We had the good fortune of connecting with Jarrod Chatham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jarrod, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
This is one of the most difficult questions that I often ask myself as a 3D artist, animator, and independent filmmaker. It is because it challenges one’s aspirations and what sort of meaningful impact one has on the world.
For much of my work, I am very much a perfectionist and strive for the greatest potential in my abilities as a young animator. In my animated work, I often collaborate with my identical twin brother Parker Chatham. I believe for us, our legacy will be that we are recognized as a director duo. One of my inspirations is the Quay Brothers, identical twin animators known for their dark and surreal stop motion shorts. I hope to be remembered as one of the artists who pushed 3D animation features to be more experimental, intense, and imperfect.
One of my goals is to make a feature film about identical twins and the discrimination twins face for being identical. I am currently co-directing my graduate thesis “Between the Two” which focuses on sheltered twin artists who encounter a mysterious forest spirit.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a 3D artist with a focus on animation and design. Early on in my life, I was very drawn to dark fantasy narratives. I was and still am a huge fan of Tim Burton’s work; my favorites are Corpse Bride and Edward Scissorhands. At that time, I didn’t quite understand why people thought I was interested in horror because what I liked, felt whimsical and melancholic. I started doing stop motion and gradually shifted to completely 3D when I got into USC Cinematic Arts.
Being an artist made me realize that creating art is a privilege and selfish practice. I made this realization when I was a young adult working in seafood services at a local grocery store. Cutting slippery fish into various parts, moving frozen boxes out of sub-zero storage rooms, and sanitizing equipment that bleached my clothes, I felt completely disconnected from the haven of my art. It was wet, cold, and miserable. At that time, I was living in a low-income apartment unit and was taking long bus rides. Not surprisingly, the job was brutal to my soft artist’s hands that were used to paintbrushes, pens, and a computer mouse. It was a service job after all. I soon left that job with renewed understanding of what I want to accomplish in my life.
When I took a course on sociology and creativity, I then saw the artist profession as a sacrifice. An artist is constantly confronted by pressures that force him or her to lose their creative ambition in the hard work they have done. Being creative puts one in a very sensitive and vulnerable place because the art is often put on display before the public. Will people like it? Would they be moved by it? What will happen to my work in 5 years? Am I satisfied with my work? All of these questions can quickly place a creative block on the artist’s mind. The artist has to fight for one’s vision while being consciously aware of one’s contribution to society. For the animation industry, the animator must understand that what one is making is entertainment and know how the work affects the audience. Artists should strive for how their art can further support stories about minorities, address societal issues, and offer intimate introspection on humanity.
These lessons instilled in me a tenacious drive for pursuing my creative vision. People were always fascinated by how I worked so hard on my art. Animation is so difficult and ‘soul-sucking’ (as one of my colleagues coined) that it feels heroic when the character starts breathing and feeling emotions. I hope I can make more animated shorts after I graduate and work as a director in the future.
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 always like going to places that stir the creative juices and get the mind energized. I would love to bring my best friend to the various museums in LA. I have been to LACMA and the Academy Museum, and both places provide a phenomenal collection of inspiring art. The Hayao Miyazaki exhibit at the Academy Musuem was extraordinary and beautifully done so I highly recommend it. Any outdoor swimming pool is great as I enjoy swimming under the sun 🙂
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 am very fortunate to have support and love from my brothers and parents who went through a lot to help my future. I am very grateful for the mentorship from the faculty members at USC’s Animation and Digital Arts program. My immense appreciation goes to my cohort and friends who helped push me to do better in myself as a person.
Other: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/chathambrothers
Parker Chatham, Jarrod Chatham