Lana Simanenkov, Senior Creative at Animade, speaks on the gender imbalance in animation and the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone when starting out.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wasn't interested in animation until my late teens, so I was gunning to be an interpreter or a translator from English into Russian. I was really into geography in high school so I saw weather or environmental issues as a possible career path too.

Hot Coffee
Lana Simanenkova: Hot Coffee

How, why and when did you make the decision to become an animator?

I missed the time slot to get into a local university in my hometown and the competition was very fierce, so I decided to try abroad. I knew I wanted to do it in London as it's a place of many possibilities. I originally wanted to do an illustration degree. I applied to both illustration and animation courses as they could be so interchangeable. I only got an acceptance offer from one BA Animation course, so that was when I fell in love with the medium of animation and film language.

Was there a particular step that helped you at the start of your career?

When I graduated in 2013 the animation community didn't mingle as much in the public eye as it does now on twitter and such. Asking my course leader for potential job leads was very helpful. Although I felt like he was giving away all his secrets and felt somehow embarrassed to ask, it helped me to start working and gain experience while finishing my studies.

Lana Simanenkova: Banjo

Animation, for a long time, has been a male-dominated industry. How (if at all) has this impacted your time working as an animator?

And still is! It's still only about 30-35% female. Animade has done an amazing job to get a good balance of men and women on the animation team. In the industry as a whole, lead roles are still mostly dominated by men – it impacted my early job choices massively. When I was looking for an internship I'd go to a studio's website, go on their 'about' page and see a picture of just 3-5 guys, only guys, their company bio sometimes written in a very ‘bro’ way. That always made me think twice before even trying to apply. Studios and companies have begun to learn to be more aware of the issue and position themselves a lot more neutrally, which is nice.

It is for this reason that several initiatives, like WIA and Animated Women, have been set up to change animation’s gender landscape, and help women fulfil their potential. What advice do you have for young women considering a career in animation?

The work that those organisations do is amazing – a lot of the time a role model is what is missing during the early stages of the careers of women in animation. I'd suggest just connecting with the women animators you admire and seeing if they have any wisdom or resources to share that helped them to start out. The internet is such an open place and the animation community is super open and friendly too. Don't be intimidated by other people's confidence and do not feel like you need to act more like a guy to succeed in this industry.

Beer Run
Lana Simanenkova: Beer Run

Reflecting on your career so far, what’s one thing you wish you knew before you embarked on your career in animation?

I wish I took more initiative in contacting people about jobs I didn't feel 100% qualified for, as most of my animation knowledge came through learning on the job anyway. Stress is a very good form of motivation to try things that are out of your comfort zone!

Lana Simanenkova: Hugs
Mixedparts Run
Lana Simanenkova: Mixed Parts Run
Lana Simanenkova: Weekend


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