VFX Interview with David Tomaszewski, Director
June 22, 2020 – Today, David Tomaszewski, talks to VFX Online about Visual Effects Industry and his journey.
David Tomaszewski first started making movies at the age of fourteen, and won the George Lucas Award in California when he was just seventeen. David has since gone on to direct music videos for the likes of Gims, Sia and Orelsan and also won Best VFX at the virtual Berlin Music Video Awards this year. With his latest collaboration with TESSÆ and numerous other exciting projects on the horizon, David hopes to gain further support for his inventive take on directing.
// From David Tomaszewski, Director
How do you describe yourself professionally?
Multi-tasker : director, VFX / digital artist, scriptwriter, editor and illustrator.
What sparked your interest in VFX & Animation?
Movies. Feature films I grew up watching (Star Wars, Terminator 2, Indiana Jones, The King & The Mockingbird).
How did you enter the industry? What sparked your interest in working with director?
Right after high school, I went to college, in Paris, to study cinema. But I was disappointed by the poverty of teaching there and the lack of practical approach to filmmaking. So I left/quit after 3 weeks and was looking for a job in the industry. I managed to get an interview at a big VFX house, Mac Guff. I started as a young recruit there for 1 months, then joined a V FX team to work on a feature film, as a digital compositor. That was the best film school. I learned new techniques, worked with established directors on commercials, features and music videos, and learned how to work with a team / crew. On top of that, I could go on set, watching Vfx supervisors, directors, film crews.
I draw, paint, sculpt, play music and imagine things visually and stories, since I can’t remember. And I started being a huge cinephile at the age of 10-11. Directing is like the extension of that, or the synthesis, the sum, the “melange” of all that.
I then starting directing short films and using Adobe software at the age of 15. A whole new world opened to me. It was like crossing a portal to the “other side”, where magic actually starts making sense, and you learn all the tricks, one step at a time.
What was your favorite VFX Projects worked for that? What was the Challenges in this project?
It’s hard to choose because I have so many. But I’d say it was probably a sequence on the film BANDIDAS, a fun western with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. It was the biggest VFX scene on the project – a “fast slow-motion sequence” where the hand-held cameras rolls real time, but all the action is slow motion. I was still green at the time, around 20-21, but the VFX supervisor trusted me and let me handle the scene. I was honoured to be gifted such a great scene, and also learned a lot.
Every new project has been a challenge, since. If it’s not, there’s no fun in that.
What are your favorite Music Video Projects and why?
I really dig the last one – Tessæ’s “Bling” – because it was made during lockdown in London, and it was really fun to make. It was some sort of a tribute to Jim Blashfield’s work, who left a big mark in my mind since I discovered his music videos as a child.
Seb’s “Taedium” is definitely one of my favorites too, because of what the VFX tell and mean, the satire, the social commentary behind them. Good VFX are not only about the technique, the complexity, or the or the esthetics gf them, they’re great if they tell something, serve a purpose.
That’s also why I’m proud of the 2Pillz “A Little Bit of You” video, which just won Best VFX at the Berlin Music Video Awards.
What challenges did you face when creating VFX/Music Video Projects? Any fun stories from behind the scenes?
Challenges are always about delivering a video on schedule and budget, so I’d say : being on time while doing your job in the best way possible, with great VFX, and staying healthy. When you work hard on a project, you are usually on a diet of lots of coffee, red bull, junk food, and sleepless nights. I’m trying to work on that since I’m not 20 anymore.
What is challenging also it so maintain a certain level, and learn new tools, new softwares, new techniques and plugins. But above all, staying creative, and bring new, fresh and original ideas to any project.
I have no memories of fun stories happening during the VFX process, because most of the time, it’s very lonely. It’s just me and my computer. But I do remember 2 funny things that happened on set. First one : the client was telling me that the blue color we used for the backdrop / blue screen is not accurate because it doesn’t look like a “sky blue”, so I had to explain this blue is for technical purpose and at the end the sky will be added in post.
Other one : back at the time I was working in a post house, on a Sunday, the client came with his wife. The client asked we had another camera angle for the scene I was working on. Like a reverse angle. And to that his wife suggested we could just “flip” the image to get a reverse angle…
How projects worked on this lockdown period? How is the current state of the film industry?
If you’re able to shoot without a crew, with your own smarpthone, DSLR or your own Alexa/Red (if you’re lucky to own one), respecting social distancing rules and health & government measures, and if you can do all the post-production at home, by yourself or by hiring people from their home you’re used working with, that’s the way to handle a project, I guess. Or if you have animation skills, and just rely on pen, paper, a cintiq/Wacom, and a computer.
I know people in France working at Illumination, on animated features (like The Minions Sequel). Projects were first put on hold, but then the team started to work from home, on their own computers.
