4 Ways Animation Artists Can Mentally Prepare For The Move To Los Angeles: With Natalie Nourigat :: VSP #3


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By Lauren Morse and Jessica Doll for The Oatley Academy Of Visual Storytelling, Lauren Morse, and Jessica Doll for The Oatley Academy Of Visual Storytelling. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Disney Storyboard Artist and Director Natalie Nourigat describes her book I Moved To Los Angeles To Work In Animation as “part Autobio Comic and part ‘How-To’ guide.’”

It’s hilarious, emotional, beautifully illustrated and I now consider it required reading for every aspiring Animation professional.

Today, Natalie joins me for a lesson inspired by her book: 4 Ways Animation Artists Can Mentally Prepare For The Move To Los Angeles!

Click through to start the lesson…

Watch The Lesson:

[download the mp3] [download the bonus segment]

Lesson Transcript:

The following is a transcript of the full lesson (with links to each resource mentioned).


Hello, my friends and welcome to The Visual Storytelling Podcast – where I help Artists and Writers find healthy, fulfilling careers in Animation, Games, Comics, Film and Illustration.

I’m your host Chris Oatley. I’m a Visual Development Artist and Illustrator – most notably for Disney – and if you want to become a professional Visual Storyteller like the guests on this show or many of my students, check out my courses and resources here at ChrisOatley.com!

Join the notification list for my free mini-course: You’re A Better Artist Than You Think You Are: How To Improve Quickly Without Ever Picking Up A Pencil

…and I’ll follow-up via email when the next session opens!

Tip #1: Step Up To The Mic

In the following segment, Natalie tells a version of her origin story that focuses on a single, significant decision:

The decision to confront her own fear of failure and actually tell people about her dream of working in Animation.

Is it finally time to share your dream with people you love and trust?

…or if you’re lucky enough to have realized one dream already, maybe it’s time to share something even more ambitious.

The point is: Speak up.

Whether it’s time to invite help or offer it, speak up.

Here’s Natalie…


[Natalie] I grew up in Portland. It’s a great city. Lots of artists there… There are art jobs there…

…and I had the dream of working in Animation when I was younger.

…but I gave up on it because I didn’t know anybody who did that. I didn’t go to a school for art or Animation and once I found out what the good schools were and where you were “supposed” to go, I felt like it was too late for me.

I’d already spent three years at a state school. I had no funds left for further art school, and I was like: “Oh, okay. Well, that’s it. It’s over. You don’t need a degree to do Comics, so I’ll do that.

I love Comics. …and still love Comics. I miss Comics sometimes. I was a Comic Book Artist for about five years after college.

…but I saw a lot of Comic Artists that I knew (in their late twenties/ early thirties) taking jobs down in LA and reporting back that life was pretty great there.


They had health insurance and salaries and they were buying houses and they knew they were going to be employed six months later…


…and this desire to work in Animation reignited itself when I thought maybe it actually could be possible.

Then I was like: “Oh wait. Is that still an option?

Well, I hid that desire for a long time because I was sure I was going to fail.

..and I didn’t want anybody to know that I was trying to do something that I would probably fail at.

So I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to work in Animation.

…not for a long time.

…and that was a big mistake.

…because once I admitted it – once I said it out loud – and told people that that mattered to me – that it was something I was trying to do, they were like: “Oh, well, I can help with that.

You know…

…connecting me with people and resources.

…and giving me more relevant critiques to my work.

…and it actually ended up happening pretty quickly after I admitted it out loud.

Like: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know if it’s possible. I’ll probably fail a lot. …but I want to work in Animation.

…and a few months after saying that, I got my first freelance gig on Bee And PuppyCat.

…and a few months after that I was doing story tests.

…and I submitted to LoopdeLoop.

…and I finally got a training position at Disney Feature in Storyboarding.

…and that was what convinced me to take the leap and move down here.

Even though it was a three month contract, I bought a car and rented an apartment, and I was like: “Well I’m in it now. I’d better make it work.

Tip #2: Keep Track Of Multiple Storylines

While there is no “right way” to plan a move to Los Angeles, it’s amazing to me how many people move out here with no plan at all.

One of the most effective planning strategies is one you can implement right now: Collect stories.

Collect stories from the successful, creative professionals who made the move and made it work.

Natalie’s book and the decade-long archive for this podcast are great places to start.

…but wherever you search, keep in mind that stories can do more than inspire.

