Meet Suzanne MacLennan, VFX producer and #FromOurDarkSide Mentor

Suzanne MacLennan at work with a real bow from the TV series Arrow!

Suzanne MacLennan at work with a real bow from the TV series Arrow!

Suzanne MacLennan is a senior visual effects producer whose recent productions include the television series Arrow, The 100 and Once Upon A Time. Suzanne says she enjoys the entire production process from initial concept script through screening final shots, “except waiting for CG renders, which is never awesome.”

WIFTV is delighted to have Suzanne on the team of #FromOurDarkSide visual effects mentors!

We spoke with Suzanne about her take on genre and what being a mentor means to her:

Why is genre important to you?
Genre is important to me because there is no limitation to the imagination a storyteller can share on screen, and there are many options to how we can approach to concept execution with 2D and 3D visual effects. Visual effects in its best forms can allow storytellers and viewers to escape practical limitations and enter the realm of imagination. I’ve always been drawn to pictures (in all forms of media) where the storyteller is able to convey something that could only be dreamt or imagined, or is simply surreal and pushing the boundaries of how we think about things. I’m inspired when our work has the potential for opening minds to unknown possibilities, thereby creating new ideas and inspirations. Though visual effects can be gratuitous when overused, I am still thrilled when working on scenes or shots where we’re able to open a limitless universe of possibilities for how to execute a concept or idea.

How did you get started in genre?
district9_1sht
I have a background in broadcast and live media production in my former home of Seattle, which gradually transitioned into feature and television work when I returned to my hometown of Vancouver. The first short film I wrote and directed after film school was a horror spoof and I really enjoyed the creative low-budget techniques we had to come up with for telling our story. After ten years of live production work, I transitioned into visual effects production by working in animation production for my first feature film project in Vancouver. On my second feature project I worked on a very unique and special film called District 9, which really opened my eyes to how technically challenging it can be to produce high-quality creatively challenging shots in such a passionate film. Over the years, I enjoy expanding my knowledge of the emerging technologies and learning the complicated visual effects pipeline that continues to evolve and gain efficiency and new capability with each passing season. This keeps my job exciting and intellectually stimulating, while I get to work on new creative content every few months.

Arrow

Why are you involved with this contest?
I’ve always had an interest in joining women in film events, but often find I’m “still working” when their get-togethers take place. I was delighted to have an opportunity come up where I could be a participant, not just on behalf of the organization, but for an individual who is working on getting her start in our creative field. My colleague Francesca asked me if I’d be interested in participating and I told her I’d be delighted to mentor a young woman who is interested in visual effects. I think it is important to encourage young women to jump in and not be intimidated by what we don’t know. Ask the questions and empower yourselves with no shame about what you have not experienced and would like to learn. In this industry, women can really benefit by standing beside each other and pushing our work forward.

I worked so hard to find my place in this business, and it wasn’t easy. I still remember the words of a few talented women who had kind or encouraging words for me when I was finding my footing early in my career, and replayed those conversations over in my head over the years, I honestly drew strength from them years down the road.

A little encouragement goes such a long way!

Who are some of the filmmakers or artists who inspire you?
Sofia Coppola, Sarah Polley, Darren Aronofsky, Mike Judge, Neill Blomkamp, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Terri Tatchell, Tina Fey and Jenji Kohan.

Thank you for the conversation!

Q&A by Katja De Bock

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