I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, but 9 years of my childhood were spent in another city called Surabaya. I was that shy and introverted girl who either read books or doodled in class. Our family moved back to Jakarta when I was 10 and I became even more shy and quiet then: New environment, new school, new people. However, one of the things that I loved about the new school was that they had a big library.
The library became the place where I found peace because I didn’t really have to talk to anyone there. I have always loved reading! Drawing was also one of my hobbies although I wasn’t the greatest at it. I loved watching anime and reading manga too. All these interests were the elements that drove me into pursuing animation.
It wasn’t until the 11th grade that I decided to pursue animation as a career. Initially, I thought that I wanted to major in Biotechnology after I graduated from high school. One time I went home, feeling really upset about a chemistry test. My mom saw me and said, “You know that you could pursue something that you actually really like after you graduate right? You’ve always loved drawing and watching animation. Why not do something related to that?” And that’s when it clicked.
Animation is a real career and people make money from it. After that, I started researching the animation pipeline, mostly the 3D pipeline. I never knew how complicated the process was and that there are so many different focuses under the one giant umbrella called “3D Animation”- modeling, rigging, animation, lighting and compositing, FX, and then Boom! Magic! It’s a film! And the craziest thing is, with good storytelling, you can make people get emotionally invested. It brings laughter and tears… Isn’t it amazing? I wanted to be part of that magic.
My favorite types of stories are the ones where I feel at peace when I read or watch them. Fantasy stories are especially my favorites, like Lord of The Rings. Whenever I think of The Shire, I always feel like I want to live in that world. Another aspect that I love about storytelling is the relatable characters - characters that I can empathize with. Like if I could go into these stories, I would want to be friends with them. And then the biggest thing would be what I feel after I finish these stories.
My favorite films and books are the ones where they were able to change my perspective about life in a better way. Again using LOTR, my takeaway would be: it’s okay if you aren't the smartest, the wisest, or the strongest in the room. And it’s okay to be afraid, to stray from the path, and make mistakes. Whatever our roles are, we can still achieve something and help someone, big or small. Thinking about these points, my goal is to tell stories that make people feel better about life in general.
Back in college, I always tried to put some Indonesian culture into my work, as it is not very well-known in the States. Because my culture is not common knowledge, it was harder to explain the logic or reasoning behind some of my choices since they are cultural. So what I have resorted to is putting little nuggets here and there. But what I enjoy the most is putting a little bit of my memories into some of my choices in my work. For example, when I animated a certain young character, I thought of my younger brother. There was this moment back when we were small, he excitedly ran outside to call an ice cream seller (we call this “tukang es krim keliling” in Indonesian, where the guy sells ice cream on his bike) and then my brother fell because of the slippery floor. It was so funny to me that I still remember the specific way he fell and his blank expression as he just sat there for a second before getting up and continued running as if nothing happened. The way he was so focused on that ice cream translated to something else I was animating.
Currently, beside my full-time job as a Previs Artist, I’ve been doing more paintings and trying to learn photography. Because my job deals with camera, composition, and lensing, my interest in photography started to grow. I love discovering smart ways to frame subjects and different ways I could edit colors to portray certain moods! Painting is also something that I have always loved doing. I want to get better at it, even if it just stays as a hobby.
If the world was ending, I’d want my last story to be about gratitude: “Let’s look back together and smile. I am glad that I have met the people I have met and went through what I went through. Be it good or bad, in the end, all is good.”
Three things I’d tell other people on a similar path as me (which I think works for everything else in life)
1. Keep an open mind. Life is unpredictable. Sometimes we think we know what we want. What I found is, along with that, we also don’t know what we don’t know. We decide what we want based on what we knew at that time, but life is so full of surprises that it might lead you to something else you’d never have thought of. Sometimes, it’s not the idea of “success” that people around you or even you yourself had in mind. As long as you find joy doing it, I think that’s a win!
2. Focus on your own path and growth. It’s hard not to compare myself with others. I’m still struggling with this myself. But really, everyone has a different path and pace. What works for others might not be the best for me. And it works the other way around.
3. Give it your 100%. This is a life lesson I got from Sister Francesco at the end of my high school. She was the school’s foundation coordinator and kind of like the grandma figure in our strict Catholic school. She told us, whatever it is we decided to do, give it our 100%. Those words resonated with me so much and have been my driver whenever I feel lost. I think of myself as one of those horses with blinders. When feeling lost, just focus on one thing, give it your best, and trust the process.
Nadya Sugarto is a previs artist at MPC LA.
This is the link to her website: https://nsugiart.wixsite.com/reel
A movie she worked on, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, just released!
WRITTEN BY : Jeremy Hsing
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