In the Exclusive Interview series we spoke to various professional animators from across Asia to find out more about their experience and insights into their local animation industry. As the third guest of the series, we invited Ms. Hsieh Pei-Wen from Taiwan, an award-winning animator and experienced lecturer specialized in animation filmmaking and motion graphics. We are thrilled to have her with us.
ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST, HSIEH PEI-WEN
After graduating from Dayeh University in Visual Communication, Pei-Wen obtained her master’s degree at the Graduate Institute of Animation and Film Art in Tainan. She is currently teaching digital multimedia design as a full-time lecturer at Cheng Shiu University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Besides her academic role, Pei-Wen has been responsible as a curator for various nationwide design and animation fairs in the past few years.
Throughout her career, Ms. Hsieh has created many animated movies, most of which are related to her personal memories and female identity. One of her most iconic piece of work is the multiple award-winning, short animated film Mindscape (2004). Besides having been showcased in various international animated film festivals, Mindscape won awards such as the Golden Harvest Awards for Short Film and Video, and was nominated in the AniMadrid Festival International for Image Animation and Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival in 2004.
Thank you Ms Hsieh for joining us. Could you tell us more about your professional life? Why did you chose animation as the core of your career?
Thinking back to the beginning of my career, it must have been a combination of my talent, education and chance that led me to becoming a digital design lecturer. As an animator, you have to like drawing. I enjoy randomly sketching on my notepad and telling short stories. Having discovered my interests and talent in art in junior college, I went into university to study visual communication design.
I remember in one of the lectures in my final year, my professor showed us a short pencil drawing animation from Eastern Europe. I found it really fascinating and thought “It’s so cool, maybe I can do it too!” That’s how my animation journey started.
When did you make your first animation?
My first animation must have been my final year project at university. As I was new to animation back then, I really didn’t know much or where to even begin. I wanted to create a story about a person interacting with his cat, so I started by filming a short video featuring the person in action. Then I drew the cat bit by bit on a piece of tracing paper placed on top of the computer screen.
How did you find your first job?
I have been incredibly lucky. Throughout my career, I have received a lot of help. My first job was teaching animation making in Kaohsiung. With my capstone project in college, I managed to secure a place in a master’s program at the only animation institution in Tainan, where I learnt how to make animations from scratch. At that time I was wondering why other universities didn’t offer courses in animation, and if only young people could learn more about animation earlier in their studies, it would be amazing. In the meantime I coincidentally received a call from an animation vocational high school in Kaohsiung, asking me to join their animation department as a lecturer. I have been teaching ever since.
In the past interviews, you have mentioned that animation learners should keep an open mind and explore different possibilities in animation production. Can you elaborate more on this?
I encourage people to consider animation as a medium to demonstrate their artistic techniques and express their ideas, and to be creative with how they create animation. For example, when I was studying design at university, my professor in the drawing technique class asked us to draw the same picture using a different pen or material each time. This gave the drawing a different texture and effect every time, demonstrating that the same things could be expressed in various ways. I hope that the public and businesses can be more open-minded and understand the diversity of animation.
For those who want to explore the animation industry, they could think about the other ways to get their artwork noticed. Animators could consider showing their work in smaller theaters or combining animation with commercial products, such as using the characters to create merchandise. Not only would this promote their animation work but would also generate more cash flow.
Besides teaching, you are quite active in the animation industry in Taiwan, could you tell us more about what you do?
Five years ago my friends from the South Taiwan Film Association started The Thirteenth International Animation Festival to create more platforms for animators to showcase their artwork. I have been helping to organize this ever since. I fell that young directors desperately need more channels to showcase their works.
In your opinion, what’s the main difference between the Asian animation industry and those in the West?
I find that the animated film scripts from a lot of my students are very similar to the works of famous animators, so their works often lack originality and depth. When a piece of artwork doesn’t contain memories or isn’t unique, it is hard to catch attention. I believe that there isn’t a great difference between the Asian and Western markets but the commercial success often requires strategies to create fascinating stories.
What kind of people do animation business owners in Asia look for when hiring?
It really depends on the company and its size. Some employers say they want hard working candidates who are willing to learn, others want candidates to be able to work efficiently straight away. I am aware that some small animation studios in Taiwan have managed to win international, big projects or collaboration opportunities with global firms.
Could you tell us more about the Taiwanese animation industry?
The market in Taiwan isn’t very big so the Taiwanese companies should collaborate more with foreign firms to expand their market and exchange ideas. For example, they could take part in international festivals, competitions, or trade shows.
I remember that at one point many people from the Taiwanese animation industry talked about how the South Korean government supported their digital industry and that had paved the path. Unfortunately we don’t have this kind of support in Taiwan. Both individual artist and companies need to plan ahead for the market.
As an animator, what do you see as attractive and unattractive about your career?
The attractive thing is the chance to be creative and to meet fantastic people to collaborate with. The complaint I have, which perhaps is similar to other people, is when I had to work with difficult people.
What characteristics and skills do you think are important for an animator? Any tips for those new to the industry?
Having good skills is key, as well as the bravery to try new things. It is vital to have good personality traits. Keeping an open mind is also important, especially when receiving feedback for your work and collaborating with others.
Many thanks to Hsieh Pei-Wen for sharing her experience. This is the last of the Exclusive Interview series. The annual competition, iAniMagic 2017 submission will begin on August 1. Don’t miss this opportunity to build up your portfolio and showcase your talent!