We had the good fortune of connecting with Clarisse Chua and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clarisse, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
I worry a lot so I try to find happiness in little peaceful moments in life. When I have a cup of tea in the morning. When I pet my cats and they pur. When my partner laughs at my silly jokes. Watching a good film or playing a board game. When colleagues at work passionately talk about stories. Seeing people laugh. Such moments just make me feel full and content.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel, like many in the field, I strive to tell specific stories with universal messages. Perhaps what sets me apart was my growing up in Singapore, a multicultural society much like the US, except with more Chinese, Indian and Malay folk. Being introduced to different traditions growing up, I grew interested in different cultures and fell in love with mythology from around the world. Many of these mythologies inspire more work today. For example, my film, Taku & Mama, was inspired by the Japanese mythology of the Tengu and the relationship I have with my parents. The Kitchlets, was inspired by Brownie creatures from Scottish folklore and other house deities. Mythology and fantasy continue to inspire my work today.
Growing up in Singapore, it seemed impossible to become an artist, let alone an artist in animation. The world of film-making seemed so far away from our small island. Convincing my parents to let me pursue the arts and enrolling in an art program in Singapore was difficult for me.
I was rejected from about six art schools and programs and my parents did not allow me to attend art classes and thought drawing was just a phase that will pass. Despite this, I was determined that I wanted to make films and kept drawing during my spare time. I drew so much my parents once banned me from drawing. (To counter this I sneakily doodled at school.) After getting a decent score for my Cambridge ‘A’ level examinations in junior college (aka high school), I moved to Japan, thinking I was going to work as an animator there in the future. Until that point, I worked on my art skills on my own. In retrospect, I am truly grateful for my time in Japan. Without it, I would not have been exposed to life drawing classes and a proper foundational art education.
While in Tama Art University in Tokyo, I realised I wanted to learn even more about animation and story-telling. I wanted to learn what makes a character appealing and what makes for a good story. This subsequently led me to California Institute of the Arts. As an international student in the US, job options seemed very limited and the pressure to get certain positions grew. I am blessed with the support of my friends and faculty at the CalArts for where I am today.
I currently work at Skydance Animation, my first job out of school. So far it has been nothing but brilliant. I am again blessed to have a great story team, director and crew whom I constantly learn from and get to know everyday. The pandemic has yet to bring down the passion everyone has for a good story and it only drives me to get better at my craft and story-telling skills.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am also new to LA in fact. I moved here in 2017 to attend CalArts and have mostly spent my time on campus and now with COVID, I have yet to discover LA and am definitely not equipped to introduce it to visitors.
One area that has stuck with me is Sawtelle! I love food and the food in Sawtelle is amazing. I’d love to go back there, perhaps with this best friend whom you speak of, and go for some ramen and ice cream. I love the Japanese shops around the area as well.
Another place I remember is the Grove. The food court at the farmer’s market has some amazing crepes and there is so much more food that I want to try!
Our school brought us to LACMA one year and I would also love to explore more of the museums in LA. Perhaps, after COVID dies down a little more, I’ll have the opportunity to get to know LA a little more!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I think there are too many people who are responsible for where I am today.
Without my elementary school art teacher, I would not have been encouraged to keep on drawing. Without my dad, who brought me to the movies every weekend, I might have never found my love for films and animation and discovered Spielberg, Peter Jackson or Tarantino. Without my brother and sister, I would not have had an audience to tell my ridiculous tales and share my comics with. Without my relatives, I would not have had people to rebel against and continue pursuing the arts. Without my mom, I would not have pushed myself in my studies to please her and let me pursue the arts. Without Hayao Miyazaki, I would have never discovered the vast potential of animation. Without my boyfriend, I would not have been exposed to directors like Michael Haneke or David Lynch and have a new outlook on film-making. Without my classmates at CalArts, my competitive drive may not have been motivated to keep improving. Without my friends at CalArts, I would not have been surrounded by passion and inspiration at and would not have been able to create my films. Without my uncle, who told me my drawings were scribbles growing up, I might not have continued improving my skills. And without the same uncle, I might not have been able to study in the USA and be where I am today. I want to thank my Uncle Ambrose, my mom and dad, family and everyone in my life who keeps inspiring me to make more silly drawings.
Other: vimeo channel: https://vimeo.com/user27767410