With the 25th Anniversary of the Dusty Film & Animation Festival in full swing (the awards ceremony starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, May 13 at the SVA Theatre and will be live-streamed here), SVA Close Up is continuing its series on successful alumni making names for themselves in the world of film, video and animation. For the final installment, the spotlight is on illustrator and animation artist Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi (BFA 1998 Illustration), who currently serves as Art Director at Pixar and whose credits include work on Monsters University, Toy Story 3 and Ice Age, to name a few. The Dam Keeper (watch a trailer below), an original animated short film Tsutsumi created with Robert Kondo, recently premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Tsutsumi took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for SVA Close Up via e-mail.
What makes a great film?
Film, like any art form, is about communication. If you can communicate moving stories, people will be moved by your stories. Great film is about creating something that can touch people.
If you could have dinner with three filmmakers, dead or alive, who
would they be and why?
Frederic Back: He was my mentor and friend. If I can be half the man he was, I will be happy. He passed away last year and I didn’t have the chance to show him the short film I directed. I just wish I could have one more moment with him to show him my film, have tea, and be inspired by him once again.
Conrad Hall: He is the greatest cinematographer who ever lived. Visually, he is one of my biggest influences.
Hayao Miyazaki (30 years ago when he was around my age): I have spoken with Mr. Miyazaki a few times, but I’d love to talk to him when he was still young and unproven. I’m curious as to how he would be (probably still a genius)!
If you find yourself stuck in a creative rut, what gets you out of it?
I love to do something physical or something completely different from what I am doing. However, it’s also important to get back to your creative challenge soon after. I think it’s important to keep working, struggling, failing and learning from it until you finally achieve what you wanted to achieve.
How did your time at SVA prepare you for what you’re doing today?
Since I didn’t study filmmaking or animation, you wouldn’t think SVA prepared me at all for what I’m doing now, but I have to say that my dedication as an artist comes directly from my days at SVA. I studied figurative oil painting with some incredible teachers who taught me what it means to be an artist. The life values I learned at SVA are still rooted in me. Painting instructors such as Max Ginsburg taught me about the importance of what it means to be an artist, and how important (yet difficult!) it is to stay true to your heart.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
If you think “being good” is synonymous with “being perfect,” then you are headed for big trouble. “Art is human”—this is from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Learn from your mistakes, and don’t let your desire to make things perfect stop you from finishing your work.