When I was a wee young ‘un growing up, my Saturday mornings from first light to noon were filled with watching cartoons. From watching the antics of my favourite ‘Looney Tunes’ I dreamed of one day working in animation and being able myself to bring these wild creations to life. Well, my life took a different path of course, but through these years I’ve maintained my love for the medium and my repect for any practitioneers of it. You think it’s tough working as a design studio in Adelaide, then try running your own animation business. One group of talented individuals who have are The People’s Republic of Animation. With a healthy mix of commercial and self initiated projects, they’ve built an impressive portfolio of work that has garnered a great deal of national and international attention. Producer Hugh Nguyen was gratious enough to answer some questions about his work, even though he was enroute to Shanghai to promote one of The People’s Republic of Animation’s Short Films.
Chris Bowden: When did you first decide to become a get into animatior. Was there the proverbial ‘pivotal moment’?
Hugh Nguyen: Can’t think of a time when I wanted to get into animation. My two best friends and I were intersted in it and when we were 14 started making animation experiments with clay models, drawings and a super 8 camera. It just evolved into what it is today. From then I was always interested in making animation. there was a moment when i knew for sure I was going to do this fulltime. By uni, we had set up a studio to work out of and had some commissioned work coming through the door. Meanwhile, I was studying Business Information Systems and had work placements at IT companies as part of my course which I found absolutely BORING compared to what we were doing at the studio. at that point I saw what it was like on both sides and decided to go with animation. I could start seeing how i could make a living out of it. For the reaminder of my course, all i could think about was getting out and making more animation.
CB: Who are what inspires you at the moment?
HN: That’s a hard one. a lot of people do i guess. In animation, there are the aussies who have won/been nominated for Oscars – Adam Elliot, Anthony Lucas and sejong park. I’m always inspired by Pixar and Miyazaki who consistently make great films and never compromise on story or quality. In business, guys like Steve Jobs who continues to be innovative and drive great ideas that change the way we live and do things. In terms of humanity, guys like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are now using their enormous wealth to make a positive difference and set the bar for the rest of the world’s wealthy, and Al Gore who shows that you can make an even bigger difference without having totake the highest office in the most powerful country in the world.
CB: Which of the projects that you have worked on in the past are you most proud of and why?
HN: Hmmm, i’m proud of a lot of the work we’ve done. but the ones I’m particularly proud of are:
1. Sweet & Sour – first Australian/China animated co-production
2. Carnivore Reflux – a very successful short film we made that we self financed
3. Errorism: a comedy of terrors – a short format series that was first rejected for its controversial subject matter, but ultimately got off the ground because it was a great idea
CB: What do you do to keep yourself motivated?
HN: Well I’ve always wanted to see us making long format TV series and feature films. so as long as we haven’t made one yet, that’s enough motivation for me. but generally, seeing the stuff we work on and working with the great people we have at PRA and beyond gets me out of bed every morning.
CB: How do you approach a new project? How do you overcome the ‘dreaded blank page’ (or screen)?
HN: LOL. i’m not really on the “idea generation” side, but as a producer I do help refine ideas into “projects”. I work with great people that ensure that i am never short of a good idea!
CB: What are some of the unique challenges you’ve come up against plying your craft in a small town like Adelaide (and
finding work!) ?
HN: there’s not a whole lot of demand for animation in town! this has made us look beyond our borders and try to win friends and work in faraway places. Of course the animators and artists face creative challenges everyday that I take for granted how great they are at solving. keeping a balance between risky projects and service work while keeping a business together is also quite challenging. but rewarding!
CB: What project and, or client that you haven’t worked on would you love to?
HN: I’d love to do a beverage ad! they’re fantastic and have a lot of money behind them! any will do! i’d like to make a TV series for Cartoon Network, Disney or Nickelodeon too!
CB: What music have you been listening to lately?
HN: Pot luck as to what is on at the studio! there was a lot of folk/rock from the mid to late 60s the other day. I think it’s because our creative director (who puts on a lot of the music) has been reading a book on Laurel Canyon. My housemate is listening to a lot of Tripod at the moment, and it’s kind of inescapable at home!
My thanks, once again to Hugh for taking the time to answer some questions and enlighten us on some of the great work that The People’s Republic of Animation are doing. You can see more of their work here at their website.