Keiko Matsui is a Japanese producer, contemporary Jazz Pianist and composer who has released 20+ albums to international acclaim in her three decade career. Matsui has worked alongside the best including Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masakela and Bob James. Keiko tours relentlessly and seeks to make a genuine connection with her audience. You can currently see her now on a massive tour across the U.S. Keiko Matsui’s new recording Soul Quest, is a riveting new collection of songs that unfold like an epic journey. She explores themes of love, loss, spirituality and environmental consciousness. Read below for the full Q&A…
What was your moment when you decided to become a musician?
I never thought about becoming a musician. But, gradually, I became a professional musician and started recording, composing for movies & my own album and touring. By learning how my music connected and had influenced other people’s life deeply, I was awakened to feel that delivering my melodies and dedicating concerts is my mission in this life.
And did that initial optimism ever get deflated?
I was not thinking to have a career in the U.S. so, I did not aim for anything. But, gradually my music had started to reach out to people in different parts of the world, and I traveled to many places. From those experiences, more and more my connection with the piano became stronger and I started thinking about my role. I believe that music has a mystic power and Music is the gift from the Universe. So. I am gaining more excitement and I am grateful to have this opportunity. That’s why I started my charity work for children last year. I went to Lima Peru to do workshops for children who are suffering to live in poor areas. I feel that Music could help to bring more hope and courage to their lives.
I’m sure your fans are aware that going on tour can affect yourself both personally and musically (such as “A Night With Cha Cha” and “Black Lion”). As you embark on your U.S. tour through the coming months, what can fans expect?
From our experiences of travel and shows, each songs & our performances have grown. We will dedicate ‘Best of Keiko‘ shows including some hits from previous albums and latest album “Soul Quest“.
It’s been over 10 years since you released a ‘Best Of…’ collection. What has been your secret for a career with such longevity?
I feel gratitude to my fans who love my music and come back to my concerts again and again.
Their support and love towards my music is the sauce of my energy. Also, I feel gratitude to my team’s support for my tour and my family’s support and understanding. I am thankful to be able to feel; this is my mission. That makes my road so special. It is not just business.It is not just concert. Not just playing music. There is deep meaning why I live and doing this. So, I am so grateful to be able to continue this.
For Japanese jazz musicians these days, going to the United States to further mastery of the genre is a much-pursued rite of passage. What was your experience like when you first started out?
I see many musicians come to U.S. to learn music. I think that is a good thing; to experience more and see different parts of the world. Well, my case, I started my professional career in Japan. And I was not thinking to start my career in U.S. But when I moved here, I made my solo album and that album was played on the radio a lot and I was recommended to start my concert after release. I discovered musician’s openness at recording. Maybe the language of English helps too. No matter you are new to music indusry or younger, I was able to communicate frankly and they respect that; what you want to hear from him for this music. Of course, music is universal language so, even I can not speck English fluently, music itself helped. It was a wonderful experience and could learn from those experience a lot.
Actually, even before that, I had opportunity to do recording in Los Angeles for Yamaha sample album (I was still student in Japan). Rhythm section was Nathan East on Bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on Drums, Alex Acuna on Percussion. That was my first recording in U.S. Very lucky! So, later, I invited Nathan and Vinnie for recording of my U.S. debut album in 1987. Since then, I had great opportunities to record and tour with many wonderful musicians in U.S.
There are all these amazing types of jazz out there, and many entry points for people who say they don’t like jazz or find it hard to get into. Your realm would be considered contemporary. Would this be a good entry point for a new jazz listener?
Maybe so. Every person has different preference and taste. But, it might be easier to start with. The important thing is you are enjoying…
After your tour wraps up do you have plans to record another album in 2015?
Yes, actually, we are making new live album & DVD at this point. So, it will be out in this spring. It has gorgeous contents including special road movie and an extra video of behind the scenes. On my web site, at front page, there’s already a count down started for Japan. For US, it will start soon. Information will be added gradually so, please keep checking..Then later half of this year, I am planning to create new studio album. But, I will be on the road between those creative progresses.
What is the creative process like when deciding who to collaborate with on an album or performance?
I follow my instinct from my composition. For me, melody is very important. So, I take lots of time for that. I sit in front of a piano without touching key. Then I start receiving melodies. And depending on that, I select instruments and musicians by considering which kind of sound I need for this. Sometimes, I set the team first. Like latest album “Soul Quest”, I decided to work with Narada Michael Walden, Chuck Loeb and Derek Nakamoto. I hear recommendation from Producers and we discuss.
For performances, to be on the road (tour) is very hard with travel schedules and sometimes conditions of the weather are hard. So, of course, musically great at same time, I select nice people to travel with. We are doing concerts but, for me, it is like dedicating music. Music is like a prayer. So, I have great band who is understanding of my music musically and spiritually with sincerity. For special projects, sometimes when we have special opportunities, I invite special guests. Latest live in Tokyo, I invited Kirk Whalum on Sax, Chuck Loeb on Guitar who was on the original album of “Soul Quest”. Also, I had Cello player for the concert at Hollywood Bowl last summer. Another thing, my favorite project is Orchestra show. United Air force band (orchestra) invited me in 80’s. Since then I developed my repertoire for Orchestra shows and did many Orchestra shows in the U.S. and Ukraine. I am open to those opportunities.
Lastly, any advice for any budding musician looking for a break?
I think keep originality is important and finding meaning of why you are doing it. Also, I would like to maintain spirituality into music. Music is like a mirror so, it will show your personality as well. Hope that you enjoy to put your soul on every notes you make and hope that we all work for creating more harmony on this earth through music.
For latest news, tour dates, and music, please visit her official website below:
This edition of the Creative Spotlight features Brasil based talented Zakuro Aoyama. This sampling of his pieces contains both pencil drawings and notebook sketches. The Brazilian commercial and fine art illustrator shows that he can be appreciated for its adept photorealism. Aoyama’s drawings incorporate elements of nature and animals, as well as humans’ interactions with these subjects. His subjects are mysterious and haunting but never threatening, allowing the viewer to revel in their state of romantic decay. I sat down and talked to him a bit about being an artist in South America, his creative process, films and more! Read the full Q&A below…
You’re very talented in the medium of graphite but I hear it doesn’t translate well onto screenprinting. Have you had any frustrations trying to merge the two?
Good. I am aware that a work graphite do not look so good when printed in screen printing, often even on paper the result of a play is not very satisfactory. I often lose many small subtleties that are contained only in the original, but I do not feel frustrated about it. I take as an advantage, as the original becomes an irreplaceable and unmatched as any reproduction. For a piece that have screen printing as an end, i take another turn to a piece that will be finalized only in pencil.
