We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Chang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
My favorite quote is that “story is king,” which I learned during my time at Ringling, and it can be applied to everything. I think that many people within the industry are familiar with this quote, and I think that it is very important to keep in mind for every part of the pipeline. Whether it be a design for an environment to finding the right composition for a storyboard all the way to the final render; if the visuals do not support the story to give the audience a better idea of the characters that inhabit the screen and how they progress the narrative, it is all for naught. I like this quote because it reminds me that in the end, our industry is composed of storytellers no matter which part of the pipeline we are a part of. My favorite affirmation is that “your work does not define your worth.””. I find that I often need to remind myself of this because I have low self esteem when it comes to my work as an artist–but that does not mean I am any less valuable as a person. I hope that young artists know this because crits can sometimes hit hard, but it is important not to take it personally and use the notes to grow, improvement will come with time and mindful practice!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a storyboard artist, it is my job to use cinematic compositions and entertaining character moments to create a visually compelling narrative. To find these character moments, I find that it is very important to be introspective and keep tabs on any shifts in my personality and any new experiences that might have changed my perspective because I need to imagine how any given character would react in their given situation. I have a fantastic group of friends who I contact weekly because we are all storytellers and we are constantly throwing ideas back and forth for potential stories we can create, which I highly recommend doing if you enjoy creating and writing. One of my friends told me that my greatest strength as a storyteller is that I “have a knack for pinpointing specific stories that may not be universally experienced but are universally understood that go beyond general attitudes like ‘“racism is bad.’”. High praise but it was definitely a long process of getting there and finding my story flow.
My first few years of making stories at Ringling were riddled with too general emotions and too on-the-nose representations of the core ideas. Now when I make stories, I generally start with a feeling or core message that I want to express and then find a visual metaphor that is high concept so that the audience can relate to my specific experience. If we are using my thesis film Princess Perfect as an example, I started with the core concept that I think beauty standards are far too high for women and that when we compare young women to these beauty standards, we are no longer asking for a person but an object. I then get specific with the concept by using my perspective as a Korean American woman and my experience in being told by my mother when I was in high school that when we went to Korea, she would make me get double-eyelid surgery. Finally, I make the story high concept by using the visual metaphor of a micromanaging fairy godmother who uses her magic to shape her daughter into her ideal of a perfect princess. In this way I am able to tackle concepts that are interesting to me that people can relate to but have an added layer to them that make them more specific by using my experiences.
Maybe this is the basic process for all storyboard artists, but it’s the process that works for me right now and I’m pretty happy with it. I have a lot more to learn, but I find that asking for feedback on your work and moving forward with a more critical eye makes me a stronger artist and storyteller.
I have a keen interest in making stories that are universally understood but are specific to any given perspective or culture that I am representing, especially to minority groups who are not as represented in mainstream media. As an Asian American woman I believe that I have unique experiences that I can share and that I am always willing to listen and grow to make animation a more inclusive and diverse media as it has been becoming especially within the last decade or so.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As a matter of fact, my best friend visited me a month ago and so I did plan out a week of fun for the two of us! LA and the cities surrounding it have so many smaller interesting places to visit along with major sightseeing hotspots that make filling a week of things to do very easy! Southern California is blessed with a broad range of cultures and viral foods to choose from which is best exemplified by the trendy Anaheim Packing House. I really recommend that place when you feel in the mood to eat everything. Similarly, The Grove located in LA has over 100 vendors as a historic permanent farmers market. For entertainment I took my friend to the beloved Disneyland to visit the California Adventure park to go to Car’s Land and other such attractions, NewPort Beach for a chill day in the sun, the LA Zoo which was a little too challenging to take on during the middle of summer, and the Irvine Spectrum which always has some event going on to keep it interesting. For more lowkey places, I took my friend to my local Color Me Mine which was very relaxing because as digital artists, we don’t often get the chance to paint with physical brushes. However I did notice that unlike the other patrons who were talking freely with their friends, my friend and I spent the two hours with dead silence and laser focus on painting our mugs. Typical artists. I also took her to the Cerritos Library which is very beautiful and we had great souffle pancakes like in Japan at The Source in Buena Park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First I would like to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to pursue a career in art. My mom was a single mother for a good chunk of my life, and because art is such a risky industry, she originally wanted me to become a doctor. However, once I proved to her that I was serious about my dream she backed me up 110%. I would also like to thank my art teacher Mrs. Lee from Vincent Art. She encouraged and advised me while I made my portfolio to get into college and I truly do not know if I could have done it without her. Finally I would like to thank all of my friends and faculty that I met at Ringling College of Art & Design. I met some truly amazing people there who helped me grow as an artist and as a person. I hope the industry is made brighter with all of you in it!