Joce Capper

General Manager Joce Capper IWD Q&A

Meet Joce Capper, General Manager of Cinesite’s London studio. As one of few women who have been working in post production since the 1980s, her career charts the changing role of women through her own fascinating insights and experiences. As part of International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8th March 2023, we asked her a few questions.

To start, can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into the visual effects industry?
Like so many people, I came upon the post-production/VFX industry entirely by chance – and once discovered, so began a lifelong love affair!
I am one of ten siblings and grew up in Kent and London, attending a comprehensive secondary school and studying for O’Levels and CSEs (exams before GCSEs). It was never considered anyone would go on to University from my school. « Careers Advice » for girls then, or at least to my friends and me, was standard; any job was likely a stop-gap between having children. If we weren’t considering the local paper factories, we should consider nursing or a secretarial role. I knew I could never be a great nurse, so I went to college and took a secretarial course, learning typing and shorthand. Fast forward several years, and I’m at BP Oil working in Finance, knowing I needed a change. I went to a walk-in job agency in Oxford Street, which said I could interview at a company that day as someone else had dropped out. My interests in films, art, music, theatre, books, etc. and my typing skills fit the brief. So off I went to interview for a role in Finance at Molinaire. OMG! WHAM was recording that day; many screaming fans were outside – so exciting! I got the job, and the rest, as they say, is history. I had discovered post-production and, ultimately, VFX.

Did you always have a clear idea of what career you wanted?
I may have answered this question above! Before discovering my love for VFX, the first job I thought could be a ‘career’ was managing Woolworths’s Pick n Mix counter. The counter was always next to the record department; I could listen to music all day and browse the bookshelves/newspapers/magazines. My dream job!
The truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted to do; I had no idea or access. Thinking back and being honest. I knew I wanted to be creative, to write, and be involved with storytelling, scriptwriting, acting, and making films – I just had no idea where or how to get started.

What opportunities were there for women in the earlier days of your VFX career and how does it compare to now?
Thirty years ago, specifically in post-production/VFX, many more men than women worked in the industry. Men ran the film industry. Unfortunately, women in VFX are still a small minority, which isn’t growing as much as we would all want. Changing technologies, a growing VFX sector, and global marketplaces have provided many new opportunities and roles but have yet to appeal to women. Historically this has been due to a range of barriers, often started in education, with science and technology subjects being pushed more towards boys than girls. Gender imbalance is deep-rooted and will continue to take many years to overcome. The lack of women in the VFX industry is part of a larger pattern of exclusion, particularly in senior VFX roles. However! I am more positive for the next generation, with VFX companies thinking more critically about hiring and promotion practices and creating cultures to support and mentor women. Art and creative skills are as important as tech. The Pandemic has also helped the development of different working terms and an understanding that we can effectively work from home, almost from anywhere. So many reasons women can’t join the industry or need to leave – can and are now being overcome. That is encouraging.

As a woman, what challenges have you overcome?
When you’ve been around for as long as me – most of them! Hahaha!
A few examples are:
– Being the only one: Over the years, I have been the only woman in a meeting on more occasions than not. Whilst this shouldn’t matter – it does; you have to find your voice and confidence while trying to fit in and not stand out too much simultaneously!
– Unconscious bias: From being expected to pour the tea and serve the biscuits in the meetings I was leading, dispelling assumptions such as women are more emotional than men, and being accepted into and building supportive contacts in a « boys club » world – whilst maintaining my integrity and beliefs.
– Unequal pay: I worked for many years knowing that male colleagues earned more than I did.
– Cultural differences: When dealing with overseas clients or travelling for business in different countries and cultures, some don’t necessarily expect to meet a woman who is the manager in charge of the deal as a leader.
There’s much more – probably better to stop there!

As a leader, how do you use your influence to encourage the careers of other women?
Believing, supporting and proactively supporting equality, diversity and inclusion. For everyone. Understanding that differing circumstances need different approaches and encouraging flexibility in working terms and conditions. Supporting groups such as – Women in Broadcast, Women in Film & TV, Women in Advertising Production, Animated Women, and Access VFX – who, in turn, mentor and support women in all roles in the creative industries, both established and newcomers. Sharing contacts and encouraging other women to meet and connect is crucial to building great networks (and having a lot of fun!).

What advice would you give to women who are just starting their careers and might want to get into VFX or post-production?
It is the most fantastic industry – join us! Everyone deserves a chance, and when starting, they often need help, guidance, advice and a little kindness. Starting out? Be determined to seek a role and keep going until you’ve found one, don’t give up. It is often being in the right place at the right time. A refusal simply means there isn’t a suitable role, not that you aren’t good enough. When given an opportunity – Learn, learn, learn – knowledge is never wasted. I provide details of the organisations where junior roles are advertised, advice on apprenticeships, and companies that may suit that individual’s skills. Check out the free training and networking events, and join specific chat groups and websites for women in the industry to build contacts and knowledge.

Which women inspire you the most?
« What separates an ordinary woman from an extraordinary one? The belief that she is ordinary. » *
I look to the women in my life for inspiration – My Mum, Sisters, Friends and Colleagues- who accomplish so much daily. They have shared and taught me so much; my life wouldn’t be as fulfilled or happy without them.

*Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1997

You can read other interviews and information about Cinesite for International Women’s Day 2023 here.