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Daniel Sousa

INTERVIEW: Daniel Sousa

Tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist. What is your practice like; how do you work?

I split my time between teaching, freelance commissioned work, and my own independent film-making. I work alone for the most part, although the sound design and the music for the films is usually created by Dan Golden, and I may require assistants from time to time to help speed up production.

The process is fairly organic. I tend to start by making sketches, paintings, or rough storyboards of sequences or images that are haunting me in some way, and allow those images to motivate the direction of the film. I almost never write a script, and prefer to nurture the growth of the film from the inside out. I have a background in painting, and maybe because of that I prefer to work in a very non-linear way, laying down a foundation for all the key moments in the film, inter-connecting them gradually by trial and error, and moving shots around like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Animation is a very time-consuming process, so along the way I make a lot of short motion tests, color studies, and start collaborating with my composer to generate sound worlds that fit the tone of the film.

From a technical standpoint, I like to generate the animation initially in Flash, and then print each frame on paper. The line-work is traced in pencil, and the drawings are scanned back into the computer. I then bring the scans of the drawings, painted textures, and background paintings into After Effects for compositing. The editing is done in Premiere. Dan will then take the final film and add the sound effects and music.

Please describe Feral from your point of view.

Feral started as an exploration of what defines us as human beings, or what sets us apart from other animals. The question of nature vs. nurture came into play, and I became fascinated with the notion of what a human being would become in a vacuum, without exposure to society, language, and interaction with others. It’s been called the “forbidden experiment” because of the obvious ethical impediments, but there have been many documented cases of feral or abandoned children that have shed light on the question. As I started to research the topic, I realized that in almost every case of a found child, if they had been away from civilization for too long, or if they had missed a critical time-window for learning language, the child would never truly fit in again, and they would be stuck in a perpetual limbo state for the rest of their lives, never truly human, and never truly wild. That condition was heart breaking to me, and that’s what I ended up trying to examine in my film. As a medium, animation lends itself perfectly to exploring states of mind, dream worlds, and sub-conscious visual associations. The wild child in the film is found by a hunter in the wild, and brought back to civilization. Everything is new, exciting, and scary to him, and animation helped me to crystallize his emotions in a visual way.

Please name three artists you are influenced by and why.

I am influenced by a lot of different things, not always animators, and not always even artists. Sights and sounds, and overall life experiences seem to be the most important influences. That being said, I’m a big fan of the following artists:

Igor Kovalyov: He is an amazing film-maker, and his films seem to operate like unique, self-enclosed systems. The movement, the compositions, the editing, and the sound design all work together to form patterns and rhythms that are unexpected and like nothing I had seen before.

Steve Subotnick: He was my animation teacher at RISD, and to this day he still amazes me with his very prolific work. He approaches animation as a pure art-form, exploring movement for its own sake. I am also awed by his work ethic, discipline, and dedication to his practice.

Matthew Barney: Although I don’t completely understand all the symbolism in his work, I am always fascinated by his unbridled imagination, and his conviction in creating surreal mythological worlds that follow their own rules.

What are you currently working on?

I have started collaborating with a friend to develop a script for a new film. It’s a new way or working for me, since I don’t usually write, but it’s a new challenge and it’s great to be able to work with someone else and bounce ideas back and forth. It’s still too early to tell, but hopefully we’ll come up with something that neither one of us could have come up with on his own.

What is your dream project?

There isn’t one specific project that I see as ideal. Rather, I strive to find a perfect balance between my life and my art practice. I would love to have the time and the means to achieve the momentum necessary to generate new work continuously without interruptions, each piece building on the last and informing the next.

What is one of your favorite 4D artworks, or pieces of design, and why?

If films can be categorized as 4D, in that they tackle the visual, as well as the aural and temporal dimensions, then some of my favorites have been:

Bird in the Window by Igor Kovalyov. This animated film has a wonderful sense of rhythm and movement. The characters are bizarre and mysterious, but also aggressive and organic.

Revolver by Jonas Odell: This is a film that is made out of loops and cycles. I love the hypnotic feeling of each shot, and how there is always something new to look at with each repetition.

Tuning the Instruments by Jerzy Kucia. The whole film is a journey from the city to the countryside, and the sights and sounds gradually transport the viewer geographically, but also back in time, to a state of unadulterated childhood innocence.

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