Speaking of which, you are in the beginning stages of doing a Holy Mountain screen print. How are the sketches coming along and does this particular movie mean anything to you?
Yes it’s true. I’m producing a movie poster to the holy mountain. This film tells me a lot, all that symbolic construction is sublime! Alejandro Jodorowsky is one. I love his work as a comics writer, as a filmmaker. The first time I saw this movie, I was thrilled with the idea of deconstruction of being that was molded by external influences political, social. Deconstructing himself to recreate yourself from your self free of these external influences. Incredible as Alejandro Jodorowsky works that record of mystical and existential route.
What tools would you recommend for someone who wants to experiment with scratchboard?
Cardboard paper, inks and very, very hard work.
Brasilia doesn’t have the wild reputation of Rio, but I’m sure has its own cultural attractions. How do you stay inspired in your current town? Is it an inspirational place for an artist such as yourself?
Yes. Brasilia still germinates in this direction, as well as throughout Brazil has yet to open more space for culture in general. Here in Brasilia there is a very good cultural scene, but still growing. The town itself is not enough to be a source of inspiration for me. My sources of inspiration are more internal than external, spent much time I answer me the idea that my art was based on the place in which he lived, but after a few times out of Brasilia realized that my work was much richer with experienced sensations out of my city.
Your piece ‘Spread’ reminds me of Shogun Assassin. Am I right in assuming that? Do you have a favorite Asian film?
[Laughs hard] This is right to interpret it and then on the reference you want, my friend, but references I took to it were Lone Wolf and Wolverine. This illustration was specific to compose a cover variant “SPREAD” Justin Jordan, Kyle Strann and my friend Felipe Sobreiro.
Your work contains a great level of morbidity but it strays more towards being honest with your audience rather than depresses them. Is there a subtle balance you go for with your work to invoke a certain reaction or emotion from the viewer?
I think the idea of taking my art as morbid a small idea, as would only see the surface and the deeper message would be hidden by this initial feeling of sickness. I take some topics such as suicide, bodies collapses, falling as sublime moments of deconstruction of being. As a large transformer phenomenon. Not as begs to weigh or as something depressing.
There is alot of mythos surrounding the character of MNEMOSYNE as she represents language and words. Why did you decide to build a character study out of her? What initially draws you to a character?
The initial idea was to outsource the muse idea of collapse keepsake. Building a dissolute model of gender designation. A hybrid. This deconstruction of gender collapses slowly every piece. So much so that in the second part we can see a vagina on a penis, and the two sexes becoming one in the end of the series.
What do Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Otomo mean to you and how has the medium of anime inspired you?
Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki are incredible geniuses. I love everything that both did. I see and I look back with some frequency all I have access to both. Satoshi Kon not already know much of his work. Few anime inspire me as much as Mushishi.
What lies ahead for you in 2015?
2015 will be and this already incredible year to make my art happen. I envisage several personal projects and with some friends that will make my art grow more and more.
Lastly, any advice for any struggling artists?
The only one that I have is what I follow. Hard work, persistence and draw a lot.
Want to stay up to date on all of Zakuro’s work? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
There’s an innate relationship between children and the animal kingdom. Capturing this unique connection is Indonesian artist Elicia Edijanto, who depicts small, vulnerable children alongside creatures of the wild like elephants, wolves and bears. Created in stark black and white imagery, and using only watercolors, Edijanto creates dreamlike-scenes that are both tranquil and contemplative. I sat down with her to discuss her creative process, her sources of inspiration, and more. Read the full Q&A below…
When was the last time you seriously dropped everything to soak in a sunset?
Actually, I do it quite often. I love sunset. I always try to spend some times to enjoy the sunset and have a pensive moment myself (not necessarily negative). Lots of people thought it’s some kind of self-isolation but that’s not the case. It’s actually a good thing. I spend my time soaked in a sunset to absorb the good vibes it gives out, free gift from the nature. It’s like saving a positive energy to be used later, like a camel stores water in its hump. After all, in a hectic and routinity of urban life, a little dose of nature is a sine qua non.
Addressing your recent watercolor concept, intimate relationships between children and animals. Is this stemming from real life, or does it just explore the duality between something innocent and something dangerous?
Well it’s definitely not a real life experience. I might unconsciously use duality to emphasize my concept, but I don’t explore the duality per se. My concept focuses on the intimacy and connection between human and nature. In my case, I like to use children and animals, sometimes trees, as my messengers. They are honest, sincere, and unprejudiced. It will be easier to people to feel the emotions.
Could you talk a bit about the creative process behind each scene? The majority are void of color and surrounding landscape. Any reasoning behind that?
I divide each scene of my drawings into two parts; the surrounding and the subject. I want each of them serve their own purposes, but go along as one. I choose void of color, or sometimes less-detailed landscape because I only paint what’s necessary. I don’t want to overdo it. So, I will try to use this simple analogy. Let’s say each scene is like a song. The surrounding is the music. The subject is the lyric. The music gives the mood and atmosphere. The lyric gives the meaning.
Would you recommend to rather leave the painting unfinished than overdone it? Could that pertain to the unpredictability of using watercolors as a medium?
Watercolor is indeed a unpredictable and full of surprise medium. The final result can be different from the blue print on my mind. In my opinion, if that should leave someone with no choice but to leave it unfinished or to overdone it, both are fine as long as the desired concept and meaning of the painting are maintained.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
The Color of Paradise, Spirited Away, Children of Heaven, etc.
How involved were you in the printing process? Are they giclee or screenprints? What have you learned along the way about it?
In the mean time, I got help from an international online gallery to print, pack, and ship my artworks worldwide. They use museum quality paper. My artworks are printed on Canson Rag Photographique which has special layer which makes the print looks deeper and sharper. The printer has 13 different inks to all shades of grey, so the white and black will be rich. I think it’s pretty cool. In the future, of course I want to learn and get more involved in the printing process.
What are some of the animals you would love to depict in the future but have been hesitant or perhaps afraid to bring to life?
Giant narwhal and other gigantic deep sea creatures.
You quoted sense of humanity and sense of being as direct sources of inspiration. Could you elaborate a bit on that?
Sebastiao Salgado’s photographs have caught my attention in the most profound way. The way he captured humanity in human with empathy, in the most challenging times such as wars, natural disasters, environmental degradation, etc has overwhelmed me with awe. How strong and courageous humans are! How, in the roughest time, humans are able to show their most gentle side, their kindness and dignity instead of their fragility. I’m also inspired by Nick Brandt’s sense of being that’s shown in his animal photographs. He let us to not just knowing, but also to be vigilant of the existence of those animals which some day, will be destroyed by men. He inspires me to explore this sense of being, which has some spirit and soul behind it, behind every subject, not just mere existence.
