Andrew Thomas Huang was a college kid when he took his first Hollywood meeting. His first CG-animated short film — in which an android obsessively mimics the images it sees on TV — had just gone viral. After a few million views and a warm reception at festivals, Doll Face (2005) landed Huang in the offices of Endeavor, the talent agency that is now part of giant William Morris Endeavor.
Huang recalls sitting there, bright-eyed but skeptical, fielding questions from suits. "They were like, 'What do you want, kid? You wanna make movies? What's your five-year plan?'" he says, smoking an imaginary cigar. "I was like, 'I don't know! I'm an art student.'"
A decade later, the 30-year-old filmmaker, who goes by Andy and lives in Culver City, is one of music's most sought-after video artists. Following 2012's Solipsist — Huang's eye-popping, psychedelic short about how we're all trapped inside our own bodies, trying to break out and connect — he was hired to do videos for Björk's "Mutual Core" and Thom Yorke's supergroup Atoms for Peace's "Before Your Very Eyes." These short films form an aesthetic trilogy of handcrafted artistry and mind-blowing animation techniques.
Although he grew up idolizing the "dark, minimal, masculine sexiness" of music video artists such as Chris Cunningham and David Fincher, Huang took a maximalist approach with these films, forging a visual language all his own. He turns powerful sounds into surreal images: two dancers entangled in a rainbow bouquet of feathers, Yorke's face disintegrating into sand and rock, Björk conducting a volcanic ballet on the ocean floor.
For a visionary, Huang has refreshingly down-to-earth takes on art and entertainment, having cut his teeth making smaller music videos and commercials ("everything from baby food to lawn-mower ads"). His creative projects are sophisticated but made on minimal budgets .
He attributes his DIY approach to his dad, a longtime Boeing employee born in Hong Kong, and his mom, a retired social worker. His parents met at UCLA in the 1970s and still live in Palos Verdes, where Huang and his older sister were raised. It was there he learned a lasting artistic lesson, as a middle schooler, when a neighbor showed his fledgling video efforts to a friend at a visual-effects house.
"She said, 'You really need to hone in on your drawing skills, because the technology changes but your eye doesn't.' That's when I started to take art seriously," Huang says.
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This spring, he unveiled his most serious art project yet: the installation of Björk's retrospective at MoMA in New York. The focal point is an immersive video experience built around "Black Lake," the soaring, 10-minute centerpiece of her latest album, Vulnicura.
Projected onto two screens on opposite sides of a dark room whose walls are covered in fabric-wrapped speakers — evoking the Icelandic cave where it was shot — it's one of several immersive films he created for the installation. And it's surprisingly light on the effects that endeared Björk to Huang.
"It's not that I love visual effects, but I get bored with reality," Huang says, pausing to find the right words. "I just want to do something special. I want to do something heightened."