A few weeks after releasing his short film Solipsist, 27-year-old filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang got a call from a music label. "They were like, ’Have you heard of Björk ?’" Huang remembers, laughing. Soon after he was flying to Reykjavik to shoot the music video for "Mutual Core", the highlight of Björk’s most recent album, multimedia epic Biophilia. "There’s a lot of volcanic and earthy stuff in the video," says Huang, now back home in LA. "We put Björk in quite a few uncomfortable set-ups when we were filming, but she was game for anything. She was a lot of fun and just very warm and trusting."
There are obvious parallels between the nature-inspired Biophilia and Solipsist. "’Mutual Core’ is a metaphor between earth’s crust and two people converging, and the effort that it takes," says Huang. "That was also what Solipsist was about, so working together made sense." Huang used his fine art background to bring performance, puppetry and a lot of CGI into Solipsist, creating a beautiful, elaborately imagined world that bridges video art and film. In it, painted bodies are slowly buried alive by writhing, vibrantly coloured tentacles, before turning into sand and dissolving into each other, then finally becoming a swirling, multicoloured dust-storm.
"Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with solipsism, and the idea that we try to communicate but are trapped in our own physiology," Huang explains. "I"m interested in the idea of synaptic gaps, that information travels by electric signal across an infinite void between two cells. language seems to function the same way. The way we bridge these gaps to communicate spurred the idea of making a film about connection."
Huang was inundated with request to direct music videos and fashion films soon after putting the film online, and his short won a special jury prize at Slamdance
and was selected for Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors" Showcase (previously a launchpad for Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry). "I feel like it’s important to reinvest in somethhing that’s for you rather than just for a client," says Huang, who spent late nights creating the Kickstarter-funded Solipsist while working day jobs at production companies.
But if you do it, you have to fully commit and tell everyone else to leave you alone !"
Solipsist isn’t Huang first work. In 2006, his short Doll Face, about a robot’s doomed struggle to be human, was a viral hit, and he proceeded to make a handful of music videos for the likes of Maximum Balloon, slowly developing themes that have come to a head recently - a love of the natural world, and an anarchic take on special effects technology.
"I guess it’s not conscious, but I think some kind of dark morality weaves its way into my work," Huang concludes. "I