How exactly does photography play into things? Are you a big advocate of photography and use it as a source of reference for some illustrations?
Definitely. Photography helps me a lot. I always use it as my reference. It’s a medium of direct mimesis that reproduces the world, which I will interpret and represent in my paintings.
Lastly, any advice for a budding artist??
Focus on doing what you love, for the sake of your own happiness, not for what you will get. Take a good care of your works, and your works will take a good care of you.
Stay up to date on all of Elicia’s work by following her cookie crumb trail below:
After more than two decades, the wheels are very much still turning for Osaka Monaurail, known as Japan’s premiere funk orchestra. The band’s latest stroke “Riptide” is Osaka Monaurail’s seventh studio album and finds the band tighter than ever. They never stop! Hitting the biggest festivals in Japan such as Fuji Rock Festival and Rising Sun Festival; appearing at overseas festivals such as Montreal Jazz Festival and Womad to name a few, and don’t forget, still working hard in studios as well. We chat with Ryo Nakata (vocals and keyboards) about the bands longevity, his thoughts on their music, and more! Read the full Q&A below..
Are the crowds reception to your music any different today then they were when you first started out playing in Osaka bars and nightclubs 20 years ago?
Well, I hope we play better and our dance routines are much more developed than twenty years ago. Also we play in costumes that are much more expensive than the old ones that we used to wear in the 90s. So, the crowd must enjoy the show better [smiles]. Now, seriously, the answer is No. As a matter of fact, we still do play in nightclubs, and they react to the music in the same way. They dance to the music. You can also say the times have changed. The golden 90s, of Rare Groove or Acid Jazz, is over. And of course Hip-hop… Today, “In The Jungle Groove” by James Brown might not be the best choice for dance floor any more. But it still works, and I really don’t care. I shouldn’t worry about the trend of the times. I still believe, if we play better, they enjoy the show more. And after these twenty years I still get many offers from festivals and clubs. I am very happy.
Today’s music listeners cater more towards modern music like electronic dance or hip-hop. Music from the James Brown era isn’t really created anew anymore…why do you think you are getting such a positive response continuing to play a niche genre of music in present society?
Sometimes people tell me we are in a niche genre. I never believed that. In the past twenty years, I always thought this is the real deal. I listen to music by James Brown, Rufus Thomas, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, The Staple Singers, Donny Hathaway…. I never bothered [with] Electronic or House stuff. I don’t know [anything] about Hip-hop either. I am here to play the music which I believe is the real deal. If we WERE niche, probably it would mean that we don’t play good enough. And, I don’t mind to admit, we don’t play good enough. We wouldn’t be niche when we play in the level of the Ray Charles Orchestra or the great James Brown Orchestra or any band from the list, right? You might want to point out we are of a different [ethnicity], but that’s another issue.
Anyway, answering your question, one of the reasons I think we are getting positive responses is that we are very serious and particular about what we do. Who can be more serious about bringing back the sound of the James Brown Orchestra in 1969, maybe 1971 also, but definitely not 1973? Who would not mind to pay for 1000 dollar suits, and two or three suits for each one in the group, and play Rufus Thomas songs? Some people might think it’s funny that Japanese musicians struggling to learn to play Funky music. Some people might find us niche. That’s good. That’s my trap [laughs]. You see, I never intended to be an original artist. I am just a fellow who enjoys playing the music that I love.
You say you never intended to be an original artist, but after such a long career you can’t help but come into your own. While you are paying homage to James Brown and Ray Charles, do you think in the future there will be bands paying homage to you and your band?
No. Not at all. I think it’s good if someone find us more original than I think I am. But, I can’t imagine a band playing homage to my band.
Similar to the resurgence in funk music, vinyl is coming back as well! Do you have any input on how your new record will look and sound on that medium?
I think that’s wonderful people are coming back to vinyl. It’s like, people watched movies in movie houses in the old days. Then, they started watching movies on TV, then VHS cassettes, and DVDs and today iTunes. Everything is getting worse. It’s getting more and more convenient. But the quality is getting worse. The same goes to concerts. In the old days, they only had 50 or 100 people watching the show. They didn’t have amplifiers so they had to play in either a small house or a big concert hall that generates good reflections. Later, they invented guitar amp, bass amp and PA system. Today one concert is selling 50,000 tickets! Many people think the sound technology is improved, but the truth is, we have been getting accustomed to the sounds that are worse than the acoustic sounds in the old days. Vinyl is absolutely better than CD or digital download! I am crazy about collecting records, but I love vinyl. I think Unique, the label who is putting out our European issues, are pressing the new album on vinyl. It should be in stores.
What are some of your favorite Japanese films?
One of my favorite movie stars is Hitoshi Ueki of Crazy Cats. “Nihon-ichi no Hora-fuki Otoko” (Japan’s Best Braggart Man, 1964) must be his best film. There are many more “Japan’s Best… Man” films starring him: “Nihon-ichi no Goma-suri Otoko” (Japan’s Best Apple-polishing Man, 1965); “Nihon-ichi no Iro Otoko” (Japan’s Best Lady-killing Man, 1963). I like lots of films from the 1960s. The late 50s and the early 60s were the golden era in movie. Yasuzo Masumura, Ayako Wakao, Keiko Kishi. Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kon Ichikawa, etc. In terms of movies, I am an indie movie distributor as well. Recently I am working on “STILL BILL” the documentary of the Soul singer Bill Withers. It will be released on video in 2015.
Cool! So tell us a bit about the creative process behind your 7th album, ‘Riptide’. Why only nine songs?
Most of my past albums have only nine or eight songs each. Four or five on the A-side of the record, and the other four or five on the B-side. Although the CD sales of our albums are bigger than LP, I still want to design my album as a LP album, not much longer than 45 minutes. Today, albums usually contain 15 songs or more. I think that’s too many. By the time you listen to the end of the album, you don’t remember how the album started.
Did playing in the United States for the first time live up to expectations?
