champion the incredible creative, technology and people that I’m surrounded by every day.

Who/What inspires you?

The people that surround me inspire me. I’m extremely lucky to have face-time with some incredible creative brains on a daily basis. Coders, artists, photographers - all with diverse backgrounds and incredible insights. My job is about articulating what these people work so hard to create.

I’m also fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong, empowering, like-minded women who help me learn, develop and succeed every day.

Finally, New York is a huge inspiration for me. The city holds a tidal wave of energy that I’ve always thought was exciting and invigorating. It’s a city surging with people who have purpose, and a place I’ve always had a great affinity for.

If you had to work with anyone who would it be and why?

I’d love to do more work with an organisation such as The Wing, a collective that has built a multi-purpose space for women to work, network, attend events and forge relationships that enable them to create together and further their careers. I love the initiative, and some of the events and conversations The Wing is behind, however I’d like to do more to make such creative spaces, which currently hold high membership fees, far more accessible to women who cannot afford such costs, and need to get a foot in the door.

I also have a longstanding wish to meet and collaborate with Meryl Streep on pretty much anything, even if it was just a cup of tea… 

How would you like our industry to change or adapt? and why?

I think the right conversations are beginning with regards to equal rights within the industry, but there’s a lot of work to do.

The UK has introduced laws that mean businesses have to be far more transparent about their gender pay gap - I’d like to see this happen in the US. It’s a powerful tool to demonstrate how far we are from true equality within the industry.

I also think there’s far more work that needs to be done at an entry-level, to ensure women feel empowered and educated to go into positions of artistry and technology, that are traditionally more male dominated. And finally, there needs to be far more equality within the boardroom.

The disparity within our industry does not just lie between men and women. There’s a huge diversity issue we face across race, gender, sexuality and disability. A lot of conversation being had, and not enough action. Diversity is the key to any company’s success and longevity. Diversity ensures authentic stories are told. 

What advice if any, would you give anyone trying to make it in the industry?

Listen. Be a sponge and take in as much information as possible. Make yourself indispensable and do as much as you can with a smile on your face - people will want to work with you, and you’ll be their first port of call when an opportunity comes up.

I’m a great believer that university degrees don’t dictate your future. Your hunger for learning, enthusiasm and willingness to collaborate will.


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Sally Reynolds

Designer

What do you do here at The Mill?

I’m a Designer at The Mill - which means on any given day we could be ideating, illustrating, animating, writing, pitching, compositing, editing  - or all of those things at the same time. Versatility is especially critical to being a designer in the VFX realm - Jill of many trades, master of some. Being able to work in a creative place of such calibre is wonderful because you are surrounded by colleagues who are often masters of their craft - it is very inspiring and educating to be here.

Who/What inspires you?

Right now, I am inspired by people who engage with their immediate community by being aware of their own presence. In the last several years we've been driven to being online, “present”, connected at every second of the day. In doing so we have truly disconnected from the immediate presence of being, and the natural benefits of engaging as a human in real-time. I am very inspired by those who work toward being devoted to the moment, who create with local effect in mind. It’s important.

To name a specific human, Mum. My Mum is the kind of person who somehow has catered to the enormous needs of four (challenging) children, runs a tough business alongside my Dad, and has somehow maintained the same vigour and support for us, while never receiving attention for it. I’m not like my Mum in that sense, I like being commended for my work, I seek attention for my work - but Mum (and many Mums) tend to do life with such uncelebrated grace and expertise, I feel like she is the genius keeping my life on track. It inspires me to work hard, be calm and stay humble.

If you had to work with anyone who would it be and why?

Bjork, Tim Burton, Nick Cave. Bjork for her genius weirdness, Tim for his dark brilliance, and Nick for his poetic grasp on life.

What is your creative process?

My creative process is ever evolving. I find a blank canvas extremely daunting - similar to writer’s block. I have learnt it’s best to just start slapping extremely rough ideas or slabs of grey onto the medium - be it writing, 3D, 2D, painting, drawing, all the things. Once I've made a bit of a mess, I can spend time honing and refining the mess. I also prefer to be surrounded by a desk full of chaos than an empty, pristine work space. In a shed with the radio playing in the background preferably.

How would you like our industry to change or adapt? and why?

I remember working as a runner in Sydney not so long ago and reading the AdNews annual “Top 30 Directors”. They were all male. Then I read the “Top 30 Creatives”. They were all male. I don’t know much about the methodology of the journalism, but it ignited a fire inside me. I’m very aware of the obscure division of women and men in certain roles within our industry. Within advertising and production, I find there to be no reason why there shouldn’t be more women in creative positions of leadership. I intend to help affect industry change on this in both America and Australia.

Creatively and strategically, I hope our industry takes note of how the collection and somewhat reckless use of big data is poisoning our social fabric. Move away from profiting from personal data collection, to adapt and focus more on community. Optimistically, I would hope people choose to slow their own participation in big data, and we see a natural trend toward local initiatives. I’d like to see tech become more integrated into health and education.


