Meet our resident storyteller, June Smith! As Video Lead, she captivates audiences by bringing our gaming and studio experiences to life with the Communications team! We went behind the lens and explored her career journey, experience at #UbiTO, and reflections on 2SLGBTQIA+ representation in the gaming industry.
Hey June tell us a bit about what do you do as a Video Lead? And what’s your favourite thing about your role?
As Video Lead on the Communications team, it’s my job to take the lead on any video production needs the studio might have. Some days that means interviewing developers, or being a fly on the wall for performance capture sessions, and other times it means getting footage at one of our studio’s many fun events. We record and edit a variety of content for our internal studio channels as well as our external channels like our website and social media. This can span professional testimonials and interviews, to light-hearted reels for Instagram, and even cool projects we can’t share with the external world just yet 😉 (for example, long-form videos showcasing all the wonderful things our co-workers have been creating!) It’s a role that offers something new every so often, and being the Lead, it gives me the opportunity to tackle various sectors such as conceptualizing, planning/outlining, recording and editing.
Wait, how long have you been at Ubisoft Toronto? And what drew you here?
I’ve been at Ubisoft Toronto for a year now, and time has really flown by! What drew me to the studio initially was the people. Even before I joined the team, the interview process felt like I was meeting new friends rather than being grilled about my experience or qualifications. I’m happy to say that hasn’t changed, and if anything, I’ve definitely made a lot more friends!
What’s your favourite project that you’ve worked on?
I am a bit of a die-hard Splinter Cell nerd, and being able to be at the studio that is bringing the franchise back is extremely exciting! Being here for the 20th anniversary celebration of the original game also gave me the opportunity to celebrate the game I grew up enjoying alongside some of the most incredible and passionate talent who are rebuilding it from the ground up! Helping put together assets for that 20th anniversary celebration will definitely be a career highlight for me.
What are some tips you’d give to someone hoping to land a similar role to yours?
The best (and TBH only) way to get better at this kind of job is to do the work as much as you can. Try your hand at editing spec trailers, get better at interviews by interviewing your friends, play around with different lighting setups and camera angles to see what looks good. And if you run into any roadblocks, there are a million great YouTube tutorials out there on how to get better.
Technical skills aside, there’s always room to improve on storytelling — although that process can be a little more nebulose and is different for everyone.
We all consume so many different stories every day in books, movies, tv shows, even conversations we have with our friends. Take time to boil down what it is about those individual stories that really grabs your attention, you will start to get better at finding and conveying that same excitement in your stories. I, for one, love sharing the excitement game creators have for their craft. That is why I naturally gravitated towards the career I have now.
What do you wish someone told you earlier in your career?
I wish someone had told me earlier on that there is always the next project. It’s easy to get stuck early in your career chasing perfection, and that can lead to a lot of headaches when coupled with deadlines. As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I’ve learned that nobody is as critical of my work as I am. Not every project can or needs to be the best, but nonetheless you can find fulfillment and gradually improve in simply doing your best. There will always be the next project to challenge yourself to do even better.
What are you currently working on?
We’re currently in the mix of our biggest project of the year on the Communications team, the annual General Assembly (GA), where our entire studio comes together to celebrate the year’s achievements and showcase the awesome things our different teams are working on. This year, following the blockbuster line-up announced at Ubisoft Forward, we have so many amazing things to talk about, and I’m very excited to show everyone in the studio what their friends and colleagues have been up to! (Also, interviewing so many people in the studio is a great way to get to know a lot of different folks.)
What about the above has you fired up/excited?
My favorite part of the job is getting to showcase the talent of the people in this industry, so having an entire presentation dedicated to that is extremely exciting to be a part of! We have some super talented folks here, easily some of the best I’ve ever worked with, so it is awesome getting to hear their insight and share it with others.
What do you look to for inspiration? Any sites, films, media, resources that you’d recommend other creators check out?
