Episode 332 — Foundry – Jen Goldfinch, Senior Director of Industry Marketing

 

Episode 332 — Foundry — Jen Goldfinch, Senior Director of Industry Marketing

Founded in 1996, Foundry is a visual effects software development company headquartered in London, with over 300 employees and a presence in the US, China, Japan, Australia and Europe. 

They have been developing creative software for the Digital Design, Media and Entertainment industries for over 20 years. Their products — like Nuke, Mari, Katana, Flix, Hiero, Modo — are used to create breathtaking visual effects sequences on a wide range of feature films, video-on-demand, television and commercials. 

Their clients and partners include major feature film studios and post-production houses such as Pixar, ILM, MPC, Walt Disney Animation, Weta Digital, DNEG, and Framestore as well as automotive, footwear, apparel and technology companies such as Mercedes, New Balance, Adidas and Google. They partner with these companies to solve complex visualization challenges to turn incredible ideas into reality. This is why our software has been integral in the making of every VFX Oscar-winning film, award-winning TV shows and commercials for more than a decade.

In 2019, the London Stock Exchange named Foundry one of the “1000 Companies to Inspire Britain.” They’re regularly featured in The Sunday Times’ Tech Track as one of Britain’s fastest-growing private technology companies.

In this Podcast, Jen Goldfinch, Senior Director of Industry Marketing at Foundry, shares her 20-years of experience, talks about the company’s history, tools and learning resources, as well as its investment in diversity and inclusion.

 

Foundry’s Site: https://www.foundry.com

Foundry on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/foundryteam

Foundry Tutorials: https://learn.foundry.com/

Foundry on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFoundryTeam/

Foundry’s AFSG: https://www.foundry.com/news-and-awards/foundry-joins-academy-software-foundation-governing-board

Jen Goldfinch on LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jen-goldfinch-74a3a9

Other Uses of Nuke: https://www.foundry.com/insights/film-tv/planetarium-to-pre-production

Foundry Live with Customers’ Discussion of Experience with the NukeUnreal Reader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Uogn5rpo2E&list=PLi2GhhsPL-Rq-YIySR9U8ykVF37DkGa2d&index=9 

Webinar on Black Perspectives in VFX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTgAmFa_BGg

 

HIGHLIGHTS:

[03:38] Jen Goldfinch Introduces Herself

[03:54] Foundry’s History

[05:10] Jen’s Experience at Softimage and Autodesk

[15:36] Products by Foundry

[18:00] Learning Tools and Resources for Foundry’s Tools

[22:27] The Importance of Soft Skills

[31:57] Adapting to COVID-19 and Working Remotely

[42:30] Virtual Production and the Future of the Industry

[52:06] Diversity and Inclusion in Visual Effects

 

EPISODE 332 — FOUNDRY — JEN GOLDFINCH, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF INDUSTRY MARKETING

Hi, everyone! 

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 332! This is the first Episode of the year.

I’m speaking to Jen Goldfinch, the Senior Director of Industry Marketing at Foundry. We get into a lot of really great stuff here! We talk about the company’s history, its products and tools — including Nuke — its commitment to diversity and inclusion, virtual production, the impact of COVID-19 on production, Jen’s experience in the industry and so much more! 

I’m really excited for this Episode! It was so much fun to do! Please take a moment to share this with others.

Let’s dive in! 

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST: 

[01:10]  Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[1:04:14] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!

 

INTERVIEW WITH JEN GOLDFINCH

[03:38] Allan: Thanks so much for doing the Podcast, Jen! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?

Jen: Sure! My name is Jen Goldfinch. I’m the Senior Director of Industry Marketing at Foundry. Industry Marketing includes field marketing, social media, education and client relations. And partners!

[03:54] Allan: Do you want to talk about Nuke’s and Foundry’s history, from your standpoint? I know the company has just had its 25th anniversary this month. It’d be great to talk about the company’s origins.

Jen: Foundry has been around for about 25 years, since 1996 when our Founders Bruno Nicoletti and Simon Robinson were developing plug-ins for Flame, for Shake and other products. They built a successful business helping out with plug-ins and pipelines. Over the years, they continued to grow. Through the relationship, Bruno and Simon started working with closely Digital Domain who had their in-house compositor Nuke (which came from “Digital Compositor”). When DD started to develop it as a product, Bruno and Simon jumped on it back in 2007 – 2008 timeframe.

