“I feel like I've grown so much as a person!” – How mentoring helped Dominique prepare for the next stages in her career

We recently spoke with Dominique Matthew about her experience on the ScreenSkills NextGen Prospects mentoring programme, which was funded by the ScreenSkills Mentoring Network, supported by the BFI awarding National Lottery Funds as part of its Future Film Strategy.

Hi, could you please introduce yourself?

"Hi, I’m Dominque Matthew and I work for Blue Zoo Animation Studio, I'm a Cover Lighting and Compositing Artist. It involves being at the end of production and seeing how lighting can really change and affect the way you feel when watching a scene. I really enjoy what I do, because you have the final impact on how things look. So, it's nice to be part of that process."

Did you have a goal in mind when you applied for the ScreenSkills NextGen Prospects programme?

"I'm tricky. When I first applied, I didn't really know why I wanted a mentor, I just felt like I needed one. Then as time went on, I realised that I always have trouble with finishing things and goals, which I spoke with my mentor about recently, when it came to personal work or even just little goals I have, I just can't seem to finish them.

"Goals was a topic that came up repeatedly during the mentorship programme. Now I’m able to look and think I can decide when I want to finish something, I can decide what it looks like when it should be finished, or what finished means to me. Because if you watch a series, obviously once you finished the final episode, that's the end of it. But when it comes to your work, especially as artists, how can you determine that it’s done? Our conversations got deep about what does finished mean, what does a piece of work being incomplete mean, and realising that I have the power to decide when something is finished and move on. So, it did really help with reframing my views and goals."

Can you tell us a little bit about your mentor?

"My mentor is a Lead Lightening Composite Artist at Framestore. I think that link between us both doing the same thing, even though he works in VFX and I work in animation, really helped as we understood each other on that level.

"He was very open about how his work is going, how he approaches steps in the industry, as well as how he will go about doing his own personal work. I think, to see that it's not just me who has gone through that and knowing you're not alone was really helpful. That was made apparent in our sessions where we talked about not just personal work, which was a goal that I set myself, but also just general life. How things can impact the way you see your goals, how they can change along the way, and trying to bounce back from set-backs. There will be like bumps in the road, but knowing that you can keep progressing through and you'll be fine. Everyone has gone through challenges, there's nothing to worry about.

"This really got to me as I'm a worrier, I worry all the time. I try not to, or people tell me not to, but I’m going to worry anyway! So, to then think ‘Ok, I know I’m going to worry but what can I do about it?’ Can I change it in the moment, or shall I just leave that worry and work on something else, because there's no point wasting your energy worrying on that issue when you can use that energy for something else. So, I started to realise lots of deep stuff about myself and how it's like when you come across a hurdle, and how to get over it and not just be stuck there for ages. Before I felt like I was getting stuck behind hurdles for a long time."

Did the mentoring programme help you to prepare for the next stages in your career?

"Yes, definitely. The programme really opened my eyes and impacted on how I see things. Through my mentor, the career workshops and working with the Leadership Coach we spoke a lot about building the life you want. Plus, hearing industry people talk about how their career journey went, and how it was never as straightforward as they expected it to be!

"They showed that it doesn't have to be straight journey, especially if you don't know what your goal is at the end yet. Plans don’t always work out the way you think they will, and it's nice to just see how other people have gone through industries, bouncing between different companies and between different roles. I think the changing roles examples were important, because I can be lighting and compositing today and I could decide to try writing tomorrow. It taught me not to put yourself in such a box, and not to worry that you must stay in that box for your whole career.

"Mental health was a big topic, I suffer from anxiety and worrying, so to see how others deal with simple steps at home, and learning about different personality types and how they react and interact. It was just really impactful, and I really appreciate it."  

Has the programme changed your outlook?

"I feel like I've grown so much as a person, even my mum has noticed how much I’ve changed! I'm actually doing personal work and I'm enjoying it, it doesn’t feel like a chore. I'm doing it because I want to do it and I'm taking steps to further learn how things work. I’m looking at things like render sampling and optimizations and things that I hated to do at uni. Now I'm reading up on it and taking time out of my day on things I hated! I’m actively enjoying the learning process, enjoying where it takes me, and enjoying that I and this learning are part of the final piece."

Do you have one piece of advice that you really took away from the programme?

"I feel like I learned so much but one of my main pieces of advice comes back to worrying, and not to worry about your career end goal, or finishing, which go hand in hand. We heard from people on the programme talking about their careers, and how what they were doing now wasn't always the end goal for them, because they've changed between different things. They have all had challenges and bounced back again. So, it's literally just not to worry too much.  

"But also, to set goals because otherwise you won't progress, which sounds contradictory! So, it's setting personal goals to progress and so you can see and appreciate where you started to where you are now, but don't be so focussed on your career end goal that you miss opportunities along the way."

Talking about goals, do you have any current ones you’re working towards?

"For me in terms of career, I'm currently in animation, so I’d like to try VFX and feature animation see what I enjoy the most because I feel like I can't disregard things. Currently I've got a little goal in a personal work project which I want to look really good, my goal is to make it look finished. My mentor made me look at the project, and he wouldn’t tell me what's wrong. He’d ask, ‘What do you think about this right now?’ which really got me thinking for myself rather than him telling me what was wrong. It has meant that I can apply changes based on what I feel was wrong.

"There isn’t just a yes or no answer, it was getting myself to think which really helps me figure out what is my real goal for the project. Before I would over-analyse everything and get halfway through before deciding I didn’t want to take the next steps. Now, I want to take those steps and I can decide to call it finished."

Now you've been through this programme, would you consider becoming a mentor yourself in the future?

"Thanks to mentoring and the programme I feel so much more confident about things, I feel like I can apply what I’ve learned not just to my work and my hobbies, but also to life. For example, sometimes I wake up not feeling great but now I can think ‘No you’re fine, just work through the day and take the little wins and celebrate them’. After this experience I think I would love to be a mentor in the future, because it’s an opportunity to help someone and it really can change their life."

Any final thoughts?

"Just thank you for running the programme, I'm so happy that this went on and I feel like I’ve learned so much. As someone with anxiety, one thing I want people to take away from this is to not worry about where you’re going, be comfortable where you are, and enjoy the ride!"

Written by

Ben Rust at NextGen