I’m a big YouTube nerd! I love being able to find folks who are extremely passionate about one thing and are really good at talking about it. Channels like Philosophy Tube or Game Maker’s Toolkit, where dense amounts of information is presented in an entertaining and sharply produced fashion are my jam! I may have even used a few shots from Philosophy Tube videos as inspiration from time to time in my work.
Can you describe the Communications team within Ubisoft?
The Comms Team at Ubisoft Toronto are some of the most fun and passionate folks I’ve ever worked with! It’s not often you work somewhere and genuinely enjoy everyone on your team, but this is that exception. Each of us has a desire to show off the cool things happening at our studio, and we each bring our individual skills to make it look, sound, and be the best it can possibly be.
What surprised you most when you joined Ubisoft Toronto?
I am not sure if surprised is the right word, but I am delighted with how smoothly my gender transition has gone at Ubisoft Toronto. The studio’s health benefits include coverage for gender-affirming care, a support I’ve not encountered at many other workplaces. Life here didn’t skip a beat after my coming out, and the process of changing my name and pronouns across the board has been extremely painless and easy.
How has hybrid & flexible work impacted your work/team’s experience?
Hybrid work has been amazing! As the Video Lead, I do feel like I spend a lot of time in the studio for all our different video shoots. I love the energy of coming into the office and participating in interviews and behind-the-scenes bits, but also having the ability to work from home when I’m deep in editing or production planning is a huge boost. I can be in the places where I’m at my most productive depending on what I’m working on at the time. Not to mention, being able to have lunch with my partner on those days where I’m at home are a really nice bonus.
You’re part of our studio’s UbiProud ERG. For folks who aren’t familiar, can you share what the ERG is about and what it means to you?
We’re a collective of queer and gender non-conforming individuals from several different disciplines and walks of life who have come together to support each other and give everyone a safe place to be themselves. Having this group of queer folks in my day-to-day work life has been invaluable! Seeing people who look like me, feel safe expressing themselves in the office has given me the confidence to further explore my own gender identity and expression, something I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to do without the support of the ERG and the many friends I’ve made through it.
Can you share your experience as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in the video game industry?
I have spent most of my career in the closet, as I never felt like my sexuality or gender identity was something I could safely express in my professional life. Gaming communities can sometimes be a scary space for queer folks, but it also provides us with an opportunity to build communities of our own. Not every game studio is equal in its desire to build a safe space for queer individuals, but here at Ubisoft Toronto, I have felt the most comfortable being myself I ever have in jobs prior.
Have there been games with 2SLGBTQIA+ representation that have impacted you deeply/resonated with you?
I am a huge fan of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator by the Game Grumps. It’s a silly and playful portrayal of queer dating mixed with a very heartfelt father-daughter coming of age story which is so genuinely wonderful. Also, you can make your dad a trans man, and I’m here for that! We stan our trans masc kings!
What are your hopes for the gaming industry in the near future in relation to diversity and inclusiveness?
The most important thing for diversity in games is making sure that diverse voices are not just at the base level, but also in positions of leadership on projects. It can be easy to stack a team with entry level jobs filled by under-represented folks and see that as diversity. But for those voices to truly be heard the people leading their teams need to represent the change we want to see in this industry and allow those who are under-represented to have a say in conversation and opportunity to share their ideas and experiences.
We stand together in Pride all throughout the year ✨— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) June 6, 2023
Our LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group, UbiProud, is helping to shape our global strategy for equality and inclusion across our teams and games alike 💝. Meet some of our UbiProud chapters below, and learn more about our three… pic.twitter.com/Lc1GFS6NHD
What do you do to relax?
I have recently started dabbling with semi-modular synthesizers. It feels like the nerdiest, most science-fiction inspired way to create music. I’m still learning, but I find the process extremely relaxing!
People of Ubisoft Toronto is a series featuring studio members from a variety of projects and backgrounds as they share their experiences at our studio, perspective of the video game industry and, perhaps, even a sneak peek of what they’re working on!
Our studio values diversity and believes in embracing differences to build stronger and more creative teams. We welcome people who would like to join us and redefine the future of games. Visit our careers page for more information on open roles and how to apply. To know more about our studio members and culture, click here.