Opportunities for women animators

Kiran Bhakta Joshi. Photos: SEWA BHATTARAI

After making his name as an animator providing sequences VFX footage for movies like House of Dragons, Dora, Lion King and many others, Kiran Bhakta Joshi of Incessant Rain is opening the Nepal affiliate of Women in Animation (WIA).

Joshi hopes to help Nepali filmmakers get more exposure and make connections on global platforms through WIA, not just in animation but also live action. Animators, writers, directors, technicians are all represented in the non-profit which provides mentorship and scholarships. 

“Most big studios in the US are supporting WIA because gender justice is so important,” explained Joshi, who is based in California, and runs the Incessant Rain studio in Kathmandu. “If a film producer needs a female artist or technician, they ask WIA, and being involved would provide good exposure to Nepali filmmakers.” 

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WIA’s Nepal affiliate is the first in South Asia, and has filmmaker Sampada Malla as president. She told us, “This is the golden age of Nepali cinema. Better Nepali movies are being made and through WIA, more of them may go to international platforms, with possibilities of collaboration.”

Deepa Joshi, co-CEO of Incessant Rain, says WIA will engage in advocacy, mentorship, and education Nepal. She adds, “There is still the perception that cartoons are for children. We want to show that there are great career options for women in animation.” 

Women in animation in Nepal
Deepa Joshi

Stories X Women of WIA helps female-led projects prepare their pitch packages and organise sessions attended by Hollywood executives. “Networking can help women filmmakers make the connections required to produce their films,” she adds. 

WIA Nepal will provide scholarships to Nepali women eager to get into animation, and eventually expand to training film editors, cinematography, scriptwriting, and production, reaching out beyond Kathmandu. 

Says Kiran Joshi: “Ultimately, the success of Nepali films and animation will depend on how inclusive the sector is.” 

Female artists into filmmakers

Nepali Times: Why are there so few women animators even in your company Incessant Rain?

Kiran Bhakta Joshi: Gender inequality is a global problem, but it is worse in Nepal because of the patriarchy. After marriage, many families expect women to stay home and look after the family, which means that women end up losing their careers on interests. 

Up to 20-25% of the staff at Incessant Rain are women, and most of them are in admin. There are even fewer women artists. I was so busy bringing in work and delivering products over the years that I did not even notice this discrepancy. As a man, one often does not even notice these things. But we have recently started a program at Incessant Rain, which has increased the number of women. 

How did this gender justice program come about? 

As the company grew, so did my workload. At one point, I realized that I couldn’t lead the company alone. Two and a half years ago, I asked Deepa Chipalu Joshi to join the company and help lead it.

She immediately noticed that there were very few women, and asked me why. As usual, like men do, I said that it is difficult to find qualified women artists in Nepal. Deepa said that was not a good answer, we must try harder. That is when we started thinking seriously about improving the gender balance. 

Animation in Nepal

What kind of steps did you take to increase the participation of women? 

Deepa started an outreach program where she goes to different schools and colleges and tells young people about the kind of career they can have in animation and how they can fit in a company like Incessant Rain. 

Also, when someone goes on maternity leave, we want to make sure that they come back, in any capacity. Maybe they can be given a lighter workload or shift them to a department where they need to work only 20 hours a week. And we know it is a temporary problem, once the kid is grown up, they will be back in their full capacity. 

Gender justice is not just for women, it also applies to men. We want to afford the same facility to fathers as well. No one should have to lose their job because they had a baby. We are looking at having a daycare center at the office, which will make it easier for new parents to work.

There are even fewer women in leadership positions. 

It is not enough to hire more women, you are right, they should also be in senior positions. That is why I stepped down from my role as CEO and made her co-CEO. If the leading woman is still reporting to a man, then nothing changes. So now we, as co-CEOs, manage different areas of the company. I look after the creative and technical side while she looks after her areas of expertise like finance, operations, human resources, etc. This has given a strong message to every artist in the company. If we want to make changes, it must start at the top. 

How can WIA help to further this goal? 

In Kathmandu, our academy is fairly reasonably priced. But, that is not the case outside of the Valley, where this opportunity and this amount is out of reach. So, eventually, we want to tap into WIA for funds to provide opportunities for training and education to women artists outside Kathmandu.