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Shining A Light on Women in VFX: Tati Leite

Tati Leite
Brazilian VFX Artist Tati Leite

It probably comes as no surprise that the VFX industry is among one of the many tech related fields that has been dominated primarily by men since inception; and that’s not to say that women haven’t played an equally powerful role, they just haven’t received their due credit. Though the media in general has shone somewhat of a lesser light on women in VFX, there is hope for equality in the industry now more than ever before. But this is just the starting point.

Women like Victoria Alonso, who earned the Visual Effects Society Visionary Award last year, and VFX artist and compositor Charmaine Chan, who created the video series “Women in VFX,” have both used their position in the industry to draw attention to the lack of diversity in the workforce. In order to play ball in such a male dominated arena, women have to go the extra mile to prove their worth; and one woman who’s managed to carve out a place for herself in the industry despite the obvious challenges is Brazilian born VFX artist Tati Leite.

“I think what separates me from the rest is that I have my background in computer engineering. I used to be more technical before moving to LA. But I never felt completely satisfied only using my technical skills. My artistic side was always there trying to show up too. And that’s the main reason I chose VFX,” explains Tati.

A story that proves once again that women are just as capable as their male counterparts, Tati’s journey serves as an inspiration to push ourselves as women to follow our dreams, even if it means that we have to push harder at this point in history. This is how we are going to change the face of the industry so future generations of women can be judged based on skills rather than gender.  

Creating artistic videos was a passion Tati discovered at an early age. She carefully learned how to shoot, modify and craft different effects at a time when technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Her close examination and methodical approach to the videos she created drove her desire to understand how it all worked.

“Every movie I watched I paid attention to all the details and watched it over and over to see the effects, the animation and all the aspects that had been introduced to the footage,” recalls Tati. “Even my choice for majoring in computer engineering was based on the fact that I wanted to acquire a deeper knowledge in computer graphics.”

This perfect fusion of art and technology is what drew Tati to become a VFX artist, and it’s one of the major assets that sets her apart. Backed with a computer engineering degree Tati was not intimidated by male dominated spaces. Not only was she well prepared to take on this highly technical position, but she realized that, in a way, it made her part of a movement towards equality for women in the industry.

“Having a wide background helped me to navigate through this world easily. But, this industry is still male dominant and we have a long way to go until we see some real changes. The future is promising, every day I think we move one step forward, but it’s far from equality,” Tati admits.

Pioneering the way for other women to delve into VFX, Tati has paved a trail of outstanding work on various projects that range from high profile motion picture films, such as the highly-anticipated film “The Lion King,” which is due out in 2019 and directed by Jon Favreau, to a plethora of award winning video games.

Video game projects not only challenged Tati and revealed her power behind the screen, but they also prepared her for the bigger tasks she’s undertaken as a VFX artist on major feature films. One of Tati’s favorite video games so far has been Making Camp created by the award winning company 7 Generation Games. It was there she found the freedom to add her own visual design and concept to the game as an animator.

She says, “This game is very special to me. Not only because I created VFX for some of the videos played in the games, but also because we completely remodeled the game visually. Icons, buttons, effects, all the assets were remade and/or adapted to a new look.”

Tati Leite
Tati Leite designing for 7 Generation Games

Project manager Diana Sanchez, who worked with Tati at 7 Generation Games, quickly recognized Tati’s inspiring work ethic, her capacity to effectively communicate with her team, and her ability to elevate the creative process overall. When it came down to creating games for the company, it was never a competition but a fruitful collaboration.

Sanchez says, “What makes Tati good at what she does is her ability to collaborate… When you have an idea of what you want such as an animation or image for an icon, she then takes that vision and puts her great skills to work, but the best part is her flexibility if modifications need to be made. That’s a great quality to have when collaborating on a project.”  

Executing work for 7 Generation Games is where Tati’s creativity and intelligence went hand in hand, and her background in computer engineering coupled with her keen artistic eye have her the power to produce the best visual designs.

“Creating VFX for games is exciting because you can be very creative, but at the same time you need to be smart about how you are going to do it without consume too much memory or processing.”

The 3D educational video game Fish Lake was another video game where Tati’s VFX prowess was a leading force in the game’s creation. As part of an Indian tribe, the game’s player has to overcome roadblocks related to math and history, so it’s not only fun for users but it teaches them valuable skills. For Tati, Fish Lake was not only an exciting project that utilized her seasoned skill, but it is one that challenged her in new ways.

She explains, “The big difference of this game is that it is 3D. The tools and the skills required for 3D are completely different. This was the main 3D game we had at the house at the time so it was very special to have the opportunity to work on it.”

Tati’s creativity and VFX expertise have led her to be an invaluable force in the ever evolving design concept of countless many games like the project Aztech. This educational math and social studies game for kids was sparkled with magic where students would go back in time to try and survive challenges in order to move forward, and Tati was key in creating the visual effects that kept them playing.

Tati says, “This project was really nice to work on because I could see the idea of the game evolving until it became real. Putting together the concept to create a game is a big challenge.”

