When Cassie Shao left China at age fourteen for New Zealand, she established a template that would exist throughout her life; the pursuit of her own unique course and vision. Modern day finds Shao a highly acclaimed and accomplished animator who works on productions from America, China, and just about any place on the planet where interesting projects attract her. She describes, “Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to do animation. I grew up watching Japanese anime and never gave up drawing. I think I knew my own personality and that I couldn’t really be a live-action director or producer because it requires immense people skills and the ability to hold a whole production crew together. I was always more of a doing-everything-by-myself person and realized early on that animation was the perfect medium for me. The other thing is that Animation was the only medium that allows me to visualize and directly conjure forth imagined imagery without limitations or boundaries. I was always into surrealism, mystery and the fantasy aspect of film and animation. I was also someone who was into films or artwork that had a distinct stylistic approach. Mostly, I wanted to create my own world and present what goes on in my head, and all of the above just seemed much easier to achieve with Animation.” With awards from numerous different countries and offers from motion picture studios, music artists, and others, Shao has more than achieved her personal dream, she’s continually recognized for helping others achieve theirs.
To be talented most certainly requires a high level of proficiency. This is altogether different than being an artist; a definition which necessitates vision. Cassie Shao has confirmed her position as a true artist with her films like There Were Four of Us and Synched. Rebuking the status quo of the industry, Shao created and animated these films which displayed her commitment to cultivating a personal style and voice through the medium. There Were Four of Us vacillates between characters and storylines with an aesthetic that is hypnotizing and fluid. Her 2018 film Synched is a statement on the individual’s view of their own actions and results on society. The beautiful visuals Cassie created for this film offsets the main theme which lies somewhere between Dr. Seuss and the Matrix Trilogy in a chaotic view of the societal ripple effect. It’s immediately apparent from these films that she is a gifted animator but what’s most pleasing is that Shao seems inherently wired to create imagery that subtly offsets the story in the most beneficial way.
Embracing mixed media with music videos like Maggie Dave’s “I’m Not Ready” and “Black Bird” by Eddie Beatz provided both animator and musicians an avenue to influence each other. “Black Bird” was awarded Best Animation at Ibiza Music Video Festival, Best Animated Sequence at BlackBird Film Festival (USA), and Best Music Video at the California International Shorts Festival USA. Vastly different in aesthetic approach, these two productions display the diversity of the animator based on the emotion of the music. Getting out of her comfort zone is a requirement for a successful artist in Shao’s estimation. She looks forward to future challenges relating, “Animation offers such wide application; there’s no need to limit yourself to a traditional approach. I’m excited when someone approaches me about doing something unintuitive. As an artist, discovery is what makes the future unsafe and exciting. I am going to attend an artist residency in 2020 at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to continue develop the next animated short film project directed and animated by me. The working title is ‘This is a Story Without a Plan.’ It is a mixed-media short animation about two characters witnessing a slow yet constant explosion in their lives. The other dream of mine is to direct and animate the visuals for a play; perhaps a modern production of Harold Pinter, whose work I feel is like someone still able to be provocative while exhausted. The emotions are both inside and outside and I really appreciate that sort of energy. I love theatres and especially plays with innovative stage design. I saw a couple of plays, where at points they played projected film/animation behind the actors to create a certain atmosphere or enhance the storytelling. It completely transformed the space. I would love to do something like that. Whatever I do, I want it to excite other people like I’m excited when I see something new.”