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6th November 2014
Brush with fame
Title of film: Zhu, Paradise Awaits
Director: Tomek Ducki
Animator and creator Tomek Ducki lives in eastern europe and works globally remotely. Here we quiz him about his unique visual style

Please briefly describe your childhood.

Hm, let me see… I was born in a Polish-Hungarian family and I was raised in Budapest. For those who are not familiar with that: Polish and Hungarian language have as much in common as Finnish and Czech, or Estonian and Croatian = Nothing. Probably the most useful information, however, is that my father is a graphic designer and specializes in posters, and for the twist, he was raised in Warsaw.

Where are you currently based?

For the past five years I spent most of my time in Poland, but it is a hard question as I constantly change my geographic position due to the work and other adventures. I don’t consider myself to be a part of any city’s artscene or community. Most of the people I work with move a lot as well, and they work with me remotely. Time to time I manage to organize a pop-up studio somewhere, and then it’s very nice too.

Are you buried away in a studio constantly animating? Or do you discipline yourself to have some fun!

Freelancing+animating+directing is a deadly triangle, like most of the people in those fields I am lacking a healthy social life and I tend to miss out holidays.

I think it is important to note that In these post-communist countries if you want to make a living from this type of animation you still need to be everyone a bit: manager-producer-animator-director-postproduction studio-promoting department-teacher-student etc. It is getting better though. In Poland for example animation producers of my age are actually animators, who decided at some point to specialize in producing.

How did your visual style in animation flourish – at film school or are you self-taught?

Hard to say from the inside, probably it is a big mess of everything, I have picked up things from probably everywhere. I think school is only helpful when you know what you are looking for. That being said, I initially wanted to study live action…

But if you are asking about my schools, they were MOME in Budapest and NFTS in UK.

Let’s talk about your latest music video for Zhu, Paradise Awaits. One of the key lines is “I’m born with this mighty sin.” Does this explain the serpent and apple tree symbols? Please tell us how your visual narrative evolved.

Yes, and then the title is also saying “Paradise awaits” + the art cover of the song is also featuring “The Fall of Men” by Tititan. Therefore the initial concept for the video was to go with the Old Testament’s paradise theme and symbols. Together with Zhu we chose a few points from the original story we found interesting to relate to from our point of view. For example how the eating of the fruit of the knowledge changed the vision.

There is also this rotating head which was designed to echo the feel of the music and lyrics which are sort of floating around in the imaginary narrator’s head. This head was the framing for the narration, and then everything evolves from its inside.

The video has a fantastic fluid motion throughout it, how did you create this? Did you use traditional as well as cgi – may we have all the details please!

Yes, that’s right, we animated most of the things digitally, both 2d and 3d, and then overpainted it on paper frame by frame – I refer to it sometimes as “manual rendering”. Rotoscoping over animation if you like. I like this because we have a good balance of controlled movement and accidental results with the painting.

The fluid motions, even the drops, were drawn frame by frame, and the actual paint used on the top also adds to the liquid feel. Mostly ecoline paint.

What was behind your decision to use the stunning fluorescent colour palette?

Given that it is dance music I wanted to have an impression of something which one could expect at a party. Another reason might be also that I was a kid in the 90’s…
Anyway, generally the whole animation has an approach closer to a live visual for a party.

Also, for this design we had to paint everything in negative – the final image is inverted, the white paper became the black background.

Your short film The Baths has won huge acclamation on the festival circuit. Why were you inspired to tell this story? And what method did you use to create it?

For most of my personal work I am inspired from motions = dance, sport, animals. I already had a few things consisting breaststroke swimming, and I wanted to explore it as an action and motion more in depth and what it triggers for interpretation. The main focus of the film became this moment of being in between two worlds, in this passage between what can be interpreted as life and death or past and present.

The method was similar to Zhu’s video, but given that we had much more time we made a lot of experiments and invented pretty low-budget home made tools. For example I covered my normal brushes in tinfoil and soaked them in water to use on a mobile tablet. Or another thing: We reshot most of the film from a computer monitor, while using optical effects in front of the camera lenses. (Another way of manual rendering…)

What are you currently working on?

We are just preparing the production of a pilot for an animated series for adults. It was already presented at a few places as a work-in-progress but we only got all the ingredients together recently.

Are you signed to a production company?

There were a few flirts all around but it never worked out. I am also quite lucky as the interesting commissions always found me directly, and I also like to be independent. Actually, now, I have my own company. On the other hand I cooperated and worked with a few of studios, and I can be hired for specific projects. Win-win situation.

You’ve had an enduring relationship with Basement Jaxx. How does the creative process work between you?

I was first approached when they commissioned a few animation artists to create live visuals for their “Scars” show back in 2009. But, actually, there weren’t many “creative processes” between us, and this is what is fantastic about them, they just let me to do anything as long as it goes with the message of the song and can be ready for the deadline.