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Natalia Freitas: “I can’t imagine life without art”

Name: Natalia Freitas
Lives in: Vancouver,  Canada
Country of origin: Brazil
Period in Germany: 2012 to 2016
Educational and research institution: Film Academy Baden-Württemberg
Occupation: Animator and 3D Artist

Originally from Brazil, Deutschland alumna Natalia Freitas won a DAAD scholarship to study at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. In 2015 she came across an online advertisement for a job at Disney Studios, applied for it and was accepted. She moved to California in 2016 to undergo preparatory induction, before starting work on production of the computer-animated movie “Moana” (German title: “Vaiana”). Her recipe for success was to have a good plan and work hard.

Why did you choose to study art instead of taking a course in economics or law?

Natalia Freitas: I can’t imagine life without art! I wanted to make my hobby my career, because life is much too short to be doing something you don’t enjoy.

You obviously have an incredible natural talent. When and how did you discover that you had to make your talent your job?

Natalia Freitas: I lost my parents when I was ten years old. So to fill that void and forget the pain I began drawing a lot; I played video games, read loads of books and invented stories. I also played and listened to a lot of music. Art became my biggest emotional crutch and gradually I developed a real talent and love for it. As I got older, I realised I just wanted to carry on doing what I had done as a child – but in a professional capacity.

How did you decide which subject to study?

“I decided my own path”

How did your family and friends react when you chose this course of study?

Natalia Freitas: Many people in my family were not supportive because they thought there was no financial security in this profession. But I decided my own path and followed my heart. Today I’m happy with the choice I made.

Did you have a concrete plan from the start of your training?

Natalia Freitas: When I started my Bachelor’s degree in animation in Brazil in 2005, I had no idea what the future would bring. The year before I graduated, one of the professors told me he had studied in Canada and then went on to work for a film with Dreamworks. That gave me the idea of continuing my training abroad. I came up with a plan for my life: I wanted to study at a good school and then specialise with the aim of looking for a job opportunity with a major studio.

After some research on my part, I discovered the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg and was instantly impressed. From 2008 to 2012 my dream was to get a place to study at the film academy. But I had no money and no parents to provide support for me in Europe. Then I heard about the possibility of studying with a DAAD scholarship. I applied twice, and was successful at the second attempt! I felt very lucky. Finally, I was able to fulfil my dream of studying in Germany.

How did the DAAD scholarship help?

Natalia Freitas: In addition to the monthly scholarship and an allowance to help pay the rent, I was also given an intensive course in German language. Without the help of the DAAD, I would never have had the financial means to study outside Brazil.

You have an artistic talent and you'd like to make this into your career? In that case, studying an art, music or design-related subject could be the right thing for you. And Germany wouldn't be a bad choice of place to do so.

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“If I hadn’t studied in Germany, I would never have ended up at Disney”

How important was your stay in Germany for your training?

Natalia Freitas: My work and studies at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg prepared me for professional life in the film industry. If I hadn’t studied in Germany, I would never have ended up at Disney. I worked a tremendous amount at the film academy, often without a break. I worked on nearly 20 student-led short films, including “Citipati”, “Wrapped” and “The Present”, which is based on a Brazilian comic. I also produced my own short film “Electrofly”.

How would you describe the career path that took you to Walt Disney Animation Studios?

Natalia Freitas: It wasn’t easy for me: I started studying animation in 2005, but only moved to Disney in 2016. That meant more than ten years of hard work, commitment, learning and many productions, simply to achieve what I had always dreamed of.

Every step was planned. Even when I was still in Brazil, I knew that I would have to specialise if I wanted to be accepted by a major studio. That’s why I decided to study at the film academy.

What made you decide to apply for Disney?

Natalia Freitas: In September 2015 I was working for a studio in Berlin and saw on the Disney website that there was a place going on the “Talent Development” programme. I applied – but with no real expectations.

Did you weight up chances in advance?

Natalia Freitas: No, it was the first time I had applied for a job at Disney.

How did it feel when you were accepted by Disney?

Natalia Freitas: There were over 200 candidates for just three places. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call that I was one of the three. I was at the cinema in Ludwigsburg with two friends from the Film Academy at the time. I was so happy to get the news I couldn’t stop laughing.

What was the reaction of people around you?

Natalia Freitas: My family and friends were very pleased for me because they knew how hard I had worked for my career. But my boyfriend at the time was not so enthusiastic for my success. That made me very sad, but life gave me the best present – an opportunity at Disney!

Would you say your career is something very unusual? Do you think anybody is capable of achieving something similar?

Natalia Freitas: I got a very long way thanks to my experience at the Film Academy and at Disney! There isn’t a formula. All the artists working in one of the major studios today got there by a different route. After all, the talent and willpower of every individual is very different.

You were the only Brazilian woman in the team that produced the film “Moana”. How important is your background and your role as a woman in your profession?

Natalia Freitas: I wasn’t just the only Brazilian woman, I was also the only woman in the team that studied at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. Altogether there were five alumni from the Film Academy that worked on “Moana” – four men and me. I was also the first ever graduate from the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg to go to Walt Disney Animation Studios. Another alumna has been working since 2009 at Pixar, a subsidiary of Disney.

It was very important for me to represent my country and my gender. Women are still a minority in this field, although things are changing. A growing number of women are showing interest in animation and video games.

“Effort and commitment are critical for success”

What advice would you give to other young people considering taking a degree course in the arts?

Natalia Freitas: I would advise them to hold onto their dreams – they are the pathway to happiness. Becoming a good artist is about questioning one’s own beliefs. You have to be exceptional in your field if you want to achieve your goals. There is no ready formula, but effort and commitment are critical for success.

When should you accept help?

Natalia Freitas: Don’t expect others to help you. Believe in your dreams! If you don’t have money, look for financial support. If you can’t do something yourself, ask your friends and family for help. But ultimately you alone can bring about your own success.

See Natalia Freitas’s profile in the Community

April 2017

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