Doctors for the Human Spirit

Ameila_Lorenz

Here is a letter written by Amelia LorenzCalArts graduate, and animator at JibJab Media Inc.

Lorenz had the opportunity to go through the internship program at Pixar Animation Studios during the summer of 2011. You can watch her demo reel here.

amelias_animators_letters_proj_01 amelias_animators_letters_proj_02

 

Transcript:

Dear Willie,

Animation has been an incredibly rewarding career for me, so I encourage you to go for your goals and don’t give up. I haven’t been in the industry for even a year yet, so most of my learning experience has been from school and talking with professionals in the industry. But I’d love to pass on their advice to others, since it has greatly helped me:

  • Keep it simple. This is deceptively difficult. But I find that sometimes, when something I’m working on isn’t working out, I apply this rule and it helps me approach my problem from a new, clearer perspective.
  • Work smarter, not harder. It’s tempting to stay up all night and crunch to finish a shot…and in school, at first I thought this was a necessary part of the process. But I found that it’s just counter-productive. I made sub-par work, and it took me way longer! So plan, commit, and follow-through with your schedule. Get up early. Avoid crunching cause you’re just going to crash later.
  • “Done” is better than “perfect”. This advice helps me keep things in perspective. First of all, our opinion of “perfect” can change at any time. so we could be “perfecting” something indefinitely. Secondly, what you might see as a flaw in your work could go completely unnoticed by someone else. And our goal in the end is to share our work with others, right? So shoot for something complete that others can enjoy. A complete shot or a complete short film, not necessarily a “perfect” one.

All of this advice has helped me keep both feet on the ground in a pretty wacky career. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but I found it incredibly valuable.

One other thing that I sometimes remind myself- storytelling is a way of bringing people together, and it can be a way of healing sometimes. So animators may not be like police officers or fireman or doctors, in the traditional sense, but I believe as storytellers we can be like doctors for the human spirit. We can show that the world can be beautiful, that people can learn and grow, and that life can be pretty cool. We can be like the cheer-leaders of the human race! So that makes me feel good, even though “all I do” is draw. I try to draw for good reasons. It seems like as long as I enjoy what I do, and others enjoy it too, then it’s worth it.

Good luck! Hope this helps.

Amelia Lorenz (signed)

Ask For Help

Brenda_Chapman

Here is a beautifully written letter by Brenda Chapman, Director at DreamWorks Animation.

Chapman’s feature film credits include Brave (co-director and writer), The Prince of Egypt (co-director), Chicken Run, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, to name a few.

On February 1st, 2012, Chapman wrote a great blog post calling all animation artists to participate in The Animator Letters Project. Read it here.

Letter to Willie final_Page_1_editLetter to Willie final pg 2_edit Letter to Willie final_Page_3_edit Letter to Willie final_Page_4_editTranscript:

Oct. 28, 2013

Dear Willie,

I’ve tried to sit down & write this so many times, but I always feel that what I’m writing either makes no sense or it’s too much. I’ve been in the animation industry for nearly 30 years…and I still feel like I have so much to learn.

When I arrived at CalArts in 1984 (after being rejected when I tried for 1983), I didn’t really have a clue.  I hadn’t been an animation geek – that is…I didn’t know who the 9 Old Men were, I had never read an animation book nor had I tried to animate or make my own film. I just loved to draw and watch Bugs Bunny cartoons after school and see the old Disney animated films in the theater. So I was behind when I started at CalArts. Most of my classmates had an idea of how to animate already. So I asked a lot of questions – and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help with things I didn’t understand. I have a deep gratitude for the patience of the teachers – and the mentoring of the upperclassman (Steve Moore, Kevin Lima, Kirk Wise, Ron Hughart & Dale Macbeth – to name a few).

I was incredibly naive. Good was good. Bad was bad. I’m still learning to cope with all the shades of gray after all these years. I went into the animation world with eyes wide, a smile on my face and a determination to do what I loved to do.

DIC was my first job working the summers while I was still at CalArts. Then I made it into Disney when I graduated in 1987.

Again, I asked a lot of questions & sought help when I was out of my depth… which was often – and still is! I was incredibly fortunate to have wonderful mentors who didn’t see me as the token woman in story (for which I was hired by the exec in charge at the time), but as a new young story artist bringing my own ideas to the game. People like Joe Ranft, Roger Allers, Ed Gombert, Vance Gerry, Gary Trousdale and Burny Mattinson. I was truly very lucky.

But the main thing that I feel I’ve had in my corner for all these years is something my mother taught me… and I didn’t even realize it until lately. She taught me resilience. She taught me to get back up when I got knocked down. Giving up was just never an option. I know it has nothing directly to do with the craft/art of animation that we all love. But it’s a way to look at life, I suppose, that helps you make it through the hard stuff and achieve whatever your passion is. Things may change direction (sometimes by choice, sometimes out of our control) – and if you’re open to it – that change could lead you to a better place. Just don’t let the direction change so much that you end up going backwards.

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look for mentors from whom you can learn. Most importantly, be happy in doing what you love to do. Don’t let the struggles, the heartache or politics deter you. Look for the passion, the joy and the satisfaction of your own personal part of the bigger puzzle. Those 3 things combined with the struggle & heartache are what make us artists.

Wish you the best of luck in everything you try!

Brenda Chapman (signed)

P.S. The sad thing is, I don’t draw as much anymore – as you can tell by the little sketches. My change in direction has taken me more into writing…and I love that too!

We’re in Animation Magazine!

I am proud and honored to say that The Animator Letters Project got featured in the March 2013 issue of the prestigious animation publication, Animation Magazine!

If you are a professional animator, please consider writing a handwritten letter for this project. Find out how you can contribute here.

Special thanks to Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine, for supporting this project by bringing it to the attention of the animation industry.

Animation_Magazine_cropped(Scanned image via Animation Magazine with permission from the Editor in Chief, Ramin Zahed.)

 

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