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Kelly Bollaci

Head of Human Resources, US

What do you do at the Mill?

I am the head of HR, I oversee all the US, which is our 3 offices. I am also the key liaison between the Mill and Technicolor.

Who/What inspires you?

I think what inspires me is individuals that really go after what they want. Whether is someone in the fitness world or like yourself in Marketing. When they find their passion and they go after it. To me, I think that is very inspiring. It’s great to see individuals young, old, counterpart that they are following their dreams.

If you had to work with anyone who would it be and why?

I wouldn’t necessary work with them but will love to do a sit down, they can help guide me. Someone like Tony Robbins, I am very into looking into my inner self and trying to figure out how I can be a better person. So, I would want someone like him to coach me to be a better person, more in an emotional and mental perspective. But then would want to work with someone like Jillian Michaels the fitness guru. People like them are really inspiring they have found what they love and help people. And what I would want to do more of is helping others to be able to become their best.

HR is the middle man for every difficult conversation, what do you think is your best asset?

I am very direct and I do so in a way that I don’t make people feel uncomfortable, I choose my words very carefully when I speak to someone else. I do it in a way that it doesn’t make people feel like they have to be defensive so… just being very direct and focusing on how my words are going to make the other person feel. I hate when people beat around the bush on things, so I think it’s important to be direct and I think I do a good job doing that.

How would like the industry to change or adapt and why?

I think that we need more transparency and our management teams need to be able to address those harder issues that we have and not be afraid of them.


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Emily Meger

VFX Supervisor/CG Lead

Who/What inspires you?

Living in NYC, it is hard not to be inspired on a daily basis. I just saw a jazz show of some middle school kids recently which was incredibly impressive. My 4-year old daughter inspires me as well-- She has such a vivid imagination, endless energy.  Most recently she is learning there is a connection between letters and sounds and words; fascinating to see her evolve into this human being.  I’m also inspired by the activism by young kids today taking a stand for their lives. I can see this awareness being cultivated in NYC at the elementary school level which makes me so proud.

If you had to work with anyone who would it be and why?

I can’t narrow it down to one person; I feel there are so many industries I’d love to be involved with; from education, to culinary, to photography.

What is your creative process?

I try to gather as much information about the whole project to begin with.  Having a solid grasp of the creative intention helps inform artists, even if the task is something seemingly small or straightforward.  Usually what I am creating involves referencing photography, film, animation, style frames.  We try to glean as much creative insight from our clients as we can.  In my department, I am fortunate that there is an abundance of ridiculously talented, clever, and helpful people, so I seek their input constantly. 

How would you like our industry to change or adapt? and why?

My top wish for our industry is to have more realistic deadlines for delivering quality work. Artists get enticed by the extraordinary VFX opportunities, pushing boundaries, being the best, and then work hours that are unsustainable over long periods of time.


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Georgie Castle

Deputy Head of Production

What do you do at the Mill?

I am now Deputy Head of Production here at the Mill NY studio. That generally entails overseeing the well-being of the production department and that is running as efficiently and smoothly as possible. It has overlap with a lot of other departments, as production is the hub and where it all stems from. The team deals with all the different artists in the building so it’s also managing communication, problem solving. Jumping into difficult client situations last minute, supporting people’s careers, making sure people have enough time off. It literally can be anything from dealing with our biggest and best client to making sure someone gets their lunch.

Who/What inspires you?

I think what inspires me so much about being here is that The Mill has grown so much in the last couple of years. It’s inspiring to still feel like you are part of a tight knit family, we get to work with people that become your closest friends. You invest in their craft and in return they do the same, especially in Mill+. My job satisfaction and what drives me is being able to help others.

If you had to work with anyone who would it be and why?

My background is in theater, so getting the opportunity to work with someone like Reese Witherspoon would be amazing. She has been able to branch off and successfully open and run her own production company. I think she is very inspiring and highlights all the different types of work that is done behind the scenes.

Production is constant problem solving, what do you think your best asset is?

Being able to bring people together like; producers, creatives get them to understand where each person is coming from. I think one of the biggest challenges in production is pinpointing what everyone’s common ground is. I think that allowing that to happen usually leads to the best resolution. Sometimes this can be very hard especially in a company as big as The Mill which has so many different specialties.

There is also a humanity aspect to it too, I tell this to all the coordinators or anyone that is just starting with us - everyone is just a human being at the end of the day. We get so caught up with hierarchy and which role or title is more important but at the end of the day we forget we are all breathing the same air.

How would you like our industry to change or adapt? and why?

I will like to see more women director’s in the advertising industry, I love the fact that in our Emerging Tech department women at least in NY are dominating that world. Nearly all the producers are female, which I think is awesome especially in such a stereotypically dominated industry. And the fact that Abi and I are leading the production department now, makes me very hopeful for the future - the next generation won’t have to ever think that they can’t do it because they will see women doing it already.

All photos courtesy of Olivia Burke (Recruiter at The Mill NY)

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