Oh yes. The shows in the US were very successful. There were only three shows: Minneapolis, Richmond and Washington DC. Everybody seemed so welcoming. I was wrong and I felt very bad because I initially had thought of more critical crowds and cold promoters for America. Each promoter were very kind and helpful and the crowds were very enjoying the show. Honestly, the first trip to the US, I was very nervous. I didn’t really know what to do or what to say. You know, this is the country where everything came from. To me and many people in Japan and Europe, the United States is where Ray Charles came from; James Brown; Aretha Franklin; Gershwin; Count Basie; Miles Davis… You might think it’s funny the way I look at it. But, you see, that explains how different we are. You might think of Mt. Fuji, Geisha, Sushi, Toyota for Japan. The same thing. However, basically I think I was wrong, and I [want] to learn much more about America.
How hard is it keeping a nine-deep person band together for so long? With so much energy and personalities, is it easy to have everyone on the same page all the time?
Good question. I think, our nationality as Japanese has a lot to with it. In Japan everyone is taught from childhood the importance of cooperation. These concepts: freedom, privacy, democracy, originality… are not big words in Japan although big in the US I believe. But, the words like: cooperation, humbleness, diligence are very important in Japan. Working together, traveling together, playing together are rarely a problem for us. I hope, somehow we are carrying these concepts with our show. Because, like I think I said earlier, we want to be original although we take precautions against planning to be original.
Also, have you ever been in a sport team when you are at college or high school? I look at it like that. Each one in the team is different personality with different goal. But, in order to accomplish something, we have to work together. And, playing in college sport teams after three or four years in the team, you have to graduate it. See, I want to point out that one works even harder and enjoys the work more, when he knows he will have to leave the team someday. I think this works for bands as well. It is a very healthy concept to have for band members. In the last two decades plus, cats have come in and out. When someone has to leave the band because of his family issues or financial issues with his wife [laughs], we should “thanks and good-bye” to each other. That’s how a band should be if you are older than 30 years old.
The reality is: most of the cats in the band have been with me for more than ten years. I have four guys who have been with me for almost twelve years. And, my drummer has been in the band for five years; the 2nd trumpet player is one year. My bass player was replaced recently. Dai, who had played in Osaka Monaurail for the last eight years, just left. And, Tsuyoshi, who had played for eleven years before Dai, just came back and joined the band again.
Lastly, what advice can you offer up to a budding musician looking to take their craft to the next step?
To me, the key to open the doors for me are in myself. “You are where you are because you put yourself in it.” If my career is not taking off, that is because either I am not doing it right, or I am not doing it to the required extreme; I shouldn’t be complaining about other people nor the music industry; I should not envy other successful artists; I should understand that I am not here for money (Seriously, there are many other more convenient options to make living, so why choose music?); I must receive as much money as possible to keep my band going; Never mind much about getting charged with commissions and/or even being ripped off (Evaluate what you earn, not approximate how much they make).; Always look for good opportunities around; Share whatever we earn with the people who help me with it; Always look ahead and make the pie bigger. These are my mottos. I hope they are useful for other musicians too.
Stay up to date with all of the band, and check tour dates for their European tour in April-May, 2015:
Chemin Hsiao is a Taiwanese artist based in New York City, graduated from MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at School of Visual Arts. After he got his BFA degree in English literature in Taiwan, it was then that he decided to come to the USA to learn art. Chemin’s works often tell stories with memories of location and people. He also paints portraitures and animals with the passion of capture their spirit. His works has been selected in Annuals such as The Society of Illustrators New York and LA, and also American Illustration. We sat down with him to pick his brain about art, film, his education and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
You have a unique perspective as a creative being exposed to Universities in both Taiwan and the United States. What are the main difference in how educators approach studies in each country?
In Taiwan, I didn’t study in art school so it is hard to compare the two systems. I felt as long as the student is responsible for his/her study, there is not that much difference in terms of learning from US or Taiwan teachers.
As someone who paints to reminisce people and location, if you could choose one experience in 2014 to express artistically, what would you choose?
2014 is about balancing time and energy between day job and my own artistic development. I could see a clock/time monster slowly but furiously attacks me, and I stand right there to fight back.
What would you say are your greatest challenges in art, and are there any things that you personally struggle with? What ways have you found in overcoming artistic challenges?
The greatest challenges lie on actually doing what one supposes to do in all reference to be an artist. It is not specifically about one thing that you struggled with, it is a continuous effort to do EVERYTHING. Along the way I learned the only way to overcome them is by simply “doing it.”
I didn’t know this but your advisor was Mu Pan. I actually own a few pieces by him (Deer Hunter) and interviewed him in an earlier Creative Spotlight episode. That guy is nuts! What specific teachings did you learn from him and what did you learn about yourself creating your thesis project?
[Laughs] I envy you, I would love to own one of his paintings in the future! I have wonderful time learning from him. The most impressive part of my thesis experience (My Journey to The West) is to learn from how he immersed his personalities into his world. All the characters inside his pictures are part of his soul, and I respect that deeply. I remembered vividly when he draws the pictures, there are actually sound effect in his head and he acts them out: the sound of drums, people shouting and talking in traditional Chinese opera style, it is as real as you see in his painting. In my case, he helps me put myself into my world, and also taught me technically how to orchestrate the composition and execute the images. So, the experience of the process is invaluable. On my side, I learned to apply a more complicated language to convey my memories, compared to my earlier works.
What are the challenges of such pieces? Not to mention the sheer SIZE of the pieces but the challenge of using multiple mediums such as color pencils,acrylic paints, watercolor, ink, and sand paper? Is each one necessary to convey your message?
The challenges mainly come from improvising your memories on the go and make them compositionally interesting. But working on such a size with traditional mediums is physically rewarding, as you create it with your whole body.
As I learned on the way, the tool box was explored. And yes, each of the medium has its own usage for me. For instance, the foggy New York city skyline in the back of Statue of Liberty is created by the sand paper. Water based medium such as watercolor, ink and acrylic is where I started my earlier work, like My Animals and Hoop Memoir project, so I felt more comfortable using them to lay in the shapes and background. Color pencil suites my growing interests of learning to create forms with line. With the instruction of Mu, I learned to use them to make the piece stronger. Everything just seems to be used when required.
How did you artwork look back before you started showing it publicly on a wide scale? Is there more confidence in your art? And does that translate well into the business side?
They are always about my personal stories or attachment I had. Although the skills back then were not as trained, I created words or images for myself and meaningful people. Since they are my own thoughts and personal voices, I believe each stroke has my whole being in the work and I am confident about it in my progress of learning. On the business side, as long as the work is good, there will be something about it which will translate well to the audiences.
When you do a subway sketch have you ever given your sketch to that said person? What has been one of the more interesting subject as of late?
There are few occasions I did give out my sketch to the children I drew, but it is rare. They are more like my diary so I would say you don’t usually give away your diary Usually, this homeless guy should be the most interesting one. He covered his head with the hoodie, almost like a mysterious evil creatures.