I am actually working on a feature film now, creating the main title sequence on the 3rd OSS 117 instalment (starring Jean Dujardin, directed by Nicolas Bedos). The filming was completed just before lockdown. The team of editors are working from their home, and I am finishing the sequence from my London flat as well.
Now the lockdown is almost ending, pre-productions are starting everywhere, and people can’t wait to be on set again. But I also hear many projects are still on hold, on postponed, with no filming planned before January or even April 2020. I think everything is still blurry, we don’t really know how it’s gonna be in 2, 4, 6 months, a year. We just have to stay optimistic.
Any particular artists/professionals that inspire you?
David Fincher, Chris Cunningham, Jean-Paul Goude, Paul Grimault, Frank Ghery, James Cameron…
Share something about that TESSÆ Bling?
6 bike rides in London (around 180 miles total), 1 hybrid bike, 4 drone pilots, 2 face masks, 3 toy guns, 1 blue screen backdrop, 1 smartphone, 1 homeschooled kid, 1 sound mixer, 4 drone pilots, 1 additional videographer, 1 adobe CS licence, 1 computer, 4 weeks, lots of instant coffee and Vitamin C tablets, and 1 partner/producer/actress, where needed for the production of the video.
Share something about that Gims, Sia and Orelsan?
Gims is the nicest guy. A superstar, but one the kindest artist I’ve worked with. And on each project, he trusted me blindly.
I’d say the same about Orelsan, who is a friend, and with whom I’ve spent a lot of time out of work, also. Down to earth. Both of them.
I didn’t have the chance to meet Sia. I think she wants to stay mysterious, that’s also why she doesn’t appear in her music videos for the last 5-6 years.
Share your experience about that George Lucas Award & Berlin Music Video Awards?
I won the Young Jedi Award at the Star Wars Fan Film Awards in 2002 (best short made by someone under 18 years-old). I was 17, for a short called “Sparring Program”.
I submitted again with another short in 2003, but it wasn’t selected.
I tried one last time in 2004, with “Escape From Tatooine”. Everybody told me : “why are you doing it? You’re never gonna win anything, you already won in 2002”. But I had this idea for that short and just wanted to do it, because I had fun doing it. And you don’t do short films for competition. You just do it because you WANT to.
Then winning the prize was seriously a huge surprise, because of my friends discouraging me, but also because the short was making fun of George Lucas a bit.
I couldn’t travel to Comic Con in San Diego to get the award. But I received a cool video, of George Lucas himself saying my name. What’s funny is that when people saw that video, most of them believed I did Lucas’s lips move in VFX to say my name. They thought it was fake, knowing I could do VFX. Today, they would be 100% sure it’s a deepfake video.
I couldn’t go to Berlin as well to get the VFX award, because of the lockdown, this time. But at least, I could watch it live (same time zone) and could thank my crew, live, on zoom, during the virtual ceremony. It was also a surprise because most videos (if not all of them) in that category were made by big VFX houses, and were mesmerizing, beautifully made. And I’m just a guy in a basement. So it was a great honour. But again, I see it more as a way to thank my crew, than for the competition. I never really liked competition, in general.
What do you like to do away from the computer?
Doing nothing, drawing, handcrafting, skateboarding, cycling, going to the movies and museums, walking and wandering in Kew Gardens, building Legos with my son, laughing with my partner, and recently, Kung Fu.
What will be your ‘dream project’ to work on?
A feature film I’ve started writing in 2011, “COBALT”. It is now in development stage, looking for funds, investors, and potentially a network. Fingers crossed !
What do you think about the future of VFX Industry?
It will never stop spreading, and getting bigger, as the technology is evolving so fast. We see new things like VR, now, Deepfake, hyper-realistic CGI…But I mostly think it will soon be accessible to everyone. You now have teenagers on instagram who are able to create pictures, in their bedroom, that are mind-blowing, with the level of Hollywood blockbusters.
You can learn how to use a software with YouTube tutorials, and if you’re passionate enough, you can make it in the industry, or even beat the industry. Youtube and tutorials didn’t exist when I started learning softwares as a teen. And the technology and computers were much much slower and expensive. Now, everything is possible. There is no limit.
Which direction would you like to take your career in the near future?
My doctor, my body and my family would probably want me to stay healthy, which means spending less time sitting in front of a computer. And I agree. So my plan is to be on set as much as possible, full-time directing, and hiring digital artists and VFX houses to take care of the post-production process. Any project is good : music videos, commercials, content, series, features, as long as it’s fun !
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get into this industry?
Be curious, be passionate, visit museums, analyse paintings, photography, sculpture, lights, watch classics. Start a project, even from a simple idea, even if you don’t have the final result in your mind. Work on it everyday, and put all you guts in them. And don’t listen to anyone. “Listen to the quiet voice.” (last one is stolen from Oblique Strategies, by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, a deck of cards that never leave my desk).
We would like to thank David Tomaszewski for the great interview, and if you like to know more about, Feel free to reach out Website.