You’re all from varied creative backgrounds – how did the idea to join forces come about and evolve?
4 TON DREAM: Well we met at different points in our college careers, so we had that common thread of art & design and architecture. Then a couple of years ago we all decided that we wanted to remove ourselves from the city for a few months and live somewhere relatively isolated with the idea of creating a single piece that melded each of our visions (this became our ident piece “4 Ton Dream”). We found an amazing place called “Springwild” in Taos, New Mexico where we hid away for three months. The house itself was quite inspiring (see in Related Content) and we met a lot of talented and supportive people there that really encouraged what we were doing.
Previously, the four of us had each worked together in varying amounts, but we had never all four worked together on one piece. And though our collective interests are pretty diverse, our aesthetics and process of creating video and animation are pretty similar. So there was a unique chemistry when the four of us came together and started brain-storming about where we wanted to go with our ident piece. The landscape in the high desert of New Mexico is impossible to ignore and became a driving force that shaped the abstract narrative for that particular piece.
With so many varied interests – perhaps reflected best in your ident where mathematical references and literary quotes are juxtaposed with fantasy design – how does 4TonDream’s creative process work?
The Ident was definitely a unique case: no client, a dedicated two months ahead of us, little distraction, beautiful location. All of these factors made the Ident fun to make but also one of our hardest projects we created together.
We all roughly had the idea of making a live-action piece that we could shoot and tell a conceptual/narrative story by utilizing the surrounding land that bound us together creatively, from which we developed the story.
Much of the ‘mathematical references’ & ‘literary quotes’ were created as symbols of the large fantasy objects. These were inspired by many of the educational books we had as kids where detailed illustrations of fantastic subjects like spiders, elephants, or launch pads were often accompanied with simple diagrams or quotes to summarize their meaning. We thought it would be interesting to treat our imaginary objects & world in the same annotative style.
Do your strengths overlap or is one particularly good at writing the scripts, another good at shooting the live action, and one of you is certainly very good at cgi work, for instance?
ADAM: Our strengths definitely overlap, especially since we all come from a design background. The design of every element from the story, to the shot, to the final edit is very important to all of us.
4 TON DREAM: Technically we’re all four capable of a lot of the same things. Our process has a lot more to do with how we bring together our influences and interests. We give a lot of credit to Shiouwen for getting us off of the computer, which is much needed at times. She has a kind of childlike way of drawing that works its way into our process and also has a fascination with old cameras that has led me to look at things from another perspective. Rebecca has a documentary style approach to her story-telling that tends to shape the way we structure things. Adam tends to live in the future with Ray Kurzweil, so it’s fun to travel there and pick his brain. Our roles are not that clearly defined, but we each have our own niches we tend to fill and our special assets that we each bring to the table.
NATHAN: A lot of what Adam and I do draws inspiration from visionary architecture of the 60s & 70s like Arata Isozaki, Constant Nieuwenhuys, & Lebbeus Woods, or a speculation we ourselves want to explore and want to put into image or video. We both also have this fascination with structures that don’t work – follies and brutalism or abandoned buildings. These things create confrontational situations which generate human conflict which is an interesting basis for story narrative.
REBECCA: The moments that resonate with me the most are those that are rarely planned. Moving to the desert and meeting inspiring people there was a defining moment for me. One such person was Pozzi Franzetti, a passionate female metal artist. Another such time was working on a design charrette with inspirational educator, Sarah Ippel. I joined a cast of writers, environmental engineers, architects, & graphic designers to brainstorm a progressive school concept. Those moments really stick with me and continue to influence my creativity and storytelling. I believe a humanistic approach runs strong through everything I create.
SHIOUWEN: I tend to have the general story and vibe and pace I want laid out in my head before the visual comes in. Then I would think of the style and the look appropriate for the story. Overall, I enjoy things that don’t necessarily carry a straightforward message but resonate with people on an abstract or interpretive level. I am intrigued by the simpleness and the contrast of emotion against massive landscapes, and tend to incorporate natural elements and landscape in my work.
