Jenn: I kind of love that question because it’s something that it’s such a big question, it’s like life stuff. It’s not just like animation and the job I have at the moment or whatever and again, I’m probably the earliest in my career out of the group and I think about that a lot because I think you know, what you think you want before you kind of get into it, right? And what you think like the definition of like, once I have this, like once I have this first job or whatever, then I’ll be good and everything will be exactly as it’s supposed to be. Like you’re waiting for that movie moment unfortunately that’s like the heavens part and everything’s perfect, but I think there is a part of just the human condition, a part of what happiness means at least for me which is having something to look forward to. Having drive means I will never be satisfied feeling like this is the place and it stops here. I’m always going to have that itch to take that next step and do that next thing. That’s like the outer thought about it but then more specifically when I first got into animation, I had ideas about like what kind of animation I wanted to work in and I’m really surprised by how much I’m enjoying doing commercials. I find that kind of shocking because I wouldn’t have thought that about myself before and I think what it is that’s so challenging for me right now because it pushes me in different ways and stretches what I’m able to do and I find that really fun. But I think at this point, like I have those moments that Claire was describing where I’m doing something and what I really love about it, it is solving a problem in the best way that I can, like being my best self on whatever project. You know what I mean? I do have those moments where it’s like man, I found it, you know? You can feel it when you’ve found the right thing or you know, set that [inaudible] just right or that character feels exactly how you wanted them to feel or those things. And those moments, I live for those moments but it’s to a point now where I almost don’t care what avenue they come from and that’s kind of liberating in a way. Like I said, I do a lot of commercials and things like that but I also am doing a lot of development work, I’m doing a lot of stuff like pitches with people for features and things like that and starting from scratch and putting the time in, like building these things, and that’s really satisfying in totally different ways. So for me, my calling is just having challenges that are exciting, like that’s what I want for my life is having things that surprise me and that push me and that cost me some time and friction to really dig out. And the packaging is less important to me, that being said I’ve also learned about the realities of that which there are going to be frustrations with the fact that it’s not necessarily easy. You have these moments of envy like, why can’t I just be happy like find this one thing in this one corner and like do that thing and go home at night and leave it there and all of that. And you’re going to have these moments of envy for this thing that you lost because every choice in your life, there’s this thing – opportunity cost, where you make one choice and it’s in effect killing all the other choices, and that is heartbreaking! So I struggle with that and I always struggle with that and I think I try to make the decision that is right for me personally even when it’s hard and when I know it might cause stress and frustration in other ways. It’s satisfying to me to pursue almost the most difficult thing or the most inspiring thing for me.
Chris: Yeah, that’s great. And Brian?
Brian: Well I’m not sure what people mean by calling, finding a calling. I’m not sure what that means. For me, I can say that I never had a moment’s doubt about what I wanted to do from the time I can remember, from the time my mom can remember which is be a guy who tells stories on film as soon as I figured out there was a writer and a director, that’s what I wanted to be. And I never wanted to be anything else, everything else that has happened has happened organically and sometimes I’ve embraced those things and sometimes I haven’t. I became a teacher sort of kicking and screaming. I have a natural facility for it that I don’t take any credit for but there it is, there’s a lot of teachers in my family. So it’s sort of a gene that’s in there and I love it. I love doing it but some of the things that I’ve done like the few comic books I’ve designed and now doing these graphic novels, for me it’s all the stuff that I’m going to incorporate later when I am writing and directing more regularly. I’ve never felt more at home than when I’m on a set directing, I feel like I’m in a warm tub. It is the perfect place for me, it’s not an ego thing like I’ve got to be in charge of stuff, it’s nothing like that. It’s just the best use of my skills and I would be totally happy doing that for the rest of my life and nothing else – completely happy. It’s amazing how I feel, I don’t get nervous, I don’t get…it’s all good when I’m directing.
Chris: How about that flow idea that’s sort of in the moment for you Jenn and Claire, you know when you have that sense of being lost in the work like Brian’s talking about. When does that happen for you?
