Mention of CGI often brings to mind blockbusters depicting planetary threats and epic battles, but could these graphical innovations be used for something a bit more personal? Science fiction and comic-book adaptations are great, but how could this new form of moving image be harnessed for more introspective or insightful means? This is a topic of deep reflection for filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang, whose work tells quiet stories elevated by powerful imagery.
He’s well known for making work that breaks down these boundaries, using painterly motifs and digital tools. Music videos for the likes of Bjork, FKA Twigs, and Serpentwithfeet burst with computer art in new and creative ways. Short films such as Flesh Nest—which features a couple entwined in each other’s arms as a new, artificial world grows around them, using their skin as fertile grounds—test our perception of what filmmaking can be.
提起 CGI 特效，总会令人联想到各种星球灾难和史诗级大片，而这些创新图像技术是否也适用于更偏向个人层面的创作？用 CGI 来表现科幻片和漫画改编电影其效果固然惊人，但这类动态图像技术如何用来表现令人深思或洞察幽微的故事情节呢？这是电影制作人 Andrew Thomas Huang 所思考的问题，目前，他正尝试用 CGI 特效点缀生活中平凡的故事。
Andrew 的作品向来具有突破性，尤其擅长运用绘画功底与数字工具进行创作。他曾经为 Bjork、FKA Twigs 和 Serpentwithfeet 所创作的音乐视频，无不是令人耳目一新的创意数字艺术盛宴。像他的一部名叫《Flesh Nest》的短片中，一对拥吻的情侣正在不断为人工智能世界提供养料，使得他们不断繁衍壮大。影片中，Andrew 用极富想象力的画面诠释爱的伟大。而在他所创作的短片中，这样的例子还不胜枚举，不断挑战着观众对电影制作的认知。
After working in a major production studio and realizing that commercial filmmaking would never do it for him, he began exploring alternatives. “When Trump was elected in 2016 I slowly began to turn my lens toward more personal subject matter,” he says.
Huang is a gay Chinese-American who grew up in Los Angeles, where his father emigrated to from Hong Kong. His mother’s parents are also immigrants, having moved to the States from the Toisan region after World War II. And so, the election of a president who campaigned largely on hateful rhetoric and an anti-immigration platform forced him to look inwards. “Reflecting on my heritage and family history began to take priority in my life and I began asking myself why I couldn’t use the same tools and visual language that I use in larger film productions and music videos to talk about my personal story.”
Huang was raised on films and television featuring almost no Asian characters, and even fewer non-white stories about gay people. Telling his own story meant he could reach others who similarly grew up without representation in media. He believes putting more types of faces on screen is central to a more equitable society: “How can young people dream of certain paths if they don’t see themselves reflected in a given industry? We have to give under-represented artists the gate keys, and we have to showcase their work.”
This newfound dedication didn’t come with an abandon of visual-forward aesthetics however. “Visuals will always be the first instinct for me; I’ve always liked things that took me out of reality, that were brazenly artificial with unapologetic style,” Huang says. “I feel like sometimes in the indie narrative world, there’s a dominance of social realism that often ignores style.”
在 Andrew 小时候看过的电影和电视中，亚洲面孔几乎为零，关于非白人的同性恋故事就更是凤毛菱角了。通过讲述自己的故事，他想要引起那些与他有着相似经历、一样被大众化媒体所忽略人群的共鸣。他认为，要实现一个更平等的社会，就必须在屏幕上呈现更多元化的面孔，“如果年轻人在自己的行业都找不到存在感，他们又如何会敢在这条道路上继续追寻梦想呢？我们应该给予少数群体的艺术家机会，并多去展示他们的作品。”
Huang pays meticulous attention to every visual detail, from styling, makeup, and custom jewelry to choreography, lighting, and, of course, visual effects. Anything that will add to the mood of the story is piled into the frame, and the result is vibrant and explosive, challenging notions that style must be compromised for narrative. His visual leanings are perhaps best exemplified by the music videos he’s created, and he relishes this type of collaboration. But he also bristles at its limits at times, complaining that “in the fashion, commercial and music video world, style is priority, often at the expense of substance.”
从造型、妆容、定制首饰到编舞、照明和视觉效果，Andrew 对每一个视觉细节都严格把关。让所有营造故事氛围的元素交叠于同一幅画面中，造就了爆炸式、惊艳的视觉体验。同时，这些画面正在向传统的固有观念发起冲击：视觉不必让位于叙事。他所创作的音乐 MV 很好地诠释了他的视觉倾向，他喜欢这种合作方式，但同时又抱怨道：“在创作时装、广告和音乐 MV 时，风格往往是优先事项，并常常以牺牲概念性作为代价。”
Due to his reputation, people often expect maximalist visuals, a sensory onslaught of images. His more subtle works have received mixed reactions from those clutching the purse strings, much to his dismay. “Mixed media and visual effects mean that my films are inherently expensive, which is frustrating sometimes,” he says. “I wish I could be one of those people that could just make a film with a camera, a script, and an actor, but the bells and whistles of visual storytelling are what I’m known for. Often when I’ve tried more minimal approaches, people look at the work and get confused.”
He thinks the best visual filmmaking requires narrative substance, and with back-to-back crises across the world this past year alone, he’s slowing down to focus on the stories he believes are necessary to tell. His first entry from this new perspective comes in the coming-of-age story of a teen girl told through a dream-like lens of kaleidoscopic colors and vintage styling. He hopes to turn this into a feature-length project. It builds on previous work like the tale of a young man working at his family’s restaurant who meets a deity and embarks on his first gay experience in a mystic otherworld. His piece about a brooklyn flex dancer interacting with a dark, mysterious force might be considered a precursor to both of these.
“Once images go out into the world they can do good or they can inflict harm,” Huang says. “So I think I’ve been more sensitive lately to the cost and consequences of putting work out there. Our time together on this planet is limited and given the tumultuous political and economic environment we’re in, I want to strive for emotional clarity with my work.”
由于他一向以极繁主义的风格著称，导致观众对他天花乱坠的视觉元素产生了期待惯性。相较之下，那些内敛的作品却口碑普通，这让 Andrew 感到十分沮丧。“使用混合媒体和视觉特效就意味着高昂的拍摄成本，这一点会令我焦虑。我希望可以成为一个只用相机、剧本和演员就拍成影片的人。但我一向以华丽的视觉叙事而著称，有时候，当我尝试创作更简单的作品时，人们就会觉得无法理解。”他表示道。
不过 Andrew 也依然认为，叙事对于影片是必不可少的。在过去一年间，随着各种危机在全球接二连三地蔓延，他决定放慢创作脚步，专注于值得讲述的故事上面。期间，他创作过一部关于女孩青春期的故事，作品中充满了梦幻的万花筒色彩和复古风格画面。他希望有机会能将这部作品制作成电影正片的长度。