When it comes to design and creating concepts in the ever growing field of visual effects for video games Tati ha become a sought after force. She’s adapted to new advances in the field at every turn, and her work makes her stand out as one of the best, but her work is by no means limited to the world of VFX for video games.

Tati Leite
Tati Leite at the 2017 HoloLens Hackathon

The adept nature of her talent as a VFX artist has led the film industry to take note, and though the industry department is still considered by many to be more of a ‘boys team,’ she’s definitely made her way in, and her contributions have been key in creating the incredible visuals we see on the bigger screen.

With only three women nominated in the VFX field for an Oscar, Tati aims to raise the conversation about this problem but also lead the charge in creating stellar work, proving she is just as good as any man.

“I love working on feature films,” admits Tati. “It’s very gratifying when you see the final result on the big screen helping to tell a story better.”

Aside from “The Lion King,” Tati has played a key role in the VFX departments on some of the biggest feature films of this year, including “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Christopher Robin,” “Mission: Impossible – Fall Out,” “Book Club” and many more.

To play on the boys team Tati realized early on that has to be the best at every aspect in the field, and that means staying on top of every new technique, but her passion for the craft and her individual creative eye has made her unbeatable. There are somethings that can not be taught like work ethic, cohesive collaboration, and artistic skill, and Tati possesses all of these traits in spades.  

At the end of the day, Tati says, “For me the secret is always do your best. Never consider any of your jobs smaller or less valuable. In every job you will get something from it, it can be learning something new, improving some skills, experience dealing with a tough client, or even if it’s just making money. It does not matter. If you consider that all the jobs are very important and you give them your best, you will grow and build the bridge to the next level of your career.”

 

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After Her Rivetting Performance in “Hypersomnia” Actress Yamila Saud is Tapped to Star in “El Encanto”

Actress Yamila Saud
Yamila Saud walks the red carpet at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina

The stage has been Argentinian actress Yamila Saud’s second home since she was 7, and for as long as she can remember, she has come alive through acting. That passion has allowed her to become one of the most compelling actresses in film today, and her latest film is proof.

Currently streaming on Netflix, “Hypersomnia” is a dark psychological thriller from director Gabriel Grieco. Saud plays the main character, an actress named Milena who finds herself caught somewhere between nightmare and reality as the movie keeps the audience in suspense.

“Hypersomnia” is about a young actress preparing for a big stage role in a play, where her character is a sex slave who falls in love with her captor. Milena’s rehearsal experience leads her into a rabbit hole. Soon, Milena is unable to tell where her own life ends and her character’s begins. Everything begins to feel unreal and dreamlike, and Milena’s confusion quickly turns into madness.

“After an experience her character has, Milena begins to have dreams which feel very real,” Saud said. “Laly shows [the viewer] a world where women are deprived of freedom and all their rights.”

Milena’s trance-like acting exercises go haywire. The film uses the inside of a brothel as the alternate reality where Milena’s character Laly lives with other tortured sex workers. When Milena is not in the brothel playing Laly, she comes out of the trance state — from the looks of it. Yet Milena feels like the abuse and violence of playing a sex slave are all too real, like method acting gone wrong.

Saud skillfully adjusts herself to each scene as the film goes from suspenseful to dark to violent, truly embodying the character’s feeling of pain in the most believable way.

The movie was a huge challenge for me. One of the strongest and most disgusting scenes for me was when Milena is forced to enter with a client in a room, and she sits on the bed next to him,” Saud said. “The cigarettes he smoked were the same brand that my dad consumed when I was a girl. It’s horrible that girls so young are abused by men who could be their own father.”

In a huge shift from “Hypersomnia,” Saud took on a more lighthearted role as Lana in the upcoming 2018 film “El Encanto.” Directed by Juan Sasiaín and Ezequiel Tronconi, the romantic drama has both a sensual and a serious side.

The film focuses on Bruno, played by Ezequiel Tranconi, and his wife Juliana, a famous television host played by Mónica Antonópulos. Juliana is eager to have a baby, but Bruno doesn’t feel ready. The disagreement kicks off Bruno’s midlife crisis. Things get even more complicated when Saud’s character, an attractive young woman named Lara, walks into Bruno’s work.

Saud explains her critical role in the film, “My character is the knot that ties the film together. It’s because of Lara that Bruno’s character reacts and begins to realize what he really wants.”

Produced as an independent film “El Encanto,” focuses on character development. That meant Saud was able to stand out and show off her raw natural talent as an actor. The story line’s depth is explained producer Diego Corsini, saying “It’s a story of growth and maturation. It is reflecting in a poetic and sincere way that stage in which one still does not realize that he has grown and is an adult, and he wants to continue holding on to a past adolescence.”

Saud’s drive and passion for film show so pressingly in every role she plays. A dedicated artist, Saud pushes herself to go above and beyond the call of duty.

“I am a proactive actress who does not wait for the opportunity. I get completely involved in each project and don’t hold back, knowing I am making my mark.”