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Tingting Liu’s stunningly beautiful hand drawn animation will Premiere at the 2017 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 4!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 05/31/2017

Tingting Liu’s stunningly beautiful hand drawn animation will Premiere at the 2017 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 4!

Tingting Liu’s stunningly beautiful hand drawn animation will Premiere at the 2017 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 4!

Here is my interview with First Bloom Director Tingting Liu:

Nigrin:  Your lovely animated film tells the story of the budding friendship between a servant and a princess in ancient China. Please tell us more about your film and why you decided to make it.

Tingting Liu:  The story is based on my experience as a child born under China's single child policy. I grew up with rapid changes in my country. On one hand, younger generations are experiencing new technology and global knowledge. On the other hand, the traditional thoughts and values also have deep roots in many people's minds. Many people get lost. To me, the story is not just about love. It also tells young people anywhere in the world: Life has challenges, sometimes we might not get the support we desire, but I hope we find the power to say no to oppressive people and things and fight for good, for our own life. China has an amazing tradition of art and culture with thousands of years of history. I am very proud of it. But tradition is not always perfect. There are some hidden parts only Chinese people can read in my story. There is only one man who can live in the palace, and that is the emperor. Others who live inside are Eunuchs. I am influenced by movies like Lai Shi, China's Last Eunuch in 1988 or the book From Emperor to Citizen: My Previous Half-life written by last the Chinese emperor, PUYI. Another thing I really miss is the beautiful environment we have in ancient China, with no pollution at all. I am hopeful the movie can remind people what the beauty of China used to be. I have been working in Hollywood animation industry for a long time. I have lots of experience in making world famous feature animation films. I have many amazing professional artist friends asking for advice, I think it is time to try a project about my story, my feeling, that is why I wanted to make First Bloom.

Nigrin:  Are all the images in your film hand drawn? Is this an original Chinese style animated film?



 
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Tingting Liu:  Yes, the whole animation is created by hand inside computer. I used cintiq and surface pro to animate in TVpaint. It is new technology for doing digital 2d animation these days. Therefore, in terms of style, it is very different from old Chinese watercolor animation, I am trying to create watercolor style with animation through modern computer generated software. It is very original, I haven't seen any other Chinese artist doing this kind of style in 2d software. I gathered lots of references for this film. I went to The Forbidden City in the north and to the Hui villages of Huang Shan in South to study the style. Also I learned from exhibitions like Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei. I studied many ancient Chinese art forms especially from Song Dynasty including architecture, settings, costume, make up, also thousands of paintings. My first try didn't quite work, I did many tests and finally I arrived at a style I liked. It is subtle, bright, but also simple. Overall, I am hoping the audience isn't so focused on the style that they ignore the story. It should be subtle, and always properly help support the emotions of the story. 

Nigrin:  Our panel of judges loved your film and actually wish it was longer. Do you plan on expanding this film? 

Tingting Liu:  It is possible, If there is any chance I can get some financial support in the future. It is not easy to get funding support for independent movie these days, especially as international worker. This movie is done almost by myself for animation part. If I want to extend the story to a longer version, a larger team would  be needed. Hopefully if any producer or investor likes our film, they would love to help us to make it bigger in the future. I can tell this style has great potential especially for the younger generations

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can rely to our readers?

Tingting Liu:  Making a film requires team work, although we are a very small team, I tried my best to make First Bloom of the highest quality. I really appreciate all those who worked on this film. Because I used my savings for this project, these artists helped me almost for free. They told me because they really liked my animation and not to worry about paying them. I am super grateful for their selfless help.  My composer Tao Liu is extraordinary. He found professional European string orchestra and Chinese instrument players to record the music for me. He has composed for many famous feature films and has a strong background in Chinese style music. He has won many world famous awards including project for student academy. Amanda Peach Hughes, my sound effects artist, final mixer and voice player is also an incredible talent artist. She has done work for many short films and won many prizes in national and international festivals. The water effects for this film were done by veteran LAIKA VFX artist Dan Casey. He has worked on many well known films including Boxtrolls, Kubo, Coraline, and Final Fantasy 2000. He not only did very subtle and artistic water effects for my shots, but also keep adding details I did not ask for making the final result even better. The most challenging part was creating realistic water wave and ripple effects, but not so realistic to be far away from the water color style. 

Nigrin:  You are currently working doing animation for Laika Studios in the United States. What films have you worked on for them and what are you doing in the future? 

Tingting Liu:  I worked on Kubo and the Two Strings, we got more than 50 nominations and awards including won BAFTA, nominated for Academy,Golden Globes, and Annie, now I am working on Laika’s next film project. It was quite intense for me working on 2 movies at the same time. In working hours, I focus on feature film top acting performance, exploring animation with the most advanced technique never been created in anywhere else in animation industry, which is challenging and interesting. But the most difficult part is, at the same time I need work on my personal short film. I used almost all my free hours including lunch time or breaks to focus on First Bloom, I needed to have very strong determination to finish this project on time. I hope as many people as possible could notice our film and talent team members. We appreciate that the New Jersey International Film Festival choose to show our film. Also thank you New Jersey Stage Magazine for giving us the interview for First Bloom.



 
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Here is the First Bloom Teaser: 



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First Bloom will be followed by two great Chinese Language films. Here is more info on this screening:

First Bloom Tingting Liu (Nanjing, Jiang Su Province, China) This lovely animated film tells the story of the budding friendship between a servant and a princess in ancient China.  2017; 5 min.

One Eightieth of Zhang Tianyi Shuhan Fan (Glendale, California) When Zhang Tianyi, a 25-year-old graduate of the most prestigious law school in China, finds himself competing with 8 million other people for a new job in Beijing, he decides to make an outrageous career choice: he opens a small rice-noodle restaurant in his hometown in Hunan. Branding himself as a new “great leader” on social media, he soon attracts more than half a million followers. His unconventional success becomes a telling commentary on the struggles faced by China's millennial generation. In Chinese, subtitled. 2016; 19 min.

Strawman – Tian Xie (Alhambra, California)  This is the true story of one Chinese family living in a remote rural village. A family torn apart when a mother and father are forced to go to work in the city to make ends meet and leave their children behind. What follows is the struggle of the three children who are left to fend for themselves: in order to provide for his younger brother and sister, the eldest son decides to turn to a life of petty crime.  This is a true story about modern China: a place of newfound economic expansion that unflinchingly tramples over and forgets the detritus it leaves behind in its expanding wake.  In Chinese, subtitled. 2016; 74 min.

Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University Confucius Institute!

Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482;
www.njfilmfest.com

Jimmy John’s of New Brunswick will be providing free food prior to all New Jersey Film Festival Screenings!




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.


 
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