What is 4TonDream’s vision? Is the plan to create art projects alongside commercial work?
4 TON DREAM: Nathan & Adam are moving forward with their own short film work under the moniker “Freise Brothers”. They are currently storyboarding a script for a short film they plan to shoot this summer, a quasi sci-fi character story that lives in a world similar to the ident. They would eventually like to take the world and aesthetic they’re developing and explore those ideas further within a full narrative arc and project the resulting story to the big screen.
Shiouwen is continuing to create more narration-driven video-based pieces outside of strictly CGI commercial pieces. Currently she is in the process of finishing up a video based on her hometown and sketching a five-minute fictional short.
Rebecca continues to work as a multidisciplinary force. She is an architectural illustrator, designer, artist, & furniture builder. Volunteering in art programs for kids, she thrives on the energy when her work & personal practices bleed together.
4 Ton Dream was established as a method of exploring what the four of us could create together & we’ll continue to collaborate when opportunities arise!
And finally, there’s an element of childhood curiosity and fantastical invention throughout a lot of your work. It would be interesting to hear about your childhoods independently please.
NATHAN: I grew up with Adam as my twin brother so our childhoods were pretty similar obviously. Living in a small rural town I think kids are almost forced to be creative, mostly just to entertain themselves. We had a patch of woods adjacent to our house and Adam and I would spend hours there building catawampus forts out of sticks and mud and scraps of whatever we found lying around.
We would also take every blanket in the house along with chairs and stools and boxes and transform our basement into what we called “Worlds”. Once constructed, we would make our little sis run through it like a platform video game while we chucked fireballs at her, usually tennis balls.
Video games were a big part. I remember we had one called Mario Paint, which was kind of a rudimentary 8-bit Photoshop. It had a thing where you could create a whopping 9 frame animation and loop it. I was immediately hooked and wasted days with that thing. Lego too, anything where we could make something without boundaries. Also, practically half of our house was a wood shop our Dad built, he always encouraged anything we were doing that involved creating something.
SHIOUWEN: I grew up in Taiwan and went to the School of Visual Arts in New York for school after graduating from college. I have always been very fantastical, or ”non-realistic” according to my dad, I was drawn to small obscure details, and stories and questioned factual things when being told to simply believe them. Things from my childhood that influence what I am doing now would be the stories or fables that my parents told and illustrated storybooks.
I would spend time reading and got lost in a storybook that was only ten pages long but each page unfolded into a world I can still remember now. My major in literature in college was where I was introduced to the classic stories and characters, this also had a lot of influence on my ideas. I later started running around with a crowd of artists which oriented my interests away from traditionally structured writing and towards visual stories. This is something that echoed my childhood curiosities and also felt natural to me. The things I am drawn to now have remained the same, “wonder and the pure joy of creation”, which is also the main concept for the ident piece.
REBECCA: I have an older brother which made me more of a Lego and Constructs type a kid rather than dolls and dress-up, it’s the only way you get attention from an older brother. The two of us were always constructing something. I’d like to say I was the dreamer while my brother could solve just about anything. We were pretty quiet kids. My elementary years were spent in Iowa, just an hour or so away from my grandparents. I still claim my Grandma to be my greatest influence, she was a math and art teacher, a great combo inspiring me to go into architecture.Her advice while sitting together drawing a tree in the front yard when I was only about 6, “Draw what you see, don’t think about the symbol you were taught to be a tree.” A powerful lesson in many aspects of my life.
Direction & Art Direction: Dvein
Post-production & VFX: Dvein
ZBrush Artist: Luis Gómez Guzmán
Live Action Crew
D.O.P.: Alejandro Oset
Production assistant: Anna Carretero
Camera operator: Toni Rodríguez
Grip: David Felices
Make-up Artist: Salònica Rodríguez
Actors: Ramón Pin, Antonio Izquierdo
Sound mixing & mastering: Gerardo Vicente Martínez
Microphone recording: Alex Félez (Heptagon)