My childhood in Singapore was pretty strict. There was a lot of focus on academics and getting good grades, so I found myself studying and going to extra after school classes on most days. There was a time when my parents would not allow my brother and I to watch tv. We still somehow sneaked in some hours of Pokemon, Digimon and Powerpuff Girls every week!
I always saw these fantastical plots taking place in the US, Japan, England or somewhere else overseas. I remember for one of my short films, The Kitchlets, I wanted to bring the fantasy back home, to a tiny apartment (HDB flat) in Singapore. I was a Brownie girl scout as a kid and I was actually inspired by the Brownie mythology and other household deities when creating the Kitchlet creatures. When my parents found out I wanted to pursue a career in the arts they were definitely skeptical. For the longest time, they thought it was just a phase I was going through and that I would grow out of it and pursue business, medicine or “at least” architecture or something that made money. People in entertainment in Singapore do not make much and being so far away from the American animation industry, I didn't even know it was a solid way of making money and just wanted to draw and make films for a living. I can understand my parents’ concerns with the lack of knowledge at the time and also living in Singapore.
I have always wanted to tell stories that inspire positivity through a fantastical lens. I grew up in multicultural Singapore with a lot of insecurity and struggled with self worth, feelings that many go through at some point in their life. I learned about other cultures and myths and legends and found myself wanting to create my own fantasy in my work. I’d love to present a film with similar characters who grow stronger and learn perspective on their journey.
I want to continue taking art classes as well as learning from my peers at work. Drawing and story aside, I want to learn more about the world. At the moment I am continuing my language studies in Japanese, French and Indonesian. Learning languages is so much fun, I love discovering new folk tales and cultural nuances as I learn about languages and their cultures.
I also want to read more books on philosophy and science as well as folk and fairytales from around the world! In art school we focus most of our time on technical drawing and animation ability, but I want to learn more about the physical and psychological world to help inspire the stories and thoughts I want to convey through my art.
There is so much to explore and we have to not only learn how to tell good stories but also learn what to tell stories about. The cinema was a sacred place for me growing up, a place where all my problems disappeared and I fully emerged into the stories of others. I’d love to build worlds that an audience can escape into and be entertained in. My ultimate goal is to become a director and create my own films with the most talented artists!
If the world was ending, I’d want my last story to be about the purpose of humanity’s existence. I want to show everyone that being human and living everyday, learning things, hating and loving each other impacted the universe in some way. (Something epic like that.)
For others on a similar path in animation, here are four things you should know:
Originally from Singapore, Clarisse studied at Tama Art University (Tokyo) and California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles). Other than film-making she enjoys myths and legends, a nice cup of tea, and making miniatures. She currently works at Skydance Animation Studios as a story artist.
See more of Clarisse's work here: https://clarissechua.weebly.com
Post compiled by Jeremy Hsing
Graphics by Amy Ni
Art provided courtesy of Clarisse Chua