Claire: That’s such a powerful feeling when you’re able to really connect with that. Just to hit back on another thing that he said, like knowing that’s what he wanted his whole life. Like, I think that’s amazing. I envy people who had that clarity. I just wasn’t around any of this stuff when I was younger and so, I came to it so late in life and it was like it clicked all of a sudden and I realized, oh this is all the things that I liked a little bit about these other ideas of what I could do like all in one. So that point, like working in storytelling in general is definitely the place for me and I feel very connected to that and I don’t see stepping outside of that. It’s just like what format is that going to take as far as going forward. But that flow is the most powerful thing and just such a stabilizing thing in my life. I know I’ve talked a lot of other creators about this and it’s like, it’s almost like if you get into a period of time where you’re not creating things or you have like a block period which I have less and less. The more you get into a professional situation where it’s like you go whether you’re blocked or not and it unblocks itself, the less that happens. But you get depressed, there’s a physical spiritual depression and it’s just…you have to have those moments…there’s a clarity in it that I rarely experience in other parts of my life and that’s powerful and magical and that’s why I want to do this for a living.
Jenn: Yeah. I always think of it like this desert that I have to cross. Like in those moments where just like out of inspiration and just kind of stuck, like this desert I have to cross and if I go back, I’m going just have to make it through the desert again. So you just kind of keep have to going through and then on the other side of it, then you realize oh my gosh, all of these things that you learned along your journey in the desert were important for whatever this creative awakening was on the other side.
Chris: I love that all of you have this kind of consistently generally positive relationship to risk and the unknown and that’s really cool because I think that this is something that comes up often in my conversations in listeners of the show or students. Often I’ll ask all these questions about kind of what they’re dealing with, why they’re blocked, or why they feel like they’re struggling or whatever and we just kind of keep going back and back and back and back. And oftentimes we discover this hot molten core of fear at the center of it all and oftentimes it’s like well you’re again talking of this idea of posture or your approach to the unknown or your approach to the challenge, the daunting challenge in front of you is that of overwhelm or inspiration. And it sounds like often if not always, those kind of challenges are inspiring to you. You’re kind of like, bring it on.
Jenn: I think one of the biggest myths about that mentality, and I’ve fallen into that trap myself because it’s incredibly hard not to. But I think the idea that this happens on the outside and that you are just subject to it is one of the hardest things to kind of get past and realize that that’s not true. I mean you can overlook fear, you can be afraid. Like I don’t remember what movie it was, it was like being brave isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about being afraid and doing what you know is right anyway. And I think so much of that is going okay, this emotion isn’t useful to me. This emotion, all it does is tear down possibilities, it has no other real function and I have to consciously push that to the side over and over and over again. I think people think that goes away at some point, they think they’re going to find something, they’re going to do something and it’s going to cure this disease.
Claire: Of fear….
Jenn: Exactly. And there is no cure, we are all terminally infected. I’m sorry to break that to everyone.
Brian: It often gets worse.
Jenn: Exactly! The more you try to step away from it and the more success you have with that, the more afraid you are the next time that you won’t be able to get there, right? It’s like every step just feels taller but you just make friends with that emotion, you know that it’s there. You know that it’s not any weakness in you, that the person next to you, like we all have it. We all are negotiating with it all the time.
Brian: The people who don’t have it aren’t usually very good.
Jenn: Right, right!
Brian: It’s the fear that makes you good.
Jenn: Yeah, fear means you have expectations right? It means that you have standards and that you have these ideas about being more than maybe what you were yesterday and that is scary but it’s awesome.
Chris: In part two of our conversation, we talk about how to give your work emotional depth, what makes student work stand out, and how to keep going when you’re feeling defeated. You can share your thoughts on the conversation and share the post on social media at OatleyAcademy.com/nofear1. Again, you can register for the Story Design Conference May 11-15 in Rome, Italy at OatleyAcademy.com/go/rome. Again that’s OatleyAcademy.com/go/rome. Thanks for listening and until part two, stay strong and stay close.
This podcast is a production of The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling. I’m Chris Oatley, your host and producer. Our editor is Kevan Chandler, our production manager is Ânia Marcos, and our editorial assistant is Ejiwa Ebenebe. Our theme music is provided by Storybook Steve, recurring musical segments are provided by Storybook Steve and Kangeralian. Find more inspiring art and story podcasts designed to help you make a living from your own imagination at OatleyAcademy.com/shows.