Still of a polar bear looking down at the viewer, taken from Nate Milton's film This American Life

Nate Milton on animation as therapy

The animation director talks to us about “exorcising demons” through his creative practice, and why it’s important to not put his most personal experiences up for sale

“I believe with animation, which is coming directly from the artist’s hand – our fingerprints and our perspective are literally baked into the piece itself – it becomes the most truthful expression of a filmmaker,” says New York-based animator Nate Milton.

He believes that even documentary film is a “warped take on reality from the director’s perspective”, but that animation is different. “It’s not capturing a feeling or a memory or a theme using real people and places to convey these ideas, to represent the perspective of the artist – it’s more of a mainline directly to and from the artist themselves.” For Milton, being an animator is about more than just the craft; it’s about the truth and about pure expression.

Over time, he has honed a distinctive style that he says hasn’t changed that much from his early days. “I studied and took years of life drawing and anatomy classes, but I still approach it the same way I did as a kid. I just sit down and draw it this one way,” he says. “Until recently, it’s been problematic professionally – I have friends in the business or from college that can draw perfectly in any style you throw at them, whereas I’m just stuck in my little niche. But now it’s finally working out.”