[05:10] Allan: You have a vast amount of experience working in this industry. Do you want to talk about your experience working for Autodesk and Softimage?

Jen: Sure! I grew up in Montreal. I still live close to the city. Jurassic Park and Softimage was a huge story in the mid- to late-90s. Softimage was always on the news. I was just graduating college and I thought, “Imagine working in the movies! That would be a dream!” At the time, I was working at a hardware company in Montreal. One day, my colleague and I finished work one day, drove down to their offices downtown and handed them our paper CV’s. That didn’t go anywhere. But 9 years later, I got a chance to apply for a Senior PR Specialist role. I was lucky enough to get a job there! I had interviewed at Streetlogix a few weeks before, so I was so excited to work in the industry. That started the most amazing journey in the industry! I think a pivotal moment in that journey was when I was interviewing an artist once who said, “This software is more than just software. I spend more time with Softimage than I do with my wife.” And we laughed. But I really thought about it and that this tool is [this person’s] future. It’s his mortgage. It becomes part of people’s lifestyle. It changed how I looked at my job. 

I was the last person on the marketing floor for Softimage before we were acquired by Autodesk in 2008. I was there until the very end. I went over to Autodesk which is a really big company. They had just gone through the Alias acquisition and they had learned some lessons that you aren’t just bringing people. You’re bringing together people that have been competing with each other for years. They learned a lot from the acquisition. They welcomed us with open arms. I was working on how to handle the migration, how to work with different systems. It was night and day from our 200-person company. There were these big systems. They really tried to make us feel at home.

[09:07] Allan: I remember meeting a few guys in New York. I was at Psyop at the time. I’d used Softimage back in the 90s. I was a bit alienated by it but it’s reputation was so exciting! With that artist mentioning that Softimage was his whole life, did that stick with you?

Jen: A hundred percent! For me, it really resonated when I met the Nuke team and I started working at Foundry. Foundry’s mission is to empower artists and give them the tools they need to work faster, smarter, to explore and to delight. I was recently reading an interview with our Chief Product Officer. She was saying how important it was for her to layer product development. Featuring bug fixes are important, industry standards are important. But to delight and surprise our customers that’s important too, in terms of how we deliver the product. 

[10:51] Allan: Knowing that so early in your career, you had a target where you wanted to go, did that stick with you? One day, you just knew you’d work for this company.

Jen: Softimage was a goal set in my mind. I had some opportunities when we were interviewed by Autodesk and it looked so enticing to me. Just the scale of their product! But at the time, I didn’t want to turn my back on Autodesk. A month after, we got acquired by Autodesk, and I was grateful I was there to help the transition. It was new for us, but we wanted to get to our community and talk to them. It was an important step for this integration. We had no idea what the figure was going to hold, but we wanted to get to our customers.

[12:39] Allan: You’d mentioned this before: Working with a company that has competing products under the same umbrella, what was it like? 

Jen: At least, we were the next ones up. Some folks at Alias needed to learn integration. But every person that worked on Max or Maya were on the same mission: which was to work together to figure out how to make it best for their customers. The only awkward part for us was we just did a study to see how powerful Softimage was in comparison to 3DS Max. I had to look them in the eye. Everyone was so welcoming though, but we competed internally. But we worked well together. In general, there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t dedicated a hundred percent. This is what I love about this industry: It’s not just a job! It’s a life! It’s about the customers and the product, and the mission. I thought it’d be more dramatic. 

[15:36] Allan: Do you want to give a bit of an overview of the core products at Foundry?

Jen: Sure! Obviously, there is Nuke which is our compositing software. That’s our flagship product. But we’ve also acquired products from studios. Nuke was originated from Digital Domain. 

  • Later we acquired Flix from Sony. It’s a storyboarding tool that’s been used on some really great projects. It’s our unknown product. It’s hard to do marketing for storyboarding. 
  • We acquired Katana which also came from Sony which is a really powerful look, dev and lighting solution. It’s used by studios around the world. It’s an interesting product that can light a lot of shots quickly. We love our Katana! 
  • And then of course, we have our texturing tool Mari which came from Weta. It’s such a beautiful tool. I love watching Mari artists.
  • And then we have Modo which is a 3D modeling tool that we acquired from Luxology. That one didn’t come from production.
  • Also, we have Hiero and Hiero Player which were invented at Foundry. 

