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5 Minutes With… Thomas Faucheur



The newly appointed Fin + Effects Design Shanghai MD talks LBB’s Adam Bennett through his journey from music therapy in Kansas to VFX in China

5 Minutes With… Thomas Faucheur

It’s hard to think of many career trajectories that look quite like Thomas Faucheur’s. He grew up in Versailles on the outskirts of Paris before his love of music took him to, of all places, Kansas.

Now in his fifth year working in China, the Fin Design + Effects MD has been in his current role just over a week. Bringing decades of experience working in music over to the VFX side of things is a unique proposition, and one that he hopes will be invaluable to the post house as it begins a period of expansion.

To pick through it all, as well as reflect on the rapid changes underway in the Chinese market, LBB’s Adam Bennett caught up with Thomas.


LBB> You’ve lived in all sorts of interesting places – but how did a young French kid end up in Kansas?

Thomas> Well, I absolutely loved being a teenager in the 80s. As a young adult I moved from Versailles in France where I was born to Lawrence, Kansas. I went there to study music education and music therapy when I was 20 years old - I really didn’t know what to expect because I was kind of desperate to go anywhere! I had to do something else, you know. I didn’t expect anything but I was kind of a bit surprised - the town had only around 15,000 people but the uni had 25,000! That was a great time. Of course, I’ve been to New York and all of these great big cities, but going there was really good, really special.


LBB> Looking over your career it’s obvious you love music! Is it fair to say that’s been a driving force over your career?

Thomas> Oh yeah, ever since I was about 15 years old. Even back in France I used to be a DJ when I was younger. But I kind of failed my baccalaureate exam in music - twice! Honestly that was a big part of that desire to move somewhere else, to try something different. I was very lucky that at that time my parents could afford to send me over to America - and Lawrence Kansas is actually one of the first campus that really taught music therapy. So being in the US is where things really started to kick off.

In fact, when I arrived in the US, France had this reputation for being amazing with classical music, and everyone expected me to be this great musician. And I was the worst French saxophone player you could find! But seriously, I really have to thank the US system in that I was accepted there, they helped me to study and I had a wonderful experience. I improved in so many ways.


LBB> Throughout that time, did you always know that you wanted to work in the creative industries?

Thomas> I guess it has been around me as my parents were into arts, and my older brother was part of the street art movement in France in the early 80’s… oh, and my sisters are into dance and sculpture… So yes you could say going into arts was hard to avoid and music was it for me!

When I got back from the US, I wanted to keep exploring different uses for music. I tried to get in the music business of course, but I met someone in Paris who worked for Publicis Groupe and they told me, ‘Oh, I know this music production company called Musique Des Anges (Angel Music in English!). And that’s how I started. So I started working in that business since I was 27. And it’s been thirty years!


LBB> And now you’re working in VFX! How does that crossover work and how big was the jump away from music?

Thomas> A lot of people are surprised to see someone going from music into VFX. But I’ve been working with post production for a very long time. Of course, on the more technical side it’s two different worlds.

Even though music has been my main drive for the past 40 years of my life, I’ve rarely been able to separate music from film and film from music. So today I don’t feel like a stranger to this new direction around VFX. I certainly love the illusion and the reality of VFX which in a sense gives me the same impression that music does - the nirvana!


LBB> What do you mean by the ‘nirvana’?

Thomas> What I mean is when I am listening to music it takes me somewhere. I think that’s fair to say for a lot of people, it’s a way of travelling a little bit, like your mind is driving somewhere new. And now, when I watch a movie and it has these amazing VFX I really get the same kind of feeling. It brings me somewhere I was never expecting to go.

I’m more and more amazed with how far VFX can go. And I don’t just mean with films like Star Wars, which is amazing, but also there’s some very nice more intimate kind of VFX that you can see are really just beautiful. I think it’s such an exciting time for VFX in film.

LBB> You launched G.U.M. in China five years ago. Why was now the right time to make the change?

Thomas> After 30 years in the audio business, the timing was good for me to go for a new round in China and in Asia - Fin Design was exactly the challenge I was looking for and the step up I wanted to have.


LBB> And at Fin Design, is there a particular type of brand or client that you're especially looking forward to working with?

As long as the brand combines creativity, imagination and/or humour, it could be a car, food, bank or baby food brand, it will get my attention.

What I'm also especially excited for is to be opening an office in Singapore. That’s another huge international environment for us, and perhaps the start of a few more.

LBB> What are the main differences you’ve found working in the Chinese market as opposed to your time in Europe or the US?

Thomas> I think honestly, the main thing is that as long as you do a good job people are really not so interested about what your background is or what you’ve been doing before. Of course, I am working in Shanghai which is a very multicultural and international city so it’s hard to say that its characteristics are definitively ‘Chinese’. But that I would say that is the main difference I’ve encountered. 

LBB> Did you have any preconceptions about what it was going to be like working in China before you went there?

Thomas> I was totally open-minded. It all happened in quite a coincidental way - I decided with my wife that we needed to move and quite a lot of things were happening with China. I was meeting a lot of people that told me ‘I know someone in China’ or ‘I have just come back from China’.It seemed an amazing place and I was able to visit for a week, to travel and to do some work. In that week, it was clear how obvious it was that I should live here. It was meant to be. Even if China was not on the top of my list of places for me to go, it has worked brilliantly.

LBB> You've been working in the Asian market for over five years now - have you seen any major changes or evolutions over that time?

Thomas> I would describe the Asian market as ‘Fast and Furious’. Social media especially is quite terrifying in a way. If you go into a restaurant in China, you will almost always see a family with a phone in one hand and their chopsticks or fork in another, not talking. And the kid is also on their phone! Social media often says it is about ‘sharing’ but I think people are sharing so much less. Everyone is simply living in their screen so often, and it goes so fast.

LBB> And how’s your Chinese?
Thomas> Oh, we don’t want to talk about that! Shanghai is such an international city, there really is so little need to use Mandarin - and that’s a shame. I would love to learn and use more, of course.

LBB> Looking back over your career, has there been one project, or perhaps one company that you founded, which was especially defining?

Thomas> I have to say that the first project I have been doing in China was certainly the one that got my attention and still does: BMW M3M4 with MIC (Made In China) film.

That project was a challenge not only because it was my first in China, but also because other audio companies had apparently failed to deliver!

This film had everything in it: story telling, great CG, long format and diversity in the music: from cinematic to house with a powerful sound design: so five years after completing this film, I still feel very proud.


LBB> Who are your creative heroes, and why?

Thomas> I have quite a few, and I’ve been lucky to meet some of them! A couple of years ago Fred Raillard from Fred & Farid invited me to the FF party in Shanghai. What a surprise to see Tony Kaye with his small round glasses playing country songs on his guitar in front of the view from the Bund of Shanghai!

In music I could mention many artists but when it comes to music for films, Bernard Herrmann and Danny Elfman are two of my favourites.

LBB> Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time? Any current obsessions?

Thomas> Silence. I don’t think we have enough silence in our lives, times where we simply put our phone away. 

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Fin Design + Effects, Mon, 18 Nov 2019 14:51:27 GMT