In this blog, we spoke with Creative Art Director and final year MA Visual Effects student at University of the Arts London, Jasmeen Armani. With a lot of self-belief and determination, Jasmeen has never let her gender hold her back and followed her ambitions to study Visual Effects regardless of it being a male-dominated industry.
Jasmeen talks about a typical day as a Creative Art Director, the lessons she has learnt along the way and the tips she would give to other young women embarking on the first stage of their careers...
Can you tell us a bit about your career?
Growing up I was always one to challenge the odds, which is why I didn’t feel misplaced when I took on two years of being the only girl in a class surrounded by boys. Or studying a three year BA in one of the world's top fashion universities in the world whilst having zero fashion credentials in my portfolio at the time, or taking on an MA in a male lead industry, using software that I’d never touched.
I intentionally keep a minimalistic approach to my work as I believe that a strong message deserves a clear voice, and I’ve always understood what my path meant to me and that’s all that mattered. Despite who is running alongside, or ahead of me in the race, the key is to know where I am going and where my specific path leads. My path has always been very strong on representing the inclusion of diversity in ethnicity, culture and gender, all of which hold a huge drive towards me creating the work I produce, and picking the collaborations I partner with.
What is a typical day in your career?
Whether in the studio for Visual Effects or on set for Creative Direction the schedules consist of 12 to 15 hour days back to back from onset to editing on my Mac at home or on my phone on the go.
When onset I hold many titles; consisting of creative direction, production manager, stylist, videographer and lighting specialist. It can become a lot sometimes, juggling everything and managing each member of the cast at the same time. The one thing I always keep in mind is to not doubt any of my ideas and keep a plan for every and any challenge I could possibly face on the set, to avoid any setbacks
In the studio, the biggest challenge is staying focused and creative once I’ve been on the Mac for 13 hours straight each day for weeks on end working on a project, which is one of the reasons that I tend to run several concepts at once so that the creativity is always flowing and fresh. When I’m not producing for my concepts, I’m teaching myself online how to use new software to grow my skill set as much as I can and keep up to date with the new and emerging techniques.
What made you choose this career?
The creative industry is forever growing and immersing which works perfectly for someone like me, who gets bored with routine and repetition. My creative path started with an interest in computer-generated 3D components which lead to a discovery of mechanical immersive set design. And then I noticed that there wasn't a fair representation of equality in the industry, which never made sense to me; how can you create content for the world when your team doesn’t reflect that world accurately?
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
My path hasn’t been linear at all. I’ve faced a few challenges along the way, but that’s a drive for me. Nothing easy is worth having. And if everything happens smoothly, then you’re not doing anything special, right? That’s pretty much what I’ve thought the whole time. Kind of like, if you don’t have nerves, you don’t really care. All of this just made the goal clear for me. I’ve had my fair share of being doubted on my knowledge, vision, skillset or even my voice. But it's never stopped me because I know if it's being doubted it just means I have to shout louder.
‘Nothing easy is worth having. And if everything happens smoothly, then you’re not doing anything special, right?’
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I aim to hire female creatives in every project I run and collaborate in. Therefore, the ability to hire a team of female artists and break the stereotypes within the industry is definitely a plus!
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
In the creative industry, it is easy to fall into the slope of judging your creativity within a concept, as it is your own personality, interests and creative eye poured into a piece of work. And that can be challenging to come to terms with when you’re being graded on who you are and how you see the world. However, I realised later on that just because someone doesn’t agree with your vision, whether it be a lecturer or client, that doesn’t at all reflect on your talent and vision.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
Yes. I’ve noticed that there are continuous standards set as to what genre of projects women can do as opposed to men. And I believe it works both ways, I graduated animation as the only female student in a class full of men but I also graduated my BA from fashion school with only 10% of the school consisting of male students. The acceptance is still very poor, but I do think they’re starting to slowly change.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
- Don’t be your own worst critic. Avoid measuring yourself by likes or follows. You will never please everyone, so don’t write off a concept before even sharing it, due to fear of receiving only 2 likes.
- Make your aspirations known, ask and be open for feedback from peers and people you look up to and do something with that feedback to improve your skillset to get you to where you aspire to be.
- Decide what your vision is, and be specific and stay focused and understand it from all angles. Knowledge is key, research on techniques in and surrounding your concept and make your skillset stronger. If you’re at a pro-level, it's time to learn something new.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
I have several female muses. Ranging from all aspects of the creative industry. Including the likes of Rihanna and Frida Kahlo who have influenced my presence and voice within my work representing feminisms and culture. Both women held a strong individual and unique presence and refused to take no for an answer in their own rights. Kahlo is still relevant in 2019 because she was a woman ahead of her time. Beneath the painter who’s paintings tackled many topics, one of which being gender equality, she was also a rebel, a feminist and a revolutionary. Likewise, Rihanna has always challenged society's notions of female sexuality and power. Both women have a history of defying the status quo. They both have a voice in showing women that they don’t have to conform to society’s idea of femininity. Rihanna specifically has been the reason behind a lot of my creative choices.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
No. I don’t think it will ever be ‘enough’. We’ll know there’s a successful change when there is no question about gender imbalance. We’ll know there’s a successful change when an aspiring female artist doesn’t have to look up to a long list of solely male artists.
What’s one key leadership lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Being a Creative Director can be very daunting at times, as you hold 100% of the control and responsibility. Along the way, I've learnt that competence is essential and mastering your subject matter is key to a successful workflow. If you’re well revised on every aspect of the task ahead, you will have a higher success rate. There is also never going to be a precisely right moment to share an idea or take a chance. I learnt this when being on set during a photoshoot and second-guessing my willingness to pause a shoot to make a few changes; being reluctant to anger the photographer or model. However, it is key to take the moment and not let thoughts like ‘I’m not sure’ get in the way. As long as you have the ability to communicate clearly and adjust your communication for the individual or group you’re attempting to reach. And when editing footage for hours at a time, it is also key to not let perfection get in the way of uniqueness. Because the opportunity will pass you by if you wait too long trying to make perfection.
I also learnt that its key to be open. If you make a mistake, own up, apologise, and move on. And If you’re not making mistakes, you may not be doing something interesting, to begin with.
“The thing that's kept me successful is being myself. I only know how to do that. And the minute you learn to love yourself, you would not want to be anybody else.” - Rihanna Fenty.
If you enjoyed this blog, click here to read about Jenna Alexander and her inspirational role at JoinedTo, who inspires her, as well as the challenges that she has faced along the way.