[18:00] Allan: I know that Foundry is really big on education. How important is it to create learning tools and resources for your company?

Jen: I’m glad you mentioned education because it’s becoming more and more important to us to help our customers to scale up with artists. It’s a wonderful time in our industry! If you study these tools — you will get hired. I don’t know any company that isn’t hiring right now. At the same time, these aren’t easy tools to pick up. They’re complex and deep. They take experience. The learning and education part is hard. It’s hard to figure out where to start. Where do you start with Nuke? We recently launched a course with VFX Sup Austin Myers (https://learn.foundry.com/course/4678/view/1-before-you-begin). He did a 12-part series on getting started with Nuke. But where do you start in other parts of Nuke, like Nuke Studio, or deep comp? We do a lot of development ourselves and we collaborate with third parties that do such a good job. But it’s a journey to get good learning content. We have to think about how students learn these days. My 9-year old learns on tablets and on YouTube. How do you teach someone in the beginning or in the middle of their career? We have an excellent team! If you go to our Learn section on Foundry.com, there’s tons of tutorials (https://learn.foundry.com/) on Katana, Nuke, Mari. We’re just starting to build the database for Flix.

[21:15] Allan: I think a lot of people aren’t prepared mentally when they first discover VFX. They don’t realize this is not something you dabble with. 

Jen: Going back to my daughter, she’s starting to edit things. There are these editor packages. She’s learning about layers. And she’s 9! Will this generation be that far advanced? So we talk to schools and students to figure out the best way that they learn.

[22:27] Allan: This has been interesting! I get super jealous of the artists who are doing stuff on Art Station — and they’re 16 years old! The tools are getting easier and more intuitive to use. People don’t need that technical barrier. The first public release of Nuke was overwhelming. But that’s going back to a company that was really technical. Every tool has evolved overtime. And they’re so straightforward.

Jen: We did a series of events with heads of training. You get a lot of juniors who understand the tools but they haven’t worked with studios. A lot of the advice we give is not just about the tools but about:

  • How to work with people, 
  • How to take feedback.

I listened to your Podcast on How to Land Your Dream Job (www.allanmckay.com/301). Where you start is important! You have to understand the pipeline. Some of the scaleups we do are on how to become a mid-level or a senior compositor. What do you need to do to level up? What do you need to do to go up in your career?

[25:07] Allan: You’ve been big on doing webinars, especially with COVID-19. What do you think of those?

Jen: I think that’s fantastic! There is a bit of a webinar fatigue that’s happening. My team used to manage 120 global events a year. We’d be going in person and it was fun! COVID hit and I went into a panic. I didn’t know what my team was going to do! We just jumped in and we started a webinar program. We thought about what people needed. We wanted to bring people together. We all freaked out. We started doing webinars. 

  • We did a series on how to scale up. 
  • We did one with Hugo Guerra on How to Make Money Outside of VFX.

[27:29] Allan: Hugo has been on the Podcast a couple of times (www.allanmckay.com/283). 

Jen: Brilliant! We also did product launches and supervisor panels. How to Become a TD panel. We tried to do as many webinars as we could. We were doing 2 webinars a week. Which was a lot (from our customers’ perspective).

[28:17] Allan: That’s so cool! While we’re on the subject of COVID, what was it like for you and your customers? I see Black Widow on your wall. I remember that was one of the productions that slowed down. Everyone needed to adapt.

Jen: I think that was really scary for people. There was a lot of insecurity about what was going to happen. That’s what started our webinar passion. We spoke to a lot of customers. We asked about the artists’ perspective in terms of  what they needed, in terms of licenses and payments. We were cutting hundreds of at-home licenses a week! It was scary for us from the company perspective. Everyone was nervous. After the initial dip, things picked up and now we’re seeing this content explosion. We had a crew in Australia and the first week in March, they were out. It was really trying! 

[31:57] Allan: Have there been any unique studies innovating during COVID?

