Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Gille.
Hi Laura, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’m originally from the deep rural side of Normandy, France. Growing up, my mother regularly bought me and my brothers the latest hot VHS or DVD. We would do family movie nights, and I used to sneak out of my bed at night to watch them again and replay them in my mind during the day, sometimes altering the stories to include whatever I wanted. I was doing well enough in school to spend most of my days dreaming that way.
As my interest in movies was coupled with an incline towards art and drawing, it only seemed natural to try and enter animation school once I graduated. I tried and failed. I chose then to take on a completely different road and enrolled into landscaping school. Only one year there, away from art and drawing, was enough to make me realize anything other than animation was not for me. I then tried to enter again and barely passed the entry test.
Fast-forward to now, about 10 years later. I am a full-time storyboard artist working on US-based animation productions.
It was a rather bumpy road. I failed multiple more advanced school entry tests after I got into the first one and started my career on very modest french productions, with some very rudimentary knowledge in storyboarding itself, most of it self-taught. The majority of animation schools tend to gloss over storyboarding, it is a very niche part of the production pipeline and renowedly hard to master. Yet, with a goal-oriented mind and hard work, I pushed through.
The biggest turn in my career was in 2020. I was extremely burned out after an excessively hard year of working on a very fast-paced french show, I decided in January to take the year to myself, maybe travel, relax, recharge and learn how to be better at my job. We all know what happened a few months into 2020. I was stuck at home with no job. I saw this as the opportunity to work on a proper portfolio, but before that, I had to catch up with my to-watch list. One of the shows was the latest iteration of TMNT at the time. I loved it so much, I started drawing and posting fan storyboards online. This attracted the eye of the two lead storyboard artists on the then in-production movie based on the show. After a few emails, I was hired, and I consider it the point where my career and life changed forever. The level of work required on the movie was extremely high, I had to learn very, very fast but tried hard to do the best job I could.
Sure enough, I did good on my first assignment and stayed for the remainder of the storyboard process. My name got passed around, and I’ve been working with the same circle of artists ever since. I can say with confidence that, after putting in the hours of hard work, the dream came true, with the added prestige of working on amazing projects alongside colleagues whom I consider the best in the business and my friends.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Some moments were extremely hard. Rejections, working on straining productions and self-doubt take a toll on anybody. Almost everything I know from storyboarding I learned myself, from watching how others do it, analyzing countless movie scenes and scouring youtube for knowledge on filmmaking and storytelling. I had no mentor, took no in-depth classes.
One of the unexpected challenges I faced was how remote working can negatively affect you. Because I was working from France remotely for a while, I had minimal contact with my colleagues. Team bonding is mentally and morally incredibly important, and I’ve spent some productions barely hearing from my coworkers and superiors. I was at my lowest back then, I had a lot of negative thoughts. During the hardest moments, I even considered quitting animation. I had to remind myself that it was a transitory period, and things were bond to eventually get better (and they eventually did)
Also, because of the immense talent of my colleagues now turned friends, it’s hard to not sometimes compare my own work to what they can do. Self-deprecation and doubt about my own capacities are something I have to keep in check regularly to not get disheartened.
I somehow always managed to push through a rough patch and generally found myself with a better understanding of my inner workings and own craft. There really is no growth without struggle, but man it’s hard sometimes.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I consider the work of a storyboard artist one of translating the written words of a script into the language of cinema and imagery. Because we draw panels and even sometimes time them to produce an animatic (think rough video version of the finished product), it requires a certain level of understanding visual cues, composition and breaking down of the most essential and important components of the script. It’s the roadmap of the production process.
My own specialty is acting and humor – I love to make people laugh at a neatly placed joke and bring on the feels with nuanced character expressions and movements. I have been meaning to explore the realm of action a bit more as well. I am happy with how far I’ve come in such little time, but I always try to learn and better myself. This is highly important to me; trying new things, always evolving is one of the best aspects of this job.
What makes you happy?
Depending on the moment, either taking a nice break or putting all of myself in my work in hope of liking the outcome. The later is more prevalent in my life though!