Word of Mouth

Phil Strahl was born in Graz, Austria and soon realized he enjoyed being creative in many ways. When he got a Super Nintendo with Mario Paint it was a revelation to him: He could draw, animate and make music. He was 10 when he got his first computer with all the latest programming.The sky was the limit and since then Phil has established himself as a leading visual effects, animator, cinematographer.

He undertook studies at the Institute of Art and Design where he graduated in Audio-Visual Media Design. Phil's work is long and impressive. His list of credits have appeared in Norway, German and Austrian films; Appelsinpiken (Norway, 2009), Die Patin (Germany, 2008), Moskau (Austria, 2008), Finding Future (Germany, 2008), Windshield (Austria, 2007). He has also contributed much of his creative talents to Television and Commercials.

R. What is it about visual effects that attracted you to this field?
PS. This may sound cliche` but it's endless possibilities. You take something and alter it, shape it, improve on it and create something new to know how the different parts work together, what the rules of their medium are. To me it is this combination of working artistically on a technical basis.

R. Tell us about some of the challengers you face when working on a film project?
PS. Where do I start? Everything's a challenge! But in all seriousness, getting the funds together is the toughest challenge of all. You got your idea, you got your team that's pumped with creative energy and if you want to stay independent, you got to scratch together money and support from people who won't try to take over the project they feel "own". Once your project is sufficiently supported and not on the brink of falling apart, everything starts clicking together. Sure, there are more challenges ahead, so I urge everybody not to treat pre-production lightly. Only when everything is tested, every question answered and a solution for every possible (or even impossible problem) you can go into production without much to worry, when you're part of the right team.  

R. What projects are you working on now?
PS. Right now I'm in the middle of the pre-production of Back to the Roots (www.the-roots.at, if you allow me to plug it here so shamelessly), a socio-critical sci-fi drama based on the premise that there's a disease that turns humans into trees. And we're always looking for talented creative individuals to become of our endeavor, so don't be shy and get in contact!

R. Share with us some of the software you use to achieve your craft?
PS. For visual effects I came to love Nuke dearly and use it whenever I have the possibility. Still, I am not abandoning After Effects because it a great tool to get stuff done fast and easy.Further, I consider a computer without Photoshop not properly set up, neither could I do without the ease and user-friendliness of Reason or the complexity and sky's the limit--possibilities of Maya. For my job as colorist I came to love Apple Color in combination with Final Cut Pro. But in the end it never is the software that makes the art, it's the artists. If something looks like it was done with a certain software or plug-in, then you're missing something.

R. Music, is fundamentally an important aspect to any film or video setting the tone and mood of a scene. Where do you draw your inspiration from and what are some of your musical influences?
PS. I totally agree, the soundtrack and score of a film end up straight in your heart, whereas pretty pictures seem to tickle the mind more. Artists I admire and that influence me come from all corners of the record shop. Especially the works of Bill Brown (billbrownmusic.com) are a constant source of inspiration for everything cinematic. But inspiration can come from CSI-NY, a Nintendo game from the 80s, a  Radiohead song, guitar lick from some obscure glam-rock band, a Japanese TV show or from Keith Jarret's amazing improvisation skills. It is really hard, though, to come up with names because I'd never be able to finish answering this question.

R. What advice would you give to a younger generation wanting to pursue this field?
PS. Learn, experiment, dream! Look behind the mirror, grasp how everything comes together. In visual effects this means to learn how cameras work, where and how light ends up on film or on a chip; in making movies it means that you shouldn't take everything at face value. Instead have an open mind, be curious and stay humble: There's always something that you can learn, no matter how good you think you are. Be nice, be persistent and if you are a guy in the field of CG and/or visual effects: treat your fellow female artists with respect, they are as good and as professional as you are (usually even more if they are in the same position you are), no need to patronize them, look down on them or treat them differently than your male buddies. Don't be a dick.

Last but not Least…

R. What animation character would you best say describes your personality and is there anything you would do different?
PS. Currently I'm in a rather stressful phase, so if anybody knows or remembers  Stressed Eric; that describes me the best at the moment. Or Scrat: I just want my acorn, yet the world makes it impossible. But all kidding aside, I'd say that I am most like the dog from Pixar's UP! A rather playful fellow, not too bright, but full of love. Still I would try to slim down and get opposable thumbs pronto so I could get cracking with a pencil.

check out Phil at: www.philstrahl.com