They inform and support and apply.


[Natalie] As I was going through that first year in LA that was really difficult, I was taking notes on everything, just kind of in the back of my mind.

…what was happening, how I felt about it and: “How would I turn this into a comic?

…maybe this is nothing. Maybe this is something…

I self-published at first. I put it online as a PDF.

…and I feel like that was the biggest response to any comic I’ve ever done, at a publisher or independently or online.

…because I think the topic interests people.

…and it picked up steam in press, which was really nice.

I reached out about print options, and Boom! was interested.

…and I’ve worked with them before. Shannon Watters – over there – is awesome.

…and she pitched me a couple of her ideas for ways to improve the book …from the PDF version to the print version.

…and I just thought she had great ideas.

…and I joined them as a partner for the print version.

[Chris] What were some of the changes that you worked on with Shannon?

[Natalie] She said she really liked the book, but one pitfall – that I couldn’t fix alone – is that it’s just one person’s perspective.

…and that’s not a great way to tell somebody what the whole reality is, right?

…and I say that up front. It’s one person’s perspective.

…but she said: “Why not interview other people for the back of the book? …add a new chapter. Get those other perspectives.

…and she was right on the money. She was so right.

[Chris] Yeah, that whole section is just a treasure trove.

[Natalie] Aww.

[Chris] Your caricatures of everybody… It’s so good.

[Natalie] I would like to say: If you have read the book and you think: “I have a different experience.“

…or: “I have something to add to this.“

…or: “I am international and you don’t talk about coming to the US at all.

(…which is true, because I’m not an expert on that.)

I want to read your book.

I’m not being sassy. I’m being sincere. I really want to read your book.

…so if you think that there’s more to add to this story (which I 100% believe there is) do your own “I moved to LA.” Tell your story and get it out there, because it can help people.

We need so many more data points than one in order to know what to expect in coming here.

Tip #3: Buy Some Rose-Colored Sunglasses

Los Angeles is still the most viable location for launching a career in Animation.

…so you might land here whether you like it or not.

I’ve grown to love it, but it’s not always easy to love.

In the following segment, Natalie shares some balanced perspective for those who find LA overwhelming…


[Natalie] I think LA feels out of reach for a lot of people. If you grew up around LA or around entertainment or in California, maybe that sounds weird.

…but if you grew up far away from it, it can seem like this mystical, far-off land.

…and really unreachable.

I think people responded to seeing: What’s the reality? What’s the everyday life? What are some of the mundane details about living here? What were your expectations? …and then, in reality, how did it differ?

…because I think the move is scarier than the industry – for a lot of people.

[Chris] Yeah, that’s so true. Isn’t it?

[Natalie] I think so.

[Chris] What do you say to these folks who are intimidated by the “city in the clouds” that is Los Angeles?


[Natalie] It’s growing on me.

…but I try to be honest and talk about things I like and things I don’t like.

…because I’d hate for somebody to get the sugarcoated version and then show up here and be like: “Natalie, you said it was nice! I’m miserable!”


[Chris] “It’s so hot!”

[Natalie] Yeah, it’s hot. There’s not as much nature as I’m used to.

[Chris Oatley] Oh… Trees.

[Natalie] Exactly!

There’s a ton of concrete, barbed wire, broken streets…


You have to drive everywhere. There’s traffic and smog.

but there’s also a beautiful coast, a beautiful desert, mountains, national parks within driving distance, weekend getaways, the entertainment capital of the world….

You can go out and see A-list comedians for five dollars on a Friday night.

Any food from any culture you could possibly want – you can find it here.

…and it’s good!

So there’s good and bad, and I try to listen to what they’re worried about and what matters to them and then be honest with them. So it’s ultimately up to them.

But I hope people don’t write it off just because it seems difficult or far away…

I hope they give it a serious chance.

Tip #4: Aaaaand ACTION!

There’s a specific combination of decisiveness and focus that I call “boldness.”

Boldness isn’t self-destructive. It’s neither impulsive nor pretentious.

…nor is it passive.

…and it is essential to a long, successful career in the LA Animation scene.


[Chris] When I first moved to LA, I worked at coffee shops all the time.

…like everyone in Los Angeles does.


…which is why it’s so hard to get a table!

…and you walk into the coffee shop and there are all these laptops out and they all have Final Draft open.


…and everyone’s working on a screenplay.

[Natalie] Yes! It’s surreal. You think you’re being punked or something.


