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Following a hugely successful launch of the Pablo Academy, we are so excited to welcome three new applicants to the very first Pablo Academy. We will be celebrating their journeys with us over the next while. Next up in the blog series is Laurence Steel.
We asked Laurence what he is most looking forward to as part of the Pablo Academy and how he found the application process.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out part one of the series by clicking here.
1. Tell us how and when you first gained an interest in the animation industry.
In 2004, when I was around 6/7, I had a sick day from school, and my mum rented The SpongeBob Movie DVD from our local video renting store. I watched it all, and then checked out the special features. There was a behind the scenes of how they create SpongeBob episodes, and it showed the storyboarding, and development, and it was then it clicked that it was something I could do. I’ve been on the path ever since!
2. How did you find the application process, was it different to applying to any other positions?
It was refreshing, I’ve been struggling since graduating university with applications. From the application through to the interview, I had accommodations met, and understanding staff. I wasn’t seen as something I wasn’t, I was just seen as me. It was a great experience.
3. What are you most looking forward to in the Pablo Academy?
I’m most looking forward to seeing how the industry really works, and what the pipelines are like. I’m excited to learn new things, and it just feels nice to see that my dream job is achievable. I’m in it now, and I’m ready for the ride!
4. How do you think the first phase of the Pablo Academy will change perceptions of autism in the animation industry?
I think and hope it will cause people to stop in their tracks and think for a second, to be less judgemental of how people sound, and their mannerisms. I struggle with eye contact a lot, but this is a red flag for some interviewers. I’d just love to be given an equal opportunity. My work is strong, and a lot of people are, it’s just hard to wiggle in anywhere without someone taking a chance. Which is why this internship has been such a game changer for me.
5. Do you think you can bring any new perspectives to your placement at Paper Owl Films? What are they?
I do believe so, yes! As someone who is somewhere on the ADHD/Autism spectrum, and a transgender man, I have experienced the world in a lot of ways people haven’t. It’s given me a lot more patience, resilience, and empathy than you would expect. I’m a keen listener and observer and have a knack for connection. Storytelling gets a lot better when you work with people who’ve experienced life differently, and I hope to help someone in a little way, even if it’s just answering a straightforward question.
6. What do you think neurotypical people could learn from their autistic colleagues?
I hope I can teach people it’s ok to feel the things you’re feeling, and it’s ok to forgive yourself. We’re not going to get anywhere if we let feelings fester, you’re not going to look silly for asking stupid questions. Allowing yourself to not know things, and not understand things. Neurodivergent people tend to have a lot of joy to give out too about the stuff they love, and I think it’s an absolute privilege to be able to see that and learn from it.
7. From what you have experienced so far, how do you think workplaces can be more accessible to young people on the autism spectrum?
I think what’s most important is creating a safe space in your job, so that people can take their masks off, and not feel exhausted at the end of the day. When you feel comfortable, a lot of things tend to feel a lot easier. Asking people what helps them feel safe and comfortable in a situation is all we need. Also, just seeing us as adults helps too! We’re not children, and we don’t need to be treated as such. I’m not a robot boy with no feelings! It’s so important to educate yourself on people who aren’t like you.
It’s why I’m so excited to be working with Paper Owl, they’re giving people like me opportunities.