What lies ahead for you in 2015?
I would like to continue My Journey to the West as my thesis only goes as far from 2008 to 2010, and there are a lot left to be told. The language and format might change but I am sure I will continue to develop the theme. Also, I look forward to keep exploring my love of nature scenes, animals or landscapes, I want to paint more under a tree and with a squirrel! Overall, keep up the spirit of picture making with the time I am given besides my day job.
Lastly, as a fresh grad, what advice can you offer up to young students beginning an art program?
Art program provides support within a community to refine your art experience, but remember it is only a part of your learning. It doesn’t guarantee you could live with your art. Learn as much as you can, be honest, and make your way into the world.
In today’s episode we host Celine Tran (FKA Katsuni, adult film megastar) who is reinventing herself into the next big action star. Actress, performer, globe-trotter, the world is her playground. We sat down and talked a bit about her transition, her love of film, and her extensive work with stunt teams while focusing on the dedication of her craft. Read below for the full interview…
You have an existing fanbase already established with your previous endeavors in another industry. Was making the transition to film difficult to make people understand that, ‘Hey, I’m a legitimate actress that can do these stunts’!?
I’m still in the transition process. Cliches and prejudices are very hard to change, but in my opinion actions are more convincing than words. This is why I’m the one who needs to bring something concrete on the table in order to start my new career. After all I’m the one who built my recent notoriety, now it’s time to show something else. And having a fan base is not enough. It’s just a consequence of what I did until now but I want to reach a larger audience, and everything has to be done again every day.
I recently played in a popular French TV series ‘The Visitor from the Future’ but it’s a just a first step, I’m aware it might take awhile before the audience gets used to seeing me as a mainstream actress and under my real name (I’ve been using a pornstar stagename for 13 years [Katsuni]). Making these videos are a part of this transition from porn to mainstream.Feeling supported makes things easier too. I feel very lucky to have met a great stunt team (Cinemaction Stunts) who believes in my potential and commits itself so much in order to help me and train with me. Everything started on the ‘Visitor from the Future’s’ set where I met the stunt actor/choregrapher Kefi Abrikh. He’s the one who introduced me to the rest of the team. In one year we shot videos Heartbreaker- Bladed Minds and Burst and they are the result of this great collaboration. And it’s far to be over, we’re working on more projects together.
When did the initial acting bug bite you? Was it way back almost 10 years ago with Gaspar Noé?
It started with the beginning of my career as an adult actress almost 15 years ago. Even if it’s quite specific, it’s still acting. I’m a very quiet person and I really enjoyed playing characters which were the opposite of what I used to be in real life. Scripts and dialogues in adult movies are caricatures, they are very limited, repetitive, but playing the pornstar is by itself a full time and long-term role ! Then, playing in The Visitor from the Future about one year ago really encouraged me to do more, especially as I was ready to quit my career in porn and wanted to get new challenges.
Aside from JeeJa Yanin, do you feel there is a lack of women action stars in the world of Asian films? Do you experience any pressure trying to break the mold?
I noticed there are more and more Asian actors having secondary roles in many blockbusters, probably in order to fit with the evolution of the whole movie industry, but yes indeed, the list of Asian action stars seems quite short and myself, I don’t know a lot of martial arts movies with an Asian female leading role. I just do what I feel I need to do, I follow my instinct as I’ve always done. Each time I started something I heard many negative comments like “Give Up, it’s not for you, you don’t have the profile, you can not do it“, etc… They can keep wasting their spit. When you consider there’s no mold, then there’s no need to break this one.
You practice extensively in Silat, which is a form of fighting used in film back in the Shaw Brothers’ days and most recently in the Raid films. How intense are these choreographed fights and how do you prepare?
I’m a beginner but totally in love with silat and especially SSBD (with Maul Mornie, from Brunei) and I definitely want to keep learning, not only for fight choregraphies but also to practice it in my life as a martial art. I spent a lot of time in the dojo during many months with the stunt coordinator Mathieu Lardot from Cinemaction Stunts. I started by learning the basic moves, punches, kicks then arm locks and practiced with speed, strength, and control. Then I worked on how to move with the right timing, right distances; finally we focused on the acting part with the reactions, the differences of intentions depending of what story we want to tell through the fight, and how my character is supposed to evolve.
For a choreography like the one in ‘Burst’ we had one day of rehearsal with the whole crew in order to create the choreography. Then I had one day to work on my intentions and get ready for the stunt on the coffee table (I really insisted to do this, it was on my to-do-list 2014). And we finally took one day to shoot the whole video. Vincent Gatinaud who directed it and who is also a stunt actor did a great job. Everything was safe and in control. The secret is to train and respect each other, to know who does what, when and how. We got protections pads too and there was no space for bad surprises.
Speaking of the Raid, a few of the actors are being carried over into the new Star War films. It seems to be a good time to be an Asian actor as mainstream hollywood is paying alot of attention to the hard work you guys put in. Do you see yourself transitioning into more roles fit for American audiences?
I think that it’s always the right time for talented people and Yayan, Iko and Cecep are crazy crazy good! Regarding my goals, there’s no reason for me to limit myself and the American audience is of course a target I want to reach. The only way to dream is to dream big!
If you could pick one director to work with, who would it be? Chan Park-Wook, Kim Ki Duk, or Wong Kar Wai? And Why?
Whoaaaa what a cruel question! I love Kim Ki Duk and Wong Kar Wai’s work but with no doubt I pick Chan Park-Wook. I’m a huge admirer of his movies, he’s one of my favorite directors and I’m super fan of Korean movies in general. They have a very specific style. Like most of people I discovered his work with OldBoy, then watched the whole trilogy and fell in love with Sympathy for Mister Vengeance. Stoker is very special too. A tragic story within four walls, sober, but intense in perversity and still delicate, with a touch of rare erotism. He perfectly managed to adapt his style to the U.S. market with grace and intelligence. He owns what I love the most about Korean movies: perversion and delicacy, it’s not just about the physical violence, but it’s even more about the brain, about mental limits. From a rare violence always emerges a form of poetry. This director knows how to play with emotions, touching upon a raw nerve. His movies make the audience feel uncomfortable because there’s no manichean vision. At one point we always feel empathy for the “bad people”. In fact the good ones can become the worst, the victim can become the executioner, and there’s no pity; no justice. It’s tough, but always authentic. I swear I need to meet him one day .
Tell us a bit about how your interest in writing began and why you eventually decided upon Heartbraker to carry a “Grindhouse style” to its aesthetic?
