The vibrant and stimulating world of animation director Light + Mathematics, has been welcomed into the NERD family with open arms. Combining the use of his vivid colours, love of animals and youthful vision, Light + Mathematics’ CGI success has been measured with his association with huge blockbuster movies such as Harry Potter, Shrek, Ice Age and Madagascar.
Light + Mathematics’ humorous donations into each of his intricately crafted stories are adored world-wide by all age groups; they awaken the inner child in each of us! NERD would, however, like to take a step back and delve a bit further into the non-fictional world of the brains behind Light + Mathematics…
Talk us through your typical creative process when directing commercials for clients.
LM> It’s a pretty closely guarded secret, but first I have a long talk with my life-coach and spiritual adviser, Kasper. To the naked eye, he may look like an ordinary Australian Shepard, but behind the fluffy veil is an oracle of comedy genius. His advice is usually to stop bothering him, and start dissecting the script in search of opportunities to grab the audience with some thrills, humor, or emotion.
How does your work in VFX inform your animation and CGI?
LM> I get to dream bigger, in some cases, but I rarely think about the pixels and polygons behind the work. I think it’s tragic when I see artists adapting the story to cater to some trendy new tech. I prefer to collaborate on exactly the story we’d like to tell, and then work backwards, figuring out what tools will help us arrive at that goal.
What are the most valuable skills you earned during your time working with George Lucas on Skywalker Ranch?
LM> Um…allow more time for the hallucinogens mushrooms to wear off before meeting a film legend? Also, cinematography. That’s where my love for the language of the camera really started. (Seriously though, four hours is not enough. You’re still a bit of a space cadet.)
Any juicy stories from your time working with some of cinema’s most prolific Hollywood directors?
LM> Well, James Cameron once berated me with some pretty choice four-letter words on Avatar. I nearly crawled under the table in embarrassment. Eventually, he realized the mistake he was ranting about was, in fact, no mistake at all, and something he purposely did himself months ago. Avatar gave a lot of people ulcers.
How do you apply your knowledge of working on blockbuster movies to your advertising and commercial work?
LM> It’s given me a very high tolerance of intimidating projects. Nothing freaks me out. Some of the films I worked on seemed well beyond impossible at first. But little by little, with faith and hard-work, you climb the mountain. You get it done. It’s also given me a phenomenal bullshit detector. You can’t bluff your way through the big leagues. Things fall apart real quick if you try.
Why did you choose to leave your job as an Animator, Designer and Visual Effects Supervisor to venture into director?
LM> I get to use more of my brain, honestly. The jobs you mentioned… they are like spending a year doing a Sudoku puzzle. -One specific task, with very strained focus. With directing, one day I am researching urchins, the next day I’m writing a silly song. Then I’m casting for a talking blueberrry. And meanwhile, the carnival of life is happening all around me. The friends you make are friends for life. You just can’t beat it.
What is it that drew you to focus on character-based storytelling?
LM> It’s funny, because in real life, I mostly ignore strangers. I’m not a people watcher at all. But I can watch animals all damn day. Really. Have you seen a bird of paradise in a dance off? It’s the must intense and hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. Now THERE”S a character! That sort of thing, I love to depict.
Who is your dream client?
LM> Probably Guinness. I do live-action as well, and they make the most audacious films. For animation, it would maybe be Coke. “Happiness Factory” is an all time classic. I re-watch it every year.
What is your dream brief?
LM> Anything with a dancing bird of paradise on it.
If you could give aspiring directors one piece of advice, what would it be?
LM> This is actually some advice that the wonderful Jani Guest imparted on me while I was at Independent. Don’t sweat the money. Directors often don’t know where the next paycheck is coming from, so it’s really easy to fret about your future. This worrying can completely extinguish our creativity, which is the sole reason we are employed. So just trust that things will work out, and go brainstorm some whimsical idea.
What do you listen to or watch whilst working (if anything)?
LM> So one of my favourite perks of being a director, is a get to work from home, where I constantly listen to DVD commentaries of films. I not only know all the words to Boogie Nights, I know all the words to the commentary of Boogie Nights.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
LM> I try to go out of my way to find inspiration from anywhere OUTSIDE of my industry. What’s the point of just regurgitating last year’s John Lewis ad? I seek out everything I can get my hands on.. Theatrical production design, surrealist photography, origami and paper folding, tattoo art, Eastern European movie posters. Jewellery design. Brutalist Architecture. And of course, the dancing bird of paradise.
Thanks Light + Mathematics!
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