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Q&A with Gentleman Scholar Art Director Chris Finn


Chris chats to Gentleman Scholar's CJ Sustello about art direction, managing a team, Michael Jackson and jazz drumming

Q&A with Gentleman Scholar Art Director Chris Finn
Gentleman Scholar is a bicoastal U.S. creative production company drawn together by a love for design and an eagerness to push boundaries.

The company is proud to present this series of interviews with some of its amazing, emerging talents, in conversation with its LA-based production and marketing maven, CJ Sustello.

Q> What inspired your creative path from the beginning?

Chris Finn> Growing up I was exposed to and interested in many areas of the arts. My Dad especially loved music and theatre and would take me to our local theatre to see shows. Both of my parents supported and encouraged me to explore any creative endeavour I was interested in. Because of that support, I always had an eagerness to try new things and never shied away from an interest. The curiosity to immerse myself in many areas of art and technology has certainly led me to an industry that relies heavily on artists versed in design, animation, film and sound.

Q> Was there one person, place, artwork in particular that deeply inspired you as a young lad?

CF> I can remember my Aunt giving me a Michael Jackson music video VHS when I was young. I was instantly hooked and continue to be inspired by his ability to command all aspects of his art. He was notorious for knowing exactly how he wanted each beat of choreography to land on stage, or what story and visual tone to depict in his music videos. He really understood how to make an audience feel certain emotions through many techniques. This versatility in direction and ability to envision an emotional reaction is something that I strive to integrate in my skillset as an Art Director.

Q> You’re team SCAD. Was there a moment while you were there that you really felt you were exactly where you were supposed to be?

CF> SCAD is an amazing place for pursuing a career in the arts. Their tagline is “The University for Creative Careers” and that commitment was something I found to be most valuable at school. SCAD’s ability to attract industry professionals to campus and prepare students for professional careers is incomparable. They also encourage staying connected with alumni and the school as new students dive into the industry which really helps to weave the quickly growing network. The Motion Media Design department holds an event every year for students to celebrate their work and share it with alumni and industry professionals. Attending this event as a student was a moment where I felt most confident in my choice of SCAD.

Q> When did you discover jazz drumming and what is your favorite part?

CF> I started playing drums in 5th grade and it became a big part of my schooling until I graduated high school. I was involved in symphonic percussion band and played drums in a jazz group for 6 years. Jazz drumming was always very interesting to me because it relies heavily on improvisation and is incredibly liberating creatively. I also enjoyed the tight knit group within our small jazz band. It had a similar comradery to a sports team and was crucial for each member to listen to the other players. With such a small number of players, it requires dedication from each section to perform and pull their own weight. Drumming has also become a big part of my career because of the parallels between music, rhythm and a sense of timing in animation/edit.

Q> Who has had the most influence on your career?

CF> My parents both have strong work ethics and have instilled those values in me. Their dedication to their own business endeavors has helped me to better understand independence and the professional world. Also, the Wills have been strong leaders by example and have had a huge impact on my career. Their trust and commitment to helping each person within GS grow is invaluable.

Q> You have three brothers that you are very close with, what is it like being one of four? Give us a day in the life with you and your three brothers if you were all in a room together.

CF> I’m very fortunate to have grown up with amazing brothers who are driven, funny and supportive. We all grew up very close and shared similar traits and interests, including our sense of humour. We fed off of each other’s creative energy and interests, but also found our own unique pursuits. All of us were involved in sports which made us very competitive, but that spirit also helped to push each other and make each other stronger. Today when we’re all together there’s a lot of yelling, too much drinking and tons of laughs.

Q> What led you to GS?

CF> I met with GS through a portfolio event at SCAD and was quickly sold on the multitude of styles and design-driven storytelling they were creating. It was the perfect fit for my interests and where I saw myself as a creative. On top of that, the people were amazing and truly do maintain a family atmosphere that keeps everyone tight. Each artist brings something unique to the table creating an incredible team of talent that I’m lucky to work with.

Q> You are pretty young for the average Art Director and you are incredibly talented and humble. How do you continually push yourself to learn and fine tune your craft on a daily basis?

CF> Being surrounded by a team who thrive on young, creative energy and do not hold any barriers when potential for growth is shown has been huge. This idea is what excited me the most about GS and has led to so much growth and exposure for me as a creative. In my work, I strive to maintain a goal-driven mindset and work ethic to continue to develop and push myself. Watching and learning from the people around me has taught me a ton as well and kept me inspired when I need that extra push. I also believe being humble, but showing confidence is important.

Q> What is the most challenging experience in your career that you feel you have learned from the most?

CF> The most challenging part of my career is something that I’m still learning everyday. Managing how much I take on as an artist and leaning into the strengths of the team that I’m surrounded by. Finding this balance has become important in keeping myself inspired and a strong asset to my team. The right combination is unique for every project and something I learn more about each day in our fast paced industry.

Q> You are from Upstate New York, do you miss home or is LA your home?

CF> LA and the West Coast in general, have definitely become my new home. I love the ability to be outdoors and explore areas that I didn’t travel to much growing up. It’s a great place to live and work and I can see myself on this coast for a long time. That being said, I love having roots and family in New York. It gives me a reason to travel back and spend time in the city or upstate. As a family, we get together most often at our lake house in the Adirondacks in New York. It has become our serenity location and holds some of my most cherished memories as a family.

Q> What are your goals for the future?

CF> I’ve been really inspired lately by more stylised live-action and incorporating a seamless blend of technical approaches and mediums. I’m hoping to continue directing more live-action in the future and finding new ways to push the boundaries of the aesthetics we shoot. Outside of GS, I try to maintain an eagerness to find new hobbies. I recently started shooting 35mm film photography as a way to get closer to the very basics of capturing light. The technical consideration behind observing all elements that make up the perfect exposure is a fun challenge.

Original article published on Gentleman Scholar here
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Genres: Storytelling, People, Animation

Scholar, Tue, 22 May 2018 15:09:08 GMT