October 28, 2020

Curry Sicong Tian wins Student Academy Award for Simulacra

By Maria Warith-Wade and Taylor Yarber-Smith

Simulacra is a multiple-immersion experience that incorporates live action shooting/motion capture/3D scan and 3D motion digital art. It is about an elderly Buddhist woman recalls a ritual from her past, undertaking a journey of duality expressed through her many identities. Here is what award-winning director Curry Sicong Tian had to share about being one of the 2020 Student Academy Awards recipients. 

What was your inspiration for the Simulacra?

Simulacra comes from a philosophical treatise set forth by the sociologist, Jean Baudrillard, in which he explores the connections between reality, society, and symbols. In order to reflect and expand on these themes, the film also incorporates a prayer from Won Buddhism in Korean, Chinese calligraphy, Japanese Butoh the Noh play from Japan. All of these mediums examine the relationship between truth and society, especially the symbolism of culture and media involved in constructing a shared existence. In this film, I would like to pose the question - which world is truly real? Inspired by nature’s movement and the sacred Japanese dance, Butoh, the film transforms classical movement into synesthesia of immersive experience using a variety of visual and graphic technologies and modes of design.

It’s described as an experience rather than a film. Please explain why.

Simulacra is a multi-immersive experience which integrates live-action/motion capture/3D scan and 3D motion digital art. It explores the silent shout, the coldness of reds. This exploration of duality ultimately aims to find stillness in motion, motion in stillness. It is in the spaces between breaths where Simulacra inquires into the nature of cycles and one’s ever present, never-ending duality. SIMULACRA is not merely a 6:10 mins short visual film, it will also expand beyond into experimental theater, immersive performance, 3d motion graphic, installation, and alternative modes of storytelling in the future.

You came to the School of Cinematic Arts for graduate school from China. Why did you choose USC?

Born and raised in China, the deep-rooted Chinese heritage influences me a lot.  I am aiming to bridge the gap between eastern and western culture, video art, and film, expanding beyond into 3d motion graphic and alternative modes of storytelling. I think 3d motion is just a proper/useful tool to convey the idea, not essentially. I was in my last year in college and very confused with my future because I felt like there were so many things I was interested in but I could not find a way to link them up. This is when I found 3d motion,  a great way to combine graphic skillset with cinematic storytelling. So I applied and got into USC as a master student in animation & digital art.   

What are you working on now and what are your career goals?

I am a freelance 3d motion designer and full time contracted at the Mill studio with occasional part-time directing jobs. I am definitely interested in transitioning from the 3d motion graphics artist working for a company, into having creative control over my own projects and being able to direct. I want to bring to life the stories, visuals, and ideas that fascinate me the most, striking the balance between commercials and contemporary art genre.   

How did it feel to win the Student Academy Award?

Frankly, I was shocked. I had no idea what to say next. I wasn’t anticipating this at all. All the scripts and everything I had prepared for the moment went out the window. When the special guest showed up I didn’t immediately know what’s going on but finally, the words, “congratulations” came through and I understood. It was so shocking, but so exciting. I immediately wanted to tell all my family and especially my crew because I could not have done this without them. 

What advice would you have for students who are interested in pursuing more experimental work?

Stay curious, stay hungry, keep doing passion projects. Especially in 2020, we have seen a lot of “surreal” content this year. I also view this as a challenge and an opportunity for creators, and I think film is a great medium to convey the authenticity that we should create, record and spread the enlightening ideas effectively, it should be the micro reflection of the real world.  

Simulacra (click for more about Curry and her film).