March 28, 2023
Ausfilm recently featured the inspirational and somewhat less known ‘herstory’ of Fin Design and our entrepreneurial founder, CEO and Executive Producer, Emma Daines.
Over 22 years ago, Emma single-handedly founded Fin with a core team of 7.
Since then, Fin has evolved into a globally acclaimed VFX studio with an award-winning crew of over 180 people across studios in Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, and Los Angeles.
Fin and Emma’s story remains unique as one of the world’s leading visual effects companies.
See the full Ausfilm story and pictures.
Article extract below:
Fin Design + Effects is a unique VFX studio for multiple reasons.
One of them that’s particularly topical and deserves highlighting is Fin’s CEO and founder, Emma Daines.
Emma stands out as a leader and entrepreneurial pioneer in the VFX industry: founding Fin Design+Effects over 21 years ago as an experienced and visionary VFX Producer – and a single mum with two toddlers.
Since then, Emma has, over the decades with her team, built Fin from an inception team of 7 (several still with Fin today), into a world-class, award-winning global VFX company with a crew of 180 across studios in Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, and Los Angeles, whose work on international box office feature films and commercials matches it with the best providers globally.
As CEO and hands-on Executive Producer with a 36-year career in the visual effects industry across Australia, Asia, and the UK, Emma steadily commands the cornerstone of Fin creativity and leadership.
Emma’s esteemed business sense and ‘strategic risk taking’ enabled her to innovatively pilot Fin through the pandemic – affirmed by a phenomenal company expansion and Fin delivering an unprecedented volume of visual effects work during this period, including a slew of award-nominated and winning features, such as Elvis, M3GAN, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Ant-Man and The Wasp:Quantumania, Thor: Love & Thunder.
Distinctively the only Australian, private, female-owned, and led VFX company, Fin, just by virtue, has an inherent culture of embracement and encouragement.
Emma aims to keep stimulating and motivating her artists and creative producers. The Fin credo of delivering the ultimate customer experience around high-end visual effects has consistently earned them international accolades.
In addition to Fin’s countless VFX craft awards, Emma has been recognised with the “NSW Women in International Business Award” at the “Premier NSW Export Awards,” and the “Titan: Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award”, while Fin took the honours for SHOTS 2022 Asia Pacific Award for “Best VFX Company”.
Emma’s vision from the outset to create a boutique and family-spirited studio in pursuit of excellence based on trust, integrity and inclusivity has become characteristically known as the ‘Fin ethos,’ and which continues to set Fin apart in the eyes of crew and clients.
When asked what has been a significant professional landmark, Emma’s response is, “Now. Every day should be your landmark moment.”
Emma shares some of her passions and philosophies that have underpinned her leadership and continue to be the driving force behind her own and Fin’s success.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Very, very inclusive. I have firm ideals, thoughts, and disciplines balanced with a strong, caring, and nurturing nature. I applaud hard work, sensibility, and humour. I am still very hands-on, working across multiple time zones with my teams and clients locally and abroad. Although I am a perfectionist, I strongly believe in a work-life balance and adhere to that for myself and my teams.
My founding value for Fin is fostering a healthy, creative, and stimulating working environment across the board. I have an open-door policy, which is widely used by many and fills me with pleasure.
Have you always had this open-door, entrusting, approachable leadership style, or have you adopted this over time?
I’d say this is a combination of my 36 years of experience and my DNA and character. I always want to treat people as I’d like to be treated. Yet, you also need to earn that respect on your merit, which is what I expect of Fin people.
Fin’s success I accredit to the people that surround me. That’s my investment. My job is to put great people around me, entrust, empower, mentor, and encourage them. Then we support and lift each other!
What obstacles have you experienced that may have inhibited your personal or your Fin’s opportunities and growth?
None really. I see it as a mindset of drive and self-belief, to not see ‘obstacles’ but rather as something to navigate and not get bogged down with. Focus is key: remaining wide-eyed, pushing forward to see the opportunities, and then putting your best foot forward to take these opportunities on board.
What has your professional journey been like?
Totally amazing. I love looking back and feel super proud of our achievements, including navigating pretty tough waters. Our ups and downs have made me stronger, more resilient, softer, and kinder, bringing me even closer to my people who have helped us survive and prosper.
What are some of the guiding philosophies that you embed and hold your teams to?
Be open, listen to the experts around you, be considerate, and stay focussed. Be succinct and robust, and adopt a calm approach to any problem.
My focus has always been to create like-minded teams with the right skills: choosing people who crucially ‘fit in,’ can get on well together, and passionately pursue our shared goals for craft perfection with mutual respect. This is the Fin essence across all our studios: working as one family and doing our best work.
How did you juggle leading Fin and raising your daughters?
That took huge energy, discipline, and routine, drawing on my skills as a Producer!
Raising my girls alongside my Fin family involved a certain amount of self-sacrifice, sharing myself with them. I wanted to be a fantastic mother and foster a healthy and stimulating career. I was always very present with my girls and ensured they knew they were the most important people in my life. My girls respect and admire what I’ve achieved. Likewise, I’ve seen them embody the same ambitious strength and resilience.
What are your passions outside Fin?
Funnily enough, I still totally enjoy travelling, even though I am regularly jumping on and off planes for work, particularly to our Singapore and Shanghai studios.
I love reading, cooking, walking, entertaining friends and family, and especially spending time with my two extraordinary daughters. I am super social and love wining and dining…!
What advice do you wish you’d been given in the past, or what advice would you give?
Interesting question. I’m not sure what advice I now wish I’d been given. I honestly think it was good to learn as I went on, but I have always been that sort of person: inquisitive, energetic, and driven.
My upbringing was “to stand up and get on with it.” I did that, and it got me to where I am today. I empower my teams with the freedom to work things out, appreciating their approach. Yet I’m available any time they need me to jump in and offer guidance or advice.
The advice I tend to offer to those I mentor, just as I did with my daughters, is “pursue your passion and be happy with what you do, else move on. Strive to be your very best because then you can feel deservedly proud”.
Looking back, I know I could not have worked any harder, not for the good of my company, my family, or for myself.
I have really enjoyed the journey – and I still absolutely love what I do!