Happy Monday! This week, I am excited to share an interview with the amazingly talented animation power-house, Mrs. Nathalia Lemotte! I have had the pleasure of working with Nathalia and her husband Caleb, on two different TV series projects now. They are both excellent animators and make a killer team of freelancers. Nathalia is always great to chat with and she has had quite a career as an animator and some really great advice! So grab your beverage of choice, and sit back and enjoy. But first! Take a look at her and her husband’s demo reels linked below!
Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?
I was born in Germany, grew up in Austria and am now living in Maine, USA. I have been an animator for almost 9 years.
What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?
I worked all kinds of office jobs at first, as that was the only occupation my parents would agree too (we Asians when given orders.. we obey). At one point I just needed something more artistic. I actually tried to get accepted at some universities in Austria for Fine Arts or Industrial Design. However, there was so much competition, and my portfolio was rolled up and tied together with a rubber band. Once I saw the other applicants with their huge leather map full of art properly put together, I was not surprised that I didn’t pass any of the exams to get accepted. I was neither trained nor ready for it at that point. So.. I continued researching the heck out of google about my future options until Animation Mentor popped up.
I love the arts but was not trained in them. I really like working on the computer too, so 3d Animation sounded like a good fit. My biggest motivation was more of a “I can’t work this office job anymore, I need more action and a lot more fun”. And the picture of me doing cartoons and animation for someone else to watch, laugh, cry or think about really sparked my interest, though it felt like I reached for the stars.
It was as if you were floating in the water and you can’t see anything and you are just reaching around you for help to pull you up and out of the water. You are just swinging your arms left and right. Suddenly you grabbed something and you hold on to it really really tight, don’t ever let go. Then, suddenly I popped out in animation land.
Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?
I worked full time while doing AM so most of the art I learned on the job. I was lucky enough that people actually hired me and worked with me in my beginnings. I punched in so many over time hours because I just couldn’t get that leopard to run properly!
Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?
Lemonaut Creations, Oktobor Animation, Epics Studios, were my on-site jobs. Then followed a bunch of off site gigs which I started maybe 4 years ago and have not gone back to on-site ever since.
Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?
Typical day when working from home starts with changing my baby’s diaper and nursing. We normally get up around 6. I try to give myself one hour in the morning to wake up, tops, have my breakfast and get to work if I take the morning shift. My husband, also a freelance animator, then takes care of the baby until about lunch time and then we swap. That way we both get to work and take care of our child our selves. The key is, if it’s your work time, you only work. No facebooking or youtubing (it’s really hard sometimes), your entire focus needs to be on work. That way you get a lot done within 6 hours and believe it or not, you are toasted after.
Do you keep a regular set of hours?
Yes. It’s important for me to have that structure. But then sometimes we maybe go to the climbing gym in the morning (when it’s the least crowded for baby) and then we have to punch in the hours in the late evening to catch up.
I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?
I would advice not to animate as much. Once it’s crunch time you won’t see much of the day light. It’s good to take a break from monitor and get some sun or even just draw something on paper. But just get a break from animating on the computer and refresh your eyes, refresh your head. If you really can’t stay away from the computer, watch some of the latest movies. That can be really inspiring and motivating.
In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?
Besides Shotgun and Cerebro it seems very popular to work with FTP clients. I also saw the use of Dropbox very often, although I think that one is really terrible. I personally don’t like working with Dropbox on animation gigs because I often had troubles with syncing and suddenly I had file doubles and what not. I don’t think Dropbox is very ideal for an animation project,.
How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?
Networking seems to be key, but also very often it’s just luck. You might just be connecting with someone over Linkedin for example that needs someone right now and you are available and off you go. You just have to keep trying, keep working on your reel, keep connecting with people, go to gatherings or events.
I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?
One time we worked on three different projects at the same time. It was so insane and this might be one of the tougher things about freelancing. You gotta be pretty flexible and that is not so easy, especially if your partner, who you want to go on vacation with, has a set schedule and needs to take time off early. In my case we both do the same thing so it works. But we had situations where we planned a trip and work was still going, so we bought a couple of laptops for those situations. That way we can always be available for work, at least to some degree, as we don’t want to be working only while vacationing.
What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?
Take Chris Mayne’s awesome “Animation Industry Job Postings” List and go to the “studio list” tab. Contact Studios that hire remote and just introduce yourself. It’s always good to connect and maybe some studio just happened to need someone right away.
Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?
Yes. Works the same really. No difference in the pipeline of work.
Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?
No I don’t. Up to this date I keep contemplating to learn more, but I honestly have not found the time or drive to dive into a new subject. Also there seems to be new specialties and technologies popping up every time I check! That makes it hard to keep up. But generally speaking I believe that more skills can give you more opportunities. I often see job posts for animation + some extra skill. Smaller studios don’t have the budget to hire one person for every area of production. So if they get one person that covers more basis that will save the studio a lot of money.
Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?
My husband does all the negotiation, I am too soft for that. As for quoting, you want to decide on how much you would like to earn an hour (this is how I think) and as you gain more experience animating you get a sense of how much work you can get done, so with that you get to a rough quota. It’s good sometimes to negotiate to adjust the quota as the project runs. We sometimes try a project for a month and if we think the quota is way off, we talk about our quota to the studio again and hopefully everybody is happy at the end :).
Google has a lot of good resources if you look for “invoice templates”. There are all the same in core, so just take one, tweak it a little, put your logo in it, done.
I use Quick-books and Turbo Tax which basically does the whole job for you with your taxes. Quick Books connects to your accounts and you can export all your data into Turbo Tax.
With contracts you basically want to make sure the important things are written down like Who, What, When, How much.
What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?
I certainly wish and hope so. From a studio’s point of view it is more risky to work with remote people. Communication can be hard and different time zone can make a collaboration difficult. Also security can potentially be an issue. So for those working remotely, let’s try to be as professional as possible to make hiring remote freelancers more attractive. With that I mean, honor the NDA for example. On the other hand, I believe that studios need to realize how advantageous remote freelancers are. You don’t have to fly them in, accommodate them or handle their visa’s. I believe it could save them a lot of time and money to work with remote people vs. on-site.
Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?
I loved working on the Nickelodeon TV shows Penguins of Madagascar and Robot and Monster. The scripts where so good, the jokes cracked me up! The character designs where very appealing and it was just a real fun project.
Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?
If your situation allows it and you would be into it, try to get into all the studios first (working on-site), building relationships, growing a network and getting production experience. It’s also a opportunity to learn from others in-person. Later in life, especially if you want to settle (and I am really only speaking for myself of course) it will help you a lot for working from home, building off those relationships you developed. Word of mouth goes a long way.
Thanks a bunch Nathalia, your answers were awesome!
If anyone would like to contact Nathalia below is some more links to her information.
Portfolio Website: http://nathalialemotte.weebly.com/about-us.html