What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Mike Nguyen. My main focus (have been for quite some time now) is directing an indie hand-drawn feature entitle- ‘My Little WORLD’. I also recently became a faculty member at Kaywon School of Art and Design in Korea, sharing thoughts in animated filmmaking for 1 year.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Tough one… the crazier jobs had been dishwashing, restaurant part time jobs during high school days…, (not too exciting here).
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve been through many films including Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’… but the only one I’m truly proud to be part of is- Brad Bird’s ‘The Iron Giant’ (where I was supervising animator).
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always been fascinated with the cinema and have desires to make things move ever since I was little. In 8th grade I was first introduced to animated filmmaking through a group project utilizing paper cut-out. I asked my art teacher Mr. Pace if I can explore making a drawn film on my own and can use school camera to shoot; (it was in super 8 home movie in those days)… He said absolutely and with much encouragement. At which time, animation became part of my life.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I came to Earth through Viet Nam but migrated to the US at early teen years and have been living in the Los Angeles area since college days. From early on, I just wanted to be able to make own films, sharing thoughts, ideas, and fascinations of living experiences… I don’t think of this as a business, only after graduated from CalArts and one has to support oneself was when I can say I fell into the animation business. (Disney Feature offered me a position at the time as Effect Assistant in ‘The Little Mermaid’… I was very grateful for this opportunity but also knew my path would lie elsewhere).
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My days have been round about ‘My Little WORLD’, animating and all things creative that are required from being an independent filmmaker, as well as looking for the remaining critical funding needs with my company partner and friend Natalie Kim to get the film to its intended end. And for now, adding in presentations and lectures time with about 12 class hours per week.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
To be among the firsts to witness and to be in awe of the creative expressions coming to life through the animated medium collectively from our small circle of friends, who had kindly granted me their trust and journeyed with me on this sometimes very difficult indie path. Also, to inspire the young people to be in touch with their inner experiences of being alive through his or her creativity with animated means.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
At this very moment, there isn’t one.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Mainly pencil and papers, also with simpler technology such as pencil tester, Photoshop, Premiers and such.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part is to find an investor with a vision of something more than just simply following trends with strict numerical statistics as based to successful investment.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was very fortunate to have met a few, began with Marc Davis, Frank and Ollie, Ward Kimball, Frederic Bach, Yuri Norstein and especially Richard Williams (not in depth but have had friendly conversations, a bid more than just being a listener in their presence). I owed much of my ability to see to Bob Winquist, whom was most influential in my CalArts years and was a legend in his own elusive ways. I would also say working under Brad Bird. Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Brenda Chapman, Jim Reardon and Rich Moore were my schoolmates and classmates…, (among many other successful ones I can’t think of at this moment).
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
There were many but I’ll save this answer for a later date… maybe at my journey’s end.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Not at this moment; my full focus is to the film.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m utterly ordinary in this department.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I sincerely hope that one finds ‘that’ which compelled one to inner joy and don’t let go in light of making ends meet. Be very honest and sincere to one’s inner strengths and weaknesses. Be very sensitive, observant, inquisitive, respectful and loving to all things alive. We each have one life to live. If the road you wish to travel is not there, then- make one (know that you CAN).