Starting out as an animator, PSYOP creative director, GERALD DING, may have moved on to bigger things, but his mom still doesn’t have a clue about what he does for a living. “I was trying to explain what animation really is, and my mom said, ‘So you draw on the computer?’ I’m like, ‘Yes.’” Don’t worry, Gerald, we get you.
“…in terms of staying [in PSYOP] longer, like do I wanna grow as like a 3D lead or something like that? I think that wasn’t really in my interest. What actually was satisfying my creativity was realizing that I’m a story teller.”
It’s amazing ‘coz a lot of people have this dream company that they wanna work for. But then, they don’t have the guts to go for it, but you just contacted PSYOP right off the bat.
I was working at EA sports at that time, it’s a video game company… So it’s funny, me and my friend Simon, we’re pretty much fucked off the whole time, like we would get everything done three hours a day, and we’re in our office and we just kind of messed around. And I remember when I was planning to move to New York, I contacted PSYOP. I didn’t have job lineup and anything, and EA kind of offered me a new contract with new money and all—everything to stay. I turned it down. I kind of just wanted to pursue New York. And then I came back to my desk, and I got a call from Sandy, one of the founders of PSYOP at that time, saying, “Wanna come down and just talk to us?” It was a good sign.
I think a lot of people, especially creatives here in the Philippines, wanna work in New York one day. That’s always the goal. I mean I love the Philippines and all, but there’s not a lot of creative freedom or a forum to do whatever you want. And I guess that’s what you felt as well?
I was kinda like, that was it. Opportunity-wise, I mean. And like what I felt was possible was so much bigger in New York.
So how did you measure up reality vs. expectations?
New York is funny because it definitely wasn’t easy to move there in the first place, to have a working permit there and all those stuff, so that’s hard. But New York’s a big love and hate thing. There’s a lot of negative things about it, but you know there’s a lot of great things that are awesome. I don’t know if I consider myself a New Yorker but I’ve been there for 10 years. You’ve been there for so long and you remember all the crazy stuff that has happened but you still love it. I don’t know. It is a weird sense of pride for that city.
It’s not a city you’re born to, it’s a city you adopt.
“Wong Kar-Wai, he’s my favorite director and I guess it would be a dream to collaborate with him or do something. Like even be just one of his crew, get his coffee [Laughs]. I would love to get his coffee.”
So tell us about your work at PSYOP first. What did you do off the bat when you first got there?
When I first got there, I was an animator. I was a good character animator.
What kind of animation? Was it hand drawn or 3D?
3D. I think I was kinda trying to put a stamp on things, make a name for myself—what kind of performance I could give this character or this scene and that small piece or that segment of the spot. But then in terms of staying there longer, like do I wanna grow as like a 3D lead or something like that? I think that wasn’t really in my interest. What actually was satisfying my creativity was realizing that I’m a storyteller. So getting you to storytelling, it kinda switched from animation to camera work and 3D. Then from there, getting into more design where I would do some design pitches… Then eventually get into directing by winning some pitches. And directing is like a whole different ball game, but I mean it’s one that I really love. It’s a lot of different things that you know, it’s political, it’s stealing with clients. It’s also like a getting the best performance of your team. In the end, it’s still about… it’s just wanting to be a good storyteller.
Storytelling is super important to you and it’s truly translating a story and translating an idea to people. Have you ever thought about shifting to features, or to feature films?
Everyday! [Laughs] Always, yeah. That would be a dream. But there’s an animated portions of the spot, there’s a live action portions of the spot. I actually got to meet Christopher Doyle ‘coz he does some work with PSYOP as well.
What about your dream client?
A dream client? Wow. Well, maybe it’s not a client, but Wong Kar-Wai, he’s my favorite director and I guess it would be a dream to collaborate with him or do something. Like even be just one of his crew, get his coffee [Laughs]. I would love to get his coffee.
He shot a movie here in the Philippines.
That is Days of Being Wild. We were just talking about it. We were like, “Man, this feels just like them. Oh my god!” One of those defining “New York” moments for me was being able to go to this screening where Wong Kar-Wai was there, talking about his processes work and then Ang Lee presented him. To be there, you know, to see them, that was a huge moment for me. To hear the two directors, like they have this kind of respect for each other, this camaraderie…I wish I had the ability to take four years to do a movie and do whatever I want, and it’s just so funny like they had two totally different styles but I really thought that was really amazing how they had this huge respect for each other, but they’re also friends as well.
What is your advice for anyone who wants to do what you do?
I haven’t like completely gotten there yet. I mean, I’m definitely happy and definitely satisfied with what kind of effort I’m putting in the stuff, but I think you should definitely love what you do and still stay hungry and try to keep pursuing what you want. And no matter how it changes, failures are a big part of it, and I think you kinda have to enjoy your failure. I definitely did not have a lot of success. And definitely my goals and dreams have changed directions as well. I think you should embrace the failure, learn from it, and enjoy it. And then keep going for what makes you happy.
Interview by Rita Faire
Photographed by Nick St. James
For the full story, grab a copy of STATUS October 2012 issue