Visual Effects Society Honors Includes Call for Diversity, Inclusion – The Hollywood Reporter

As the Visual Effects Society marks the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the annual VES Honors ceremony on Friday included celebration along with a call for more diversity and inclusion, as well as a greater effort to achieve a work-life balance amid industry-wide attention on the long work hours kept by many VFX artists under current business models.

Friday evening at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, honorees included three-time Oscar winner and Pixar chief creative officer Pete Docter and VFX vet and educator Pam Hogarth.

Hogarth received the VES Founders Award as well as life VES membership, and sent a message of community while urging more work toward diversity and inclusion. “The reason we are here is for the community,” she said. “We do this because we love the people around us and the Society. We are so lucky to work with smart, talented, committed people.”

But she added that as she looked around the room, the number of women, compared with years ago, is still limited. “It’s better, not a whole lot better, but better,” she said. “As a Society, we can do better, in gender and all areas.”

In addition to Hogarth, life membership was awarded to Jeff Barnes, Patricia “Rose” Duignan, Toni Pace Carstensen, David Tanaka and recently retired VES exec director Eric Roth. Tanaka, Tony Clark, Jeff Kleiser, Gene Kozicki and Rick Sayre were named VES Fellows.

Docter, who was presented honorary VES membership by Pixar president Jim Morris, got a lot of laughs with his remarks. “It’s been a dream of mine to join the VES without having to pay,” Docter quipped as he thanked VES and recognized the team at Pixar. Of Morris, he said, “Jim has taught me so much about storytelling and running a studio.… Thank you for all you have done for this industry and for me.”

Morris was the founding chair of the VES. “It’s really gratifying to see how the Society has grown. It’s all on the backs of people devoting their personal time,” he said following the ceremony. “I think at the first meeting we had 15 or 18 people.” Today the Society has an estimated 4,000 members.

Accepting life membership, past VES chair Barnes recalled co-founding a start-up and his first VES board meeting. “As accomplished as everyone was in the room, they were generous,” he said of those at the meeting. “It will and will always be a group effort. The countless hours given by so many made a marked impact for all of us.… [And] there is another small start-up or individual with the cards stacked against them, and your efforts could help them realize their dreams.”

“Family and balanced lives matter,” Duignan asserted as she accepted life membership. She noted that remote work-from-home systems established during the pandemic could help contribute to achieving more balance.

Said VFX pro, historian and new Fellow Kozicki, “At this time when so much is being written about the challenges in our industry, I think it is important that there is a society that can celebrate the achievements of the artists.”

During the ceremony, VES inducted five into its Hall of Fame: Mary Ellen Bute, Alice Guy-Blache, Grace Hopper, Bill Kovacs and George Pal.

Saluting outgoing executive director Eric Roth after 19 years at the helm of the Society, board chair Lisa Cooke announced the newly named Roth Virtual Museum of Visual Effects, saying “Eric leaves an indelible mark on our society.”

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