International Women’s Day! – Interview With Arpita Chikodikar-Texturing and Lookdev artist at SPIN VFX Canada

International Women’s Day! – Interview With Arpita Chikodikar-Texturing and Lookdev artist at SPIN VFX Canada

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Arpita Chikodikar but most people know me as Alps in the industry. I am an artist since birth and a texturing and look dev artist since 2018.

What inspired you to step into the Animation Industry?

I am the fourth generation of artists in my family, which is why I mentioned artists since birth. Growing up in this environment, there would always be a Disney movie screening at home on a Sunday following which dad would explain to me how the animation was done. This fascinated me but a specific memory that I have is of when I was 8 years old, and we went to see Finding Nemo in the theatre. This is the first time I saw what 3D animation looks like and that day I decided that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My parents supported me by sending me to the school of art in my home country and then sent me to Vancouver Film School for further education, to professionally study animation. This is where I learned about the different branches and picked VFX as a full-time career.

Challenges and experiences in your early years, and would you like to share some of your memories Faced?

Surprisingly, one of the early challenges I faced was being accepted. There was a vast cultural difference between where I came from and where I had my first industry-based job. So the early years were simply an effort to fit in and want to be liked. Meanwhile, with the seniors, it was a little different. Because I came from one of the best animation colleges, there were higher expectations from me and thus there was constant pressure to stand up to their expectations.

What are your greatest achievements in the 3D Industry?

I feel there is still a lot to achieve and accomplish in this journey. I think everyone who knows me well, knows that I want to win The Oscar one day. But I am still a kid at heart and fresh in the industry. Little things excite me and make me happy. From getting my work featured on the Substance Painter page to watching my first movie credit. Vancouver Film School (VFS) featured me on my local news page on Facebook and interviewed me. I think of all these things as great achievements. But right now, I feel the greatest is having this interview feature on VFX Express, on women’s day.

Who are your inspirational women in the 3D industry, and why?

There is a very small percentage of women in this industry, especially in India. So to all the women doing VFX in India, I just want to say thank you and that you are doing great. You are an inspiration to many young girls out there. So, keep doing what you are doing, and together let’s break all those stereotypes.

And to mention a few names, I want to start with Domee Shi (Director, Pixar). I met her at the Spark CG festival and looking at her passion and the things she has achieved, I have been a huge fan and wish to be like her someday.

Next, I want to mention Hyunmi Choi, who was my supervisor at Spin VFX. There is probably nothing that she cannot solve. She is like a Lookdev master to me.

And last but not least are these two women who have been with me since my first job and have been inspiring me every day, Naaz Khan and Manisha Sahoo. I’ve known them for five years now and I think they are the most talented and hardworking women I know. They are more experienced than me but never made me feel like a subordinate. At a workplace, you need seniors who help you in the best way possible without making you feel dumb, and they have been that for me all these years. 

Women in the VFX/ 3D industry? What do you expect from the industry to change?

The following is a personal opinion that could differ from many others, as it is based on certain experiences at a certain studio.
I have seen a lot of male co-workers complaining that they don’t want to report to a senior female co-worker. As I am unsure of their reasons, I do not want to comment on that. But if this is how the majority thinks, I really wish this thought process changes.

Challenges for women in the VFX/ 3D Industry?

Besides the point that I mentioned above, something I experienced personally is women also try to bring other women down. If there are two women supporting you, there are three others trying to traduce you. This according to me is just an attitude issue, and if fixed, we might see more women supervisors and HODs in India as well.

Any memorable shows you wish to share your experiences with?

The most memorable show I worked on was Sonic The hedgehog 2 at DNEG. I was very new to their pipeline and had not done major tasks before. Yet my lead trusted me with the look dev for the entire Mushroom planet which was supposed to be the opening sequence of the movie. For those who have seen the movie might know that it had two variations of mushrooms, a normal one and a glowing one, and I had 0 knowledge of how variations worked, how glow worked, etc. We faced major issues with this task, lighting-related, bugs, glow not working, maps not available, and other technical stuff. But still, my supervisors, Andreas Loose and Kiran Naidu showed faith in me. And with all the support I got from my lead Abhishek Amin, we delivered all the mushrooms, and the output is in the movie. This whole 4 months’ experience made me believe that I am capable of so much more than I know. This show is also very special to me as it was my first movie credit. I cried in the theatre while my lead, Abhishek sat next to me proudly and clapped. 

As a female 3D artist what are the difficulties you’re facing in work and how are you handling them?

A sad reality that I feel extremely upset to talk about, but I think is very necessary to be addressed, is slut shaming. I have been through it, on a very large scale. Have seen my other female co-workers go through it too. But worse than this is that women are scared to report these incidents. Primarily because people putting them through all this are quite successful artists in the industry or considered hardworking employees in the office space. In my opinion, just because someone is a talented artist, who has been featured in 3D magazines or on these famous 3D pages and websites, doesn’t give them, or anyone else, a free pass to slander or slut shame someone. They find it extremely normal to talk about women in a malign way being completely unaware of what toll it takes on our mental health and in what way it affects our reputation.
The way I handled one particular incident, out of many to which I turned a blind eye, was by filing a mental harassment complaint at work, which I feel all girls who go through it, should do. After the story of my complaint came out, a lot of girls told me that they had been through the same but feared taking it to HR. If all these women would have come together, imagine the difference we could have made.

Any advice for upcoming women’s artists?

Yes. If you have faith in your work, no one can break you. People out there are scared of strong, independent, and bold women, but that is not your problem.
And most importantly, support your fellow chicas! Insecurities and jealousy are going to take you nowhere. So be there for each other, stand for each other, and fight for each other.  

Thank you Arpita Chikodikar for your time with us and to share your experience on behalf of Vfxexpress we wish Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the remarkable achievements of women throughout history and around the world. We honor the women who have fought for gender equality and paved the way for future generations, and we commit to continuing this important work.

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