[Chris] It doesn’t seem real, but it is real.

…and I was really inspired by that. I loved that. I was like: “Oh my God! This is what I do back in the Midwest! …but I’m the only one!”

I remember sharing this with somebody. (I don’t remember who it was.)

…but they were like: “How are you liking Los Angeles?”

“Oh, it’s great. I was at the coffee shop the other day. I came in, everybody’s on their laptops with ‘Final Draft…’ It made me feel sane! …like I’d found a place where I belong…”

…and they were like: “Oh yeah, you’ll get over that. It’s just a bunch of amateurs and wannabes and blah-blah-blah…”

[Natalie] Aww…

[Chris]…and I was just like: “Here’s the thing. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. Depending on the individual…

…but people move to Los Angeles because they’re pursuing a dream.”

Right? Oftentimes – some people move for different reasons.

…but all of those people with Final Draft open in the coffee shop?

They made a decision in their lives to change the status quo and go try to be creative for a living.

…and most people don’t do that.

Most people just abide the job they hate.

They abide the town that feels like a soul-sucking, unfulfilling experience.

I hear from people all the time who are in that environment, and they’re trying to make the leap.

…and I don’t know how you don’t applaud and admire that.

…because you gotta try.

You gotta try.

I’m not prescribing recklessness. I’m not prescribing thoughtlessness. It would always be assumed that your actions have consequences or that your actions affect the people who love you.

[Natalie] Yeah. I’ve met a lot of people who are married with kids.

…and they’re like: “I think it’s just going to take a little bit longer for me because I have all these other considerations.”

…but I’m so inspired by them being able to handle all of that responsibility and pursue this dream. That’s so incredible. I can’t imagine…

[Chris] Damon Lindelof, I heard him say, one time: ‘That’s the thing about a career in entertainment. You have to be willing to make bold moves when you see an opportunity.’

[Natalie] It’s scary!

[Chris] Yeah, it is. It can be terrifying.

…and I think it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I understand why people don’t do it.

…but, that said, people in Animation generally want you to win. They want you to do well – and you, Natalie, even talk about that in the book. People want to promote you and want to see you succeed.

I didn’t have negative suspicions about working in Animation, but I certainly was overwhelmed by how helpful everyone seemed.

[Natalie] Same here. I hear that 100%. I was like: “Well, I wasn’t expecting back-stabbing, but I wasn’t expecting them to be this nice and supportive of other artists.”

[Chris] …and people make it happen, right?

When you work in Animation, you learn that people break in all the time.

…and here I was – out in the Midwest – thinking they hire four people a year.

…and it’s like: “No no!”


Especially right now, it’s a great time to be breaking into Animation.

[Natalie] Oh gosh… It is.

[Chris] …with streaming and everything.

[Natalie] Apply to everything! Apply to everything. There are not enough artists right now for the jobs. It’s nuts.

[Chris] Yeah, it is. It is absolutely bonkers. I haven’t seen – in my entire career – I don’t think I’ve seen a hiring frenzy like this.

I’ve seen ones that were similar, but this is massive.

…and so, yeah, people do it. That’s the thing. People do it.

[Natalie] If this is your dream, and you feel like you’re too old or you didn’t go to the right school or it’s just too hard, I just want to say that I believe in you and I hope that you keep pursuing it.

…and only you know what’s right for you.

…but if this is your dream, don’t count yourself out of it.

However long it takes, it’s just a matter of time.


Natalie is @TallyChyck on Instagram and I’m @ChrisOatley.

Download the bonus clip where Natalie talks about the differences between Comics and Animation Storyboards.

If you liked today’s lesson, please share a high star rating (and, if you have time, a positive review) on our iTunes page at: ChrisOatley.com/iTunes

Join the notification list for my free mini-course: You’re A Better Artist Than You Think You Are: How To Improve Quickly Without Ever Picking Up A Pencil

…and I’ll follow-up via email when the next session opens!

Our Theme Music was composed by Seth Earnest, produced by Seth Earnest and Chris Oatley and performed by Seth Earnest with guitar work by Storybook Steve.

Our Album Art was designed by Maike Oatley with Chris Oatley.

Until next time, my friends, remember: There are no bold results without bold decisions.

The post 4 Ways Animation Artists Can Mentally Prepare For The Move To Los Angeles: With Natalie Nourigat :: VSP #3 appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

32 episodes