Jen: I think the fact that we’ve been able to pivot to working from home with studio guidelines, we proved that we can work from home — and that’s the most innovative thing I’ve seen! We’ve done some color management training. We started hearing studios getting monitors to their employees, which was a bit of less expensive equipment. We all had bandwidth issues with the internet as well. 

[33:44] Allan: It’s interesting that there is a generation gap when people went home. Some of the studios were finding out their younger artists didn’t have computers at home. They worked from tablets. 

Jen: A hundred percent! When you think about younger folks in densely populated areas, they have roommates. They had to share spaces. Or you had people living alone, and then the mental health issues became important. It was a nightmare. It’s the isolation factor that’s really tough!

[33:31] Allan: I’ve personally worked remotely a lot. Whenever I can, I will. It’s a great chance for me to tackle several projects. For me, the people who are impacted the most are the younger generation. I think it’s so valuable to be around people from whom you can learn.

Jen: Think about when you got feedback when you were young. You got grades; but when you go into a job, you got feedback. It’s hard to get feedback when you aren’t used to it. I remember dreading reviews. I think about juniors getting feedback on their work, or to be able to socialize with your fellow junior artists. That’s where the isolation worries me. You can’t do that on the company Slack. You lose that personal touch.

[38:01] Allan: I had that relationship with one of the compositors. You need to go for a walk or to vent sometimes. You need to have people tell you it’s going okay. It’s also no one is telling you to go home at night. I used to work with Frantic Films and there’d be no off button. You’re thinking about how bad your work is, but you have no idea until someone reassures you.

Jen: On the flip side, I hope people are taking this time to work through some of that. When COVID first hit, my husband and I were working together for 14 hours a day (which included home schooling). I’d get up at [5:00] and start work at 5:45 a.m. I’d work for 4 hours, do 2 hours with my daughter, then he’d work. I’d do 2 more hours and he’d work for 4 hours. We were exhausted by November – December. In January, we decided we couldn’t keep going like that. We took a pause and figured out a healthier lifestyle, like incorporating working out. We got a COVID dog, like so many people. We had to walk him. Our date night was taking a walk with the dog. He started training for a marathon, and I started hiking with my friends. And that’s the one message I would get out to everyone: Take the time for yourself to take care of your physical and mental health. You’ll be better at your job that way. 

[41:37] Allan: I was having this conversation with my wife last night because we both work insane hours. It’s not healthy. But it’s also important to realize that when you step away from the problem, you often come up with the solution. 

Jen: I think that’s 100% right! When I went from Softimage to Autodesk, my job was a lot more focused. Moving back to Foundry, there is so much we can do. The last couple of months, I’ve been overwhelmed. I listened to your Podcast Sh*t I Wish I knew When I Was Younger (www.allanmckay.com/313). You talked about the importance of: “Do less”. You have to focus on that one thing you do well. That statement may be a pivotal moment in my career.

[42:30] Allan: We changed that title at the last minute, by the way. The one thing that’s become popular is virtual production. What has your experience been with that?

Jen: My experience was born at Autodesk, shortly after Avatar was released. We did a whole section at FMX on virtual production. We talked about previs and post-vis, and how people were using the tools to build sets in advance. It was really interesting! That was back in 2012. Virtual production and the rise of The Mandalorian created a lot of conversation on the subject. Epic is doing a lot of great work in that space. We ask our customers about what they need from our end. So we’re launching 13.1 in a couple of months and there will be a tool called The Nuke Unreal Bridge. That will allow you to bring your Unreal renders into Nuke and work on them in post. You can do a variety of things that need to be done. We’re hosting a Foundry Live and talking to users that have used the beta product. 

[46:17] Allan: I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it! I had the president of MELS on the Podcast. I want to check it out as soon as I can. 

Jen: It’s a beautiful location! 

[46:12] Allan: I think it’s so cool what you’ve been doing. Have there been any interesting cases that stand out for you, that surprise you?

Jen: Some of these cases are things that you don’t expect. Modo has been a modeling tool that was used in games a lot. Over the last few years, it’s become an amazing tool for shoe designers. Nike has been doing some amazing stuff with Modo. We’ve done work with New Balance. Modo offers them a chance to be more sustainable. The amount of shoe samples that gets sent is huge and Modo allows for not having to do this. At the same time, we have car companies that use Katana in innovative ways. We did an article on innovating ways that people use Nuke and it’s pretty awesome! 

