Fusion Film Festival - Animation’s Leading Ladies

Last weekend, the 15th Annual Fusion Film Festival at New York University hosted a number of events celebrating women working in film, television and media. Among all the exciting panels, workshops and masterclasses, Animation’s Leading Ladies took an in-depth look at women in the animation industry, featuring pioneering trail-blazers, passionate innovators, and leaders of the future.

Panelists included:

Anne D. Bernstein (Writer and Story Editor, Daria and MTV’s Downtown)
Karen Disher (Director & Storyboard Artist, Blue Sky)
Candy Kugel (Director & Animator, MTV’s Top of the Hour, WGBH’s Between the Lions)
Nancy Newhouse-Porter (Newhouse Porter Hubbard LLP)
Maya Edelman (Animator)
Emily Collins (Creative Director, Mighty Oak)

The panel was moderated by our very own, Zoya Baker (Animator and NYU Professor).

Each of the panelists found their way into the industry in very different ways, and as they shared their stories it became ever more clear that animation is a career without a defined path. Candy Kugel was an illustration major at RISD who had a love for theater. Anne Bernstein studied illustration at School of Visual Arts and had a passion for writing sketch comedy. Emily Collins enjoyed making paper cut-outs and watching the stop motion animation of Yuri Norstein. Nancy Newhouse-Porter was the only law student at USC that didn’t want to be an entertainment lawyer, but found herself working for Disney’s legal department after graduation.

For each of the panelists, there were formative moments that introduced them to the world of animation as a career. After graduating from high school, Karen Disher specifically remembers observing Disney animators at work in the Feature Animation Pavilion at Disney World. That was the first time she really saw creatives at work and felt like she could enter the animation industry. When Disher came to NYU, she transferred from Gallatin to the Tisch Film & TV department to ensure she could take classes with renowned animation professors.

Gender barriers proved to be a challenge for each of these panelists throughout their careers. Candy shared stories of visiting major animation studios after graduating from art school in the 1970’s and being told “women can’t animate.” For most of Anne’s career in television, she was the only female writer in the Writers Room. After she started working in the story department, Karen Disher was the only female story artist at Blue Sky for eight years. When it came to hiring, especially in recent years, many of the panelists expressed a concern that young women weren’t being exposed to filmmaking and animation as a viable career, and this was reflected in the low number of women applicants for jobs like storyboard artist or animator. Emily Collins’ mission at Mighty Oak introduces young girls to film, media and animation as a career path.

All of the panelists expressed a love for the animation community as a whole. Due to the very technical and specialized skill-set, Nancy Newhouse-Porter observed, “You can’t fake it with animation. Either you have talent or you don’t.” Maya Edelman described being an animator as being a “funny creative mechanic.” She added that, due to having very specific and similar interests and personalities, the animation community is a very close-knit group of creatives.

In closing, the panelists expressed the importance of cross-training yourself. As an artist you should always be trying new things and learning about the world around you, whether you’re an aspiring animation producer taking life drawing classes or an aspiring designer taking accounting classes. Seeing your career from a different perspective makes you more collaborative when you enter the industry. All the panelists emphasized - no matter who you’re working with, collaboration is key. As Emily Collins said, "The coolest part about collaborating is that it always ends up so much different than you could have ever imagined by yourself."

Creating Branded Content for Coca Cola

Coca Cola. 

Easily one of the world’s most recognizable brands, this behemoth of a product has easily nestled itself in the memories of hundreds of millions of patrons through a hundred years of advertisement. It is, without a doubt, the epitome of brand, and despite its age, Coca-Cola is on the cutting edge of branded content. For a young filmmaker, a chance to produce content for America’s favorite soda is like a shot at the Olympics.

Thanks to Short Commercial Forms at NYU, I got my chance. An email from Jon Weinstein would soon lead to a $15,000 check from Coca-Cola and Regal Cinemas to create a short film of my own design. 

Out of hundreds of applicants to the Coke + Regal Films contest, I was contacted 24 hours after my submission with an unusual urgency: “We like this idea, and we want to hear more about it.” For two weeks, my idea was passed between the branding folk. I was pitching an experimental medium: Projection Mapping, which had seen a great success months prior when I successfully pitched and produced a large-scale 8-story projection mapping installation at NYU as Branded Content, called the Violet Lights Project. 

I drafted mockup after mockup, constantly sending over updated presentations as to what this medium is, why it feels like magic, and how it could be used to visually manifest the desire & craving for my to-be client’s product. We would use a projector to bring the dynamic surfaces of a movie theater to life: The carpeted hallways, the concession stand, and the faces of the audience. 

My story was nominated as a semi-finalist, and then one of five finalists. The only East Coast team, against 3 teams from Los Angeles schools and one from North Carolina. We each received the funds to make our film. 

I quickly enlisted Class of ’16 peer Brian Blum, whose thesis film was of the caliber I seeked, to produce. Together we gathered a cast of 10, a crew of 21, and the support of NYU, RED and Christie Digital. 

It felt like a dream. The set went so flawlessly and the attitude was so supportive and light-hearted. The brand folk at Coke were darlings to work with, and the whole process was smooth. It was strange to have my idea guided and molded by suggestions from the brands, and I must admit that the attitude of the piece changed entirely from the start. But we were working at a professional caliber and I had never worked with such luxuries: we shot 6K footage, had a London-based orchestra play the soundtrack, andI even got to sit in a fancy director’s chair. 

We developed a product that we are all proud of. NYU was supportive of our efforts and to this day I credit NYU for the network I’ve built as well as the project management & directing skills to make it all a reality. 

I can’t recommend these competitions for students enough. If your idea is unique, they’ll walk you through the process. If I learned anything from this whole process though, it’s this: the Rapid Prototype is essential to the pitch. Nowadays for young filmmakers to make their project a reality, they must take full advantage of accessible/owned technology and skills to create a low-cost visualization of the work they intend to make with added resources. That’s the sort of thing that brands see, respect and now, expect. 

2017 Richard Vague Production Fund Finalists

We are excited to announce the finalists for the 2017 Richard Vague Production Fund.  The following filmmakers will be invited to pitch their films:

Graduate Film Department Finalists
Joanna Jurewicz – Sweet Home Tennessee – Narrative
Sarah-Rose Rossetti – I-80 West – Narrative
Katy Scoggin – Flood– Documentary

Undergraduate Film & TV Department Finalists
Katelyn Howes – Gone Daddy Gone – Documentary
Chloe Jury-Fogel – Cherry – Narrative
Erin Sanger – The Coma Club – Documentary
Erica Tachoir – Scattering Jake – Narrative

Tisch Asia Finalists
Jianjie Lin – The Son – Narrative
Davide Pasti – Cretu Locatelli – Documentary

Want to know more about the nominated projects? Visit our website .

Winner(s) will be announced on Thursday, April 20, 2017 on the website. We thank everyone who participated in the 2017 Richard Vague Production Fund! If you want to be the first to hear about all things RVPF, including when the 2018 application will be available, please sign up for our mailing list.


Barbara Schock, Chair, Graduate Film
Joe Pichirallo, Chair, Undergraduate Film & TV
Michael Burke, Associate Dean, Kanbar Inst. of Film & TV

UGFTV Chair Visits Shanghai

UGFTV Chair Joe Pichirallo recently traveled to Shanghai to explore a potential exchange program for UGFTV students with NYU Shanghai and the Shanghai Theatre Academy.  During his trip, he also gave a talk examining the American studio system and the independent film world to students at the Shanghai Theatre Academy.