A word with Emonee LaRussa
Emonee LaRussa is a 24 year old motion graphics artist based in California. She recently quit her full-time job to become a freelance artist and has had an explosive career ever since.
Leveraging the power of social media, Emonee has been able to get her incredible work viewed by ScHoolboy Q’s team and became the official album animation on Spotify for his latest album, CrasH Talk. Her most recent project, released just last week, is the music video for “Panini” by Lil Nas X ft. DaBaby, and has garnered over five million views in three days. We got the chance to talk with Emonee about running a business as a creative, her process, and how to stay motivated in the midst of looming deadlines.
Enjoy the read.
What got you interested in motion graphics work and who were early inspirations for you?
I have always enjoyed making music videos for my friends and family, which got me interested in taking a film class. A friend of mine started showing me Andrew Kramer on Video Copilot. He was making all of these insane visual effects with Adobe After Effects. I spent years trying to learn the program which led me to pursue a degree in digital filmmaking and video production. My early inspirations were Andrew Kramer, Mike Diva and Final Cut King.
At what point did you realize this motion graphics could be a full-time career for you?
I wanted to be a cinematographer. I was hired as one during my first month of film school and started winning awards for my work. I learned very quickly that women were not respected as cinematographers in this industry - no one wanted me on their set. So I figured out a way to use my eye without actually being on set. I invested all of my time watching YouTube tutorials to become a better motion graphics artist. The discrimination I encountered only made me realize my true potential.
Being a freelance artist also means running a small business. What programs are most useful to you in terms of running your business and tracking client work? What is one tedious task you hate doing that makes a major difference for you?
The best program by far is the self employment app by Quickbooks! I can’t recommend it enough! It helps me track every purchase and I can pay my quarterly taxes through the app! (You can get 50% off here http://fbuy.me/nCory) I hate worrying about money and taxes. I recently hired a financial advisor so I don’t have to stress anymore.
What are the two biggest lessons you’ve learned thus far working for yourself?
You are worth what you are asking for. The hardest thing for me when I started was asking for money, because I didn’t think I was that qualified. I read The Freelance Manifesto and helped me recognize that I am a valuable asset to a lot of businesses. My second biggest lesson is that if they don’t want to pay your rate someone will.
We noticed you’re a fan of Tyler, the Creator’s music. Walk us through the process of the recent “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” inspired work you created.
I’ve been such a huge Tyler, the Creator fan since 2009. I even have a Radical tattoo on my leg so when Tyler came out with IGOR it was a no brainer that I had to create some art for his songs. I was sitting on my hammock in between projects and it just hit me! I knew I wanted to create this world that he was running on that looked like a clock. It took me 10 seconds to think of the idea but 7 hours to make it. I was actually my first time using character rigging, so it was fun because I was learning something new.
What is another piece of recent work you’re proud of and how did it come about?
As I write this, I’m currently exporting out a lyric video that I am super proud of by BBNO$ - LALALA. I think it is by far my best lyric video I have made. Since I’m learning so much about other animation programs I am able to incorporate exactly what is in my mind into my graphics.
We see you consistently put in 10+ hour days that you share on your Instagram Stories. How do you push through mental blocks within the creation process?
Working these 10-12 hour days consistently can definitely strain every part of your being. I know this is going to sound corny but when you’re working on something you truly enjoy, it’s actually really fun! I always find myself laughing when I’m working on a project. Also, I never start animating a project until I have storyboarded the entire piece. I couldn’t imagine trying to think of an idea 9 hours into working.
When I have mental blocks I go to my phone. Spending time on your phone isn’t always bad when there’s a purpose. I’m always looking at other amazing artists who do motion graphics on Instagram and Reddit. This motivates me and helps me see all the potential things I could make, which is great when I’m sitting in front of a computer trying to think of an idea.
We heard the Panini video you had a hand in making was made in only three days. What was that backend process like for you?
I received a phone call on Monday from Columbia Records saying that they needed a music video for “Panini” but inspired by the cartoon show Chowder. It took me a day to create all the pre-production which includes illustrating the storyboards, creating a team and designating the scenes to all three artists - Joey Prosser, Chazz Bottoms, and fifthpower. Altogether it took three full days and about 40-50 hours each to complete. It was a beast! I was so excited to work on this project and am 100% happy with the final outcome.
How much of a team effort was this and was it difficult piecing everything together in such a short amount of time?
This is very much reliant on my team!! I couldn’t have done it without them. They were all amazing, positive people to manage! I just feel so grateful that I was able to get in contact with them for this piece! It’s really interesting how we found each other because I feel like in a way it was fate. I just so happen to tweet about needing an animator which is how I found Chazz. Then I posted on Reddit about needing an animator and that’s how I found Joey. I knew fifthpower through Instagram. So thank God for social media! We still have a group chat going about how we’re all in shock about getting this piece completed and seeing everyone’s reaction online.
A lot of great traction comes from posting work on social media. Has that played a role in you getting contacted for jobs/this video for Lil Nas X?
I definitely owe my career to social media. I think things have happened with the biggest names because I made something for fun, posted it on social media and the artist ended up finding it. Your favorite artist can see your work in a matter of seconds.
We love how creative your website is. Why is it important to display your work outside of Instagram?
I think having a display of my work outside of social is important because it cuts out all the other nonsense that I post on Instagram and Twitter. I want to have a professional find exactly what they are looking for without having to go through my selfies and videos of my dog.
How else are you actively trying to promote your work?
I try to stay active on Reddit and Twitter as well. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time since I have been freelance, which is a great thing to complain about, but I would love to eventually get my YouTube channel up and running where I can post tutorials and speed art videos.
What projects can we expect next from you next?
I just got contacted by Kenny Beats and I’m actually meeting with them tomorrow to receive the first project I’m working on!
Any last words of advice?
Spend at least an hour a day towards your craft. You have 24 hours in a day, treat yourself to 1.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.