[50:15] Allan: How has Foundry innovated around machine learning?

Jen: Machine learning is a great topic. It’s super technical so I’m not going to try to talk about the technical aspects. We don’t rush, however, to copy a feature that everyone is using, to have a hot feature. We spoke to our customers. What CopyCat was able to accomplish is to enable our tools to work harder for our artists. CopyCat is a node in Nuke that allows the artists to train a neural network to copy their own sequence. The goal is to have our software work harder for the artist, to be able to give it a start and a finish — and have our software do the rest. We have some videos on our channel. People love the shortcut!

[52:06] Allan: I’m really excited to see where this all goes! My last big question is: You’re a big advocate for diversity. It’s such a critical topic. What is your opinion on the climate right now?

Jen: Diversity is a marathon not a sprint. Last year, we wanted to do something quick, post the BLM movement and the George Floyd murder. My history with diversity started when I started at Softimage with Dr. Joe Saulter who had a company called the Urban Video Game Academy. The dream was to give a safe space for after school programs for at-risk youths, to develop video games. He wrote a few papers. He talked about how having diverse voices in the room changes the storytelling. That was back in the mid-2000s. Fifteen years later, we were starting to do a series of events at SIGGRAPH called All Stars. The first one was all men. From a diversity stand point, we knew we could do better! Black Panther came out the following spring so I was on a mission to have a Black VFX artist talking about the effect of that film. It was hard to find the right person to tell the story. We had to pivot and decided to have women VFX artists. In 2019, we had support from Marvel. We wanted to talk about the role women played. I remember seeing the feedback from the session. And one of the responses was, “When are you going to stop putting women on stage?” 

[56:02] Allan: It’s always interesting to look at that individual’s other answers. You realize the dumbest person giving those answers.

Jen: I thought we’re never going to stop. If that makes you uncomfortable! Giving more voices in the room is what matters. In 2020, when BLM protests were happening, we held a session called Black in VFX. We thought, “Oh, we’re so great!” But when we actually did it, it was so powerful and intense. If you want to hear about what your Black colleagues’ experiences were like in 2000, please listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTgAmFa_BGg. It was powerful and heart wrenching. It couldn’t be a bandaid. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

[57:35] Allan: Being a white man who is privileged, you take it for granted how slanted things can be. Since the genesis of this Podcast, I wanted to have women on the panel on this Podcast. I think it’s such an important subject. 

Jen: There is an opportunity for everyone to get involved. Foundry partners with ACCESS:VFX. That company is about giving access to resources and education in VFX. That was the one takeaway I had from SIGGRAPH is the importance of having mentors. We’re trying to help students, especially those who go to smaller schools.

[1:00:23] Allan: There is one panel you were associated with, with Sunil…

Jen: That was the pipeline conference. Sunil is fantastic! When I stopped traveling for 2020, I signed up to be the Chair of the Academy Software Outreach Committee. They have a diversity and inclusion committee. Then we have the ACCESS:VFX mentorship. Then I saw the opportunity to do the pipeline conference. Sunil was in charge of programming so we pitched to have women in pipeline talk. We had Katalina Williams, Head of Software at Technicolor, on and she spoke about the challenges and hurdles of being a woman studying engineering. 

[1:02:57] Allan: Where can people go to find out more about you and Foundry?

Jen: You can come to my LinkedIn. You can follow Foundry on social media. We do customer work. We have Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I spend more time on LinkedIn. We have an education page there. You can join the Academy Software Outreach Committee.

[1:03:56] Allan: Thank you, Jen, for coming on! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

Jen: Thank you for having me! It was an absolute pleasure.

 

I hope you enjoyed this Episode info. Thanks for listening! I want to thank Jen for coming on to talk. She shared so much great

Next week, I’m sitting down with DNEG’s VFX Supervisor Dan Glass to talk about The Matrix Resurrections. It’ll be a lot of fun to dive into the visuals of the film and DNEG’s contribution.

Until then —

Rock on!

 

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