Politics & Art with Laura Porat

By Michael Jones

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Laura Porat is a motion designer based in Los Angeles, California. She has been working with design and animation since 2016. Laura recently announced on Twitter that she has accepted a position with the Biden 2020 Campaign. She previously worked for the Warren 2020 Campaign during the midst of the Democratic nomination process.

Full Interview

Michael: Laura thank you for taking time to conduct this written interview. First off, give the readers a quick snapshot of your bio. 

Laura: “Hey everyone, I’m Laura Porat and I’m your resident deaf, Jewish motion designer. My background is in entertainment graphics but I shifted to politics when I joined the Elizabeth Warren campaign. When I’m not worried about the future of our country, I enjoy drinking iced lattes and watching film analysis essays on youtube.”

Michael: How did you come to work on the Elizabeth Warren campaign? Is this something you pursued out of a conviction/belief in Warren as a candidate, or were you contacted/recruited to the position? 

Laura: “To set the stage, it was 2019 and I had been following the democratic primaries with interest and was really drawn to both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns because I really liked what they stood for. I admired Elizabeth Warren’s personality and what she stood for as a progressive politician. The 2016 election made me reexamine my priorities and I wanted to use my animation skills for good- to mobilize people to be engaged in politics and to vote. 

I had reached out to Warren’s campaign asking if they had needed any animation volunteers back in May or June of 2019. Coincidentally in July I saw that there was a job listing on the School of Motion’s job board for the Warren campaign for a motion design position and applied for it! The rest, as they say, is history.”

Picture of Laura with Elizabeth Warren

Michael: This is a really unique opportunity for a motion designer. Tell us a bit about the dynamics of working for a campaign? How does it differ from client work or a studio gig? 

Laura: “Yeah working for the Warren campaign was such a unique experience. I was the only motion designer on her campaign so I had a lot of leeway when it came to certain things. Working on a campaign is super intense- you work such long hours and weekends. It really affects your sense of time because I only worked there for a few months but it honestly felt like it was years. I always say that if you work on a campaign, you’d better like your coworkers because you’re going to spend *a lot* of time together. 

Clients and studios always want animations done ASAP but in a campaign, ASAP truly means As Soon As Possible. You have to really work quickly to get videos out the door because the news cycle is constantly shifting and what might be relevant today may not be relevant tomorrow- or even within a few hours. I had a lot of great videos killed because it didn’t fit within the political narrative or the news cycle by the time they were completed. You have to be able to think on your feet and work quickly and efficiently if you want to be part of a presidential campaign. Improvisation is key.” 

Michael: Did you feel the campaign leadership understood how to leverage your skill sets? Do you feel there were opportunities left on the table? 

Laura: “Yes and no. Politics tends to be a bit more traditional than other fields so I think they placed higher importance on the other aspects of campaigning such as phone calls, in-person canvassing, physical events, and so on over the digital side (though with COVID-19, that’s definitely changing). However, the Warren campaign really understood that having a strong design and video team was really important. Both teams were surprisingly large and I heard from people from other campaigns that our team was much larger than theirs. I was fortunate to work with a great team of people that were really open to my ideas and open to doing new things. We made a lot of great content and the Warren campaign had really, really strong design brand guidelines that made our content look very cohesive and polished.

However, I definitely faced a lot of frustrations. I was the only motion designer for the Warren campaign and it was an on-going battle of educating people who weren’t as familiar with motion design and didn’t understand its full capabilities. There were ideas I had that never saw the light of the day because it didn’t fit neatly within a policy point which I thought was a missed opportunity.” 

Michael: Any other stories related to working on the Warren campaign you’d like to share? 

Laura: “I had to delete a few of my tweets before I could join the Warren campaign. One of the tweets was about me complaining about the Star Wars fandom which I found really amusing. The Biden campaign didn’t ask me to delete anything so maybe I improved my behavior 😂

Elizabeth Warren with art team

Working To Elect A New President

Michael: How did you come to work for the Biden 2020 Campaign? 

Laura: “I felt like my time on the Warren campaign was cut short and I still wanted to work helping the Democratic presidential nominee. The number one goal was and is to defeat Donald Trump. One of my friends from the Warren campaign joined the Biden campaign and was gracious enough to pass my name/resume along to them. I went through a few rounds of interviews and was hired!” 

Michael: Has it sunk in that you’re playing an active role (more active than most) in a moment that is of great historical significance? It seems clear people will look back on 2020 for a long time and study this moment and this election in great detail. 

Laura: “It’s definitely crazy to think that by the time 2020 is over, I will have worked on two different presidential campaigns. Although my time on the Warren campaign was cut short, I’ve had so many people tell me how much they loved the videos that I did for her campaign. I’ve also built upon the stuff that I did on her campaign and brought them over to Joe Biden’s campaign so the work is constantly evolving and can still live on which is really cool. 

Motion graphics within politics is new territory and we haven’t yet begun to explore its full possibilities. Motion graphics can be used to make explainer videos to inform people about a certain policy point, GIFs & stickers people can use on their Instagram stories to show support and to spark a conversation, create silly videos to troll opponents or serious videos about how people’s lives have been negatively impacted. Motion graphics can be used to break down complex data into something tangible that people can understand. It’s a really great way to inform and engage people. Politics has a reputation of being inaccessible but motion graphics can really bridge that gap.” 

Michael: Given your unique position (working in a presidential campaign), what advice would you give to other motion designers who want to use their skill set to get involved in influencing the outcome of the 2020 election? 

Laura: “If you like a certain politician or party or policy, make a video about it! Make graphics! Make animated GIFs! Anything! Share whatever you made among your circle of friends and peers. Motion design jobs are limited within campaigns due to budgets but campaigns are usually grateful and sometimes will repost graphics/videos that other people have done in support of that politician. Even if they don’t repost it, perhaps a friend sees a video you made and changes their mind on a certain issue. 

Campaigns aren’t the only place to get involved in politics as a motion designer. There are a ton of organizations that are always looking for graphic help- such as voter mobilization related organizations such as Rock The Vote or PACs such as The Lincoln Project. Motion Graphics in politics is new territory but it’s quickly expanding. Even after November, there are still upcoming elections that need motion graphics help.”

Michael: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned working in two different presidential campaigns? 

Laura: “First figure out what message or information you’re trying to say and then decide what medium is the most appropriate for that message. Just because it can be animated, doesn’t mean it should. I’ll expand on that. 

One of the most important things in campaigns is persuasion. You want to target people who are maybe on the fence of deciding whether to vote for Trump, Biden, or not at all. Slickly animated videos are not effective for persuasion – in fact, it’s usually the opposite – because it looks too much like an ad. People are much more likely to be persuaded if it’s a video that looks like a friend is talking to them rather than being made by some out of touch ad agency. 

That doesn’t mean animation doesn’t have a purpose in campaigns but it should be used in a smart and deliberate manner. It’s like a JJ Abrams movie – does it really need that lens flare?”

Conclusion

A big thanks to Laura for taking the time to do this interview. Her advice about finding opportunities to become civically engaged is so relevant in today’s world. The skillset of motion designers (the general ability to produce media) is more valued than ever. Digital communications have taken center stage and artists like Laura are being hired to help campaigns create fresh, high-quality media.

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