I always liked to write but started to do it professionally a few years ago when a French mainstream magazine (mostly about culture and entertainment) asked me to write articles behind the scene of the adult industry and host my own blog. I accepted under the condition to not be censored. In the same time another magazine, more political, asked me to write articles about sexuality in society. I really enjoyed it. Then the French comics artist Run contacted me to perform as a sexy dancer for the needs of his next teaser. It was a video to promote one of his comics, ‘Doggybags’. It’s a collection; ‘grindhouse’ style. Each album contains three separate stories illustrated by three different artists. I right away liked his work. I, myself, [am] a fan of the grindhouse style, like Robert Rodriguez’s movies. It’s super violent but fun. A few days later he came back telling me he wanted to write with me the next Doggybags and together we would create a new character who would be inspired by my look and my own experience. We got so inspired that we wrote a full album and in fact we just wrote the second part. Doggybags #6 Heartbreaker got a great feedback and this is really encouraging. I must admit that I had to adapt myself to the grindhouse style. At this time I was watching so many Korean movies, I was in a different energy. But in the end I’m very happy of the result, we had a great team.
Writing the story of a comics is super interesting, it’s very similar from the script of a movie and so different from what I’ve done until now. I definitely want to write more scripts and comics. For now, as I’m answering your questions, I’m in fact somewhere in Vietnam in order to write a book, an autobiographical novel.
You recently exposed some nasty comments on Facebook and fired back promoting some positivity for those who might have doubts or who suffer from criticism. You have been dealing with doubters your whole life, where did you find the confidence, even at 15 starting martial arts to overcome your own obstacles?
Yes that’s a part of the game when you share content in public, you are exposed to all kind of comments and that’s even worse if you’re famous. Everybody is free to have his own opinion but I’m quite amazed by the ones who needs to spread negativity and judgments, just for the pleasure of insulting or hurting. I’m only concerned by the critics of people I care about. Sadly many people get depressed because they feel attacked especially on social networks, they are expecting too much love or recognition , but in my opinion they put themselves in danger. By writing this post on Facebook I wanted to share my experience, remind them that we should never give any space or power to the ones who are judging us. Of course it’s difficult. Personally when I was 15, I was not confident at all, I was even extremely shy ! But this is also why I became so passionate of martial arts, it truly helped me to start building confidence, making me realize I had some potential.
Unfortunately I had to stop early because of my studies but as you can see, I’m now back into it. The fact is that I’m very obstinate. When I like something it’s never for 30% or 60%. It’s nothing or everything. I need to overcome my limits and push myself outside of my comfort zone. This is how I feel alive. I need to keep learning, and good news, it’s an unlimited quest! I think I get it from my father who has a very strong and brave personality. He achieved so much, starting from literally nothing. He always told me: ‘The people who wanted to discourage me, it gave me even more will and determination to keep going…You are not less good than the others, it’s all about work and perseverance, it requires patience, sacrifices, but this is the only way to succeed’. It might sound very strict and traditional as Western society is focused on personal well-being and doesn’t like to make too many efforts and hates discipline. But I must say my education at this level is a great heritage. It’s normal to have doubts, it’s normal to have fears. But that’s the point : being brave is to face your fears. That’s the beauty of life, taking risks, and that’s one of the most beautiful ways to express its freedom.
Lastly, tell us what lies ahead in 2015 for you!
For sure Heartbreaker #2 will be published in France ! We’re working on a US version too. I have different projects of movies, mostly horror and action. I can not tell you any more details! In between I’ll keep writing, training and traveling as much as I can!
Brandon Liao attended the Art Center College of Design where he majored in Entertainment Design. He later worked on a few gaming projects and then decided to take matters into his own hands. It’s been WAY overdue for a talented digital artist/concept artist in the Creative Spotlight, so I searched the internet for the best to bring in the new year. Needless to say, Brandon fit the bill. The guy is amazing! I picked his brain and we nerded out on some anime discussion. Read below for the full Q&A…
So if I am understanding your career path you majored in Entertainment Design, then worked as a concept artist then went rogue as a freelancer? Can you walk me a bit through the thought process behind that; how this path was the one that worked out for you?
To be honest, half of it wasn’t even planned but even the parts that were I didn’t expect them to work. I had originally planned to pursue aerospace engineering, but near the end of high school I decided to switch to art. When it came to applying for colleges, I was told numerous times that Art Center College of Design was the place to go and that Entertainment Design was the department to go for. Seeing as how the number of students accepted for Entertainment Design was very limited at the time, I honestly thought that I had no chance but somehow it worked out. Halfway through the program I was picked up by Riot Games as an intern, which halfway through turned into a part-time position. I spent the next two years creating League of Legends concept art while still going to school full-time. Then my contract ended and I took the opportunity to explore what else the industry had to offer and met some incredible people at various video game and animation studios. At the same time I also decided to teach myself Zbrush and to further explore different workflows for Photoshop and 3-D programs like Modo. So I guess I can say that this path has so far been very educational.
Being a concept artist means you need an extraordinary imagination. I noticed many of your humans are of female gender. Do you take bits and pieces of traits from people you know if real life and inject it into your designs?
It’s not just people, it’s anything I come across. From music to history to architecture to the next big thing from CES, anything goes. As I like to think of it, the world is like a giant Lego box. Whether it be an object or an idea, any number of them can be combined in any number of ways and you’ll end up with something different every single time. Of course it does take a certain amount of imagination to see what even the smallest, obscure idea can potentially be turned into. Yes, most humans I draw are females because I find girls more fun to draw than guys.
So what’s the secret of designing a believable creature?
The secret is understanding animal anatomy. All creatures evolved to accomplish specific tasks which is why a turtle looks so different from a rabbit. When creating a believable creature you need to create the environment that it lives in because the world around it will often dictate the skeletal, muscle, and organ structures. Same goes for everything else like vehicles, costumes, and props; hence the phrase “form follows function”.
When you see 3-D characters in films, the ones that work have a sense of weight. Did you study anatomy of a figure more, or perhaps the physics?
Both are equally important and rely on each other. Coming from an engineering mindset, physics is a must. Physics dictates how forces affect the body and the costume. In terms of costumes, it would be how it rests on the character and how the weight of the materials affect each other. In terms of the body, it would be understanding how muscles hang from the bones and push against each other. With all of that in mind, you would also have to study how the body and costume materials react to movement or external forces like wind from a fan or wind from Chuck Norris’s roundhouse kick.
What are some of your favorite Anime?
Oh man, where do I start? Suesei no Garagantia, Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, Fate Zero, Aldnoah Zero, Ghost in Shell, Appleseed, Summer Wars, all of Miyazaki’s films, Gundam Wing, Gundam Seed, Fairy Tail, Witch Craft Works, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, World Conquest Zvezda Plot, Haruhi Suzumiya, Dragon Crisis, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, and a bunch of others. The list goes on!
Were you at all connected to League of Legends? What kind of work did you get to work on while at Riot Games and how did your internship differ from your actual job when you got brought on full-time?
I did a bunch of skin concepts for League of Legends. Many of the skins were legendary or for special events. A few of them include Dragon Trainer Lulu, Black Ice Anivia, Snowstorm Sivir, Zombie Brand, Fireworks Corki, the launch skins for Syndra and Elise, all the World Championship skins, and many others that I can’t remember were released or not. I also got to help create artwork for a few champions and assets like wards.
The major difference was I got to work with bigger concepts. For example, I got to reintroduce the Mecha skin line as a robot vs monster line. It was an idea that I had come up with and had pitched to fellow concept and splash artists. So when the idea of having a robot Malphite skin came around, I took that chance to enact my robot vs monster idea. Everyone loved it and the producers turned it into a patch update event. There were a couple other skin lines that I had started or wanted to revamp, but alas, I don’t know if it’ll actually happen. The last thing I did was paint the Championship Shyvana splash which was really fun.
What is the role of modern digital tools and technologies in the design process?
As with all new tools, they’re purpose is to increase speed and efficiency. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the more traditional ways are obsolete. These tools are meant to compliment the user’s abilities and to meet the fast paced demands of the industry. It’s still good to learn to do things the traditional way because there are some things best learned when you work it with your own hands. Plus doing things by hand has its own charm and it shows in the final product.
You said you paint for fun by night. What is usually the final outcome from one of these ‘nights’?
A lot of 3-D and Photoshop files in my recycling bin. Occasionally a presentable piece does come along like the Urban Legends illustration. The rest of the time it’s painting and lighting exercises that use characters as subjects. A few examples are the ones that are top or back-lit with grey backgrounds.
Happy New Year! What is ahead for you in 2015?
More practice with 3-D programs. Right now I am set on creating a CG trailer for one of my personal projects. I’m currently practicing texturing Zbrush models with Substance Painter. It’s entirely for fun and because I’ve always wanted to try to make one. I also have a Patreon and a Gumroad going, but other than that, I guess we’ll see what happens.
Aside from offering solid technical skills or understanding a 3-D program, what other skills or knowledge would you advise a digital artist to have to become successful?
Communication. A large part of becoming successful is learning to communicate with people. You must learn how to present ideas in a clear and meaningful way to inspire those around.
Problem solving. It can be coming up with a design solution for a League of Legends’ skin that no one understands, or solving how to paint an entire city without painting each individual building. We are all designers in some sense and we are here to solve problems.
Unfiltered imagination. You need to have a huge bank of ideas and should constantly be able to come up with more. The best way to do it is to essentially study everything. Study cultures, scientific theories, history, religions, mechanics, clothing manufacturing, etc. Hell, watch Modern Marvels. Don’t let biases, personal interests, trends, or even fear shorten the reach of your creativity. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense to limit the probability of the possibility for awesomeness to occur.
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Chui Wan is a four-piece experimental psychedelic rock band from Beijing, China who will be invading the United States this summer at Psychfest in Austin, TX. Inspired by this concept of seeking the infinite from the mundane, the core of Chui Wan’s sound is formed by the improvisational compositions of multi-instrumentalist Yan Yulong and guitarist Liu Xinyu. Their lush arrangements of guitar, keyboard, viola, other assorted instruments and random sound samples often eschew reliable melodies and vocal harmonies in favor of occasional passages of minimal drone or maximal sonic layerings. So, what is their creative process, do they like anime, what do they think about the vinyl comeback in music? We got you covered. Read the full Q&A below with the bandmates!
Yan Yulong: Vocal/Guitarist/Keyboardist
Liu Xinyu: Guitarist/Percussionist
Li Zichao: Drummer
Wu Qiong: Bassist/Vocal
Can you give our readers a brief history on how the band was formed?
Liu Xinyu: At first, Wu Qiong and Yan Yulong met on internet and then they started playing together. I joined them after and gradually got some motivations. When we had the drummer, the band just formed naturally.
Li Zichao: I joined last. They were already together at that time.
What was the recent tour like? You guys played everywhere from Paris to Denmark to Helsinki! Any cool stories to share?
Yan Yulong: The tour was great! Our first stop was NIUBI FEST in Helsinki. BO NINGEN played after us. Their performance was very interesting. In the last stop of the tour, we four had a mushroom trip in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It felt awesome!
Liu Xinyu: My favorite is Amsterdam. Weed, mushrooms and prostitution are all legal there. When we saw police car driving by on the street with alarm on, we were wondering that what is illegal there on earth?
You guys are playing at AUSTIN PSYCH FEST (Levitation)! How did that opportunity come about?
Liu Xinyu: I think we are invited by the organizer. We are quite excited to play at such great music festival. When our label Maybe Mars told us that we are going to play at a music festival in America. I thought “ok, whatever”. But when I saw the lineup, I was totally astonished. Those bands I’m going to play with are all my favorite bands!
What can a fresh audience expect from your live show?
Liu Xinyu: Our songs may be not good for shaking your body and head. Hope the audience can listen attentively.
Since the origin of your bands name is based off the relationship between nature and human life, how would you describe your music within that connection?
Wu Qiong: Be natural, we don’t try connect them.
Yan Yulong: Yeah, leave space to let the audience imagine.
What is the creative process like when creating a song? Is there more of a challenge when composing detached sorts of sounds and surreal song structures that are featured in your bands psychedelic vibe?
Liu Xinyu: We created most songs by jamming together in rehearsal room. Arranging the structures afterwards and fill the lyrics at last. We don’t try to compose “detached sorts of sounds and surreal song structures” now. Not like our debut album, we try to make our recently recorded second album with less mixing and producing work. Now we want to be natural and won’t keep ourselves under “Psychedelic” on purpose.
Li Zichao: We like to get inspiration from all kinds of genres, and express it by our own ways, then mix the four ideas together. No direction at beginning, but let the song complete itself little by litte from practising it. Sometimes it doesn’t work, then we drop the idea. Certainly, everyone wants to play some special tones and structures.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
Yan Yulong: I have many favorite ones. I have watched many Japanese animes since I was in middle school, even like Hayate the Combat Butler.
The U.S. is just now catching up with the vinyl craze. I know vinyl fever has broken out in Beijing years ago. How will your band embrace this and are you happy that people are gradually moving away from strictly MP3’s?
Liu Xinyu: Of course I’m happy. I even think vinyl will save the record market. From the difference of the medium, MP3 is the digital file in a metal box, but vinyl is made one by one and played by phonograph circle by circle. Compares to MP3, vinyl carrys much more historical and personal feelings, and the quality is way better. But I download MP3s, because vinyls are too expensive, [laughs].
Wu Qiong: I will buy the vinyls of the albums that are meaningful to me.
What can people expect from Chui Wan in 2015? Any new albums or music?
Liu Xinyu: We will release our second, self-titled album “Chui Wan” in April and bring it to Austin Psych Festival. We will tour in US with some American bands and then tour in China (maybe in Europe too). We will keep writing new songs in 2015.
Yan Yulong: Yes, we will release the new album in April or May and tour in North America…
What is the first thing you guys ate when you came back from tour and landed in Beijing?
Liu Xinyu: Luzhu ( traditional Beijing food, boiling pig guts, pig lung and tofu in soup)! Chaogan! Big kidney BBQ! And lamb spine hot pot!
Wu Qiong: Rice and noodles.
Yan Yulong: I think Beijing food is nothing special.
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Black and white photograph used within article; credit: Fang Zhou
Jay Oliva is an American storyboard artist, a film producer and animated film director working for Warner Brothers Animation. We talk to Jay about the success and creative process behind Batman: Assault on Arkham, and his work on the new Dawn of Justice (Superman vs Batman) film. Don’t forget though, Mr. Oliva doesn’t sleep so catch his new film out on April 14th. Batman vs. Robin is based on the Court of Owls storyline, revolving around a secret society housed in Gotham that pulls the strings of the city and raises kidnapped, brainwashed children as assassins to carry out their dirty work. Read below for the full Q&A…
Batman: Assault on Arkham often distances itself from the video game franchise upon which it’s based. When this film was in the stages of conception, what was the creative process like?
You’d have to ask the writer, Heath Corson for this one. The director is brought on once the script is ready. Usually it’s the producer, in this case it would be James Tucker and Alan Burnett who would work closely with the writer at development stage. I am brought in once we start pre-production, design, storyboards, etc.
It’s a bold move to direct a Gotham-set film that focuses on someone other than Batman for a change. Were you nervous about crowd reception regarding this?
Not really. It’s actually more flexibility when you are not focusing on Batman. everyone knows Batman so there is always a certain expectation when you do a story around him. When your story is about a character or characters that isn’t too well known, you are able to try different things.
How did you feel Ethan Spaulding handled ‘Son of Batman’. Do you think you would have took a similar approach?
Every director is different. I think Ethan did a great job with the film and when we take on the director reigns we try to make it unique to our own tastes. There are a lot of things I would have done similar to what he did but there are also a lot of things that I would tried something different. It’s great to have so many talented artists at the studio so that all of the various projects we do all feel different.
Could you give us your take on this particular Harley Quinn, her move to the printed page and the evolution of her character through various media, including this film?
Harley in the film is a little bit of the classic Bruce Timm Harley and the more edgier Arkham video game version. I added a bit more hurt/scorn to her character because she had just taken the fall for a botched Joker plan and she’s hating him for it. I kept it open to interpretation whether or not breaking Joker out of jail was her plan all along… She is insane after all and I think that’s one of the things we love about her. She’s unpredictable.
With 76 minutes to play with each time how do you balance action scenes and strong characterization? Was it hard at first and now you’ve pretty much figured out the right formula?
I’ve worked in both tv series and film over the past 19 years and I’ve gotten pretty good at gauging how long something is when I read the script. My main goal is to make sure that the move plays out with the right amount of action and character moments. I have to still work within the confines of the 76 minute format but I try to map out the highs action moments with the equally important exposition scenes. I basically try to make movies that I want to sit in a theater and see.
Some people would be happy just being able to direct and be involved with animated films but you also double as a storyboard artist for many motion pictures. Why do you continue to work both jobs? Does storyboarding help you in constructing your animated films or do you just love working on live action films as well?
I just love storytelling. Whether it’s live action or animated, I’m a story teller at heart. When I work on the live action films, I’m following the lead of the director and its a great collaboration. When I get to be the director, I have a bit more freedom to do things that appeal to my own personal tastes since I’m involved with not just the storyboards but also in the character, background and prop designs, as well as the music, sound effects, and editing. When I get to be the director I have much more flexibility and freedom to mold the movie to what I see in my head. Both mediums of live action and animation has its pros and cons but ultimately I’m more interested in telling the stories that I am passionate about.
So with 4 months of pre production on your animated films, compared to your live action films. Do you create any differently having more time to work on a project?
Live action and animation are very similar in the sense that sometimes the schedules are very tight. Having more time is always a luxury and I rarely get that with my animated films since once we get the script, we have to hit the ground running. Live action can be just as crazy but I’ve noticed that there are a lot more people involved so you can delegate some duties that we don’t do in animation. For example, in live action, the second unit director is usually the one who works out the action sequences in a film. Doing storyboards for live action I still have to work out the shot and setup but I don’t really have to go all that in depth with the choreography. In animation, the storyboard artist not only has to draw the shot but also the choreography and camera movement. Since the animators are following what we lay out in the storyboards, we have to be very meticulous.
Both mediums are a collaboration of many different people but in animation I’ve noticed that we have a much smaller crew and therefore have to do multiple jobs.
What are your favorite Anime films?
My favorite Anime includes a lot of old classics like Akira, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Otomo’s “Memories”, Street Fighter the movie, Ninja Scroll, Bubblegum Crisis, Macross/ Robotech, and Ghost in the Shell. Of the newer stuff: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Naruto, Soul Eater, and I’m obsessed with One Piece. The last movie, “One Piece movie Z” totally blew me away with the action and choreography and I hope to bring the same kind of energy to my DCAU films.
Bouncing between the Justice League and Batman franchises, what other DC properties would you love to animate in the future?
I’ve got a long list of characters I’d love to do. It really depends on the script/story. I enjoy doing adaptations but I also look for really good original stuff.
This one is probably a bit hush-hush, but what can you tell us about working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Should we believe the hype?
[Laughs] Well I can’t say anything since it’s still two years out. It’s gonna be a huge film and it will definitely be a movie event everyone will look forward to. I had a great time working on the film and I hop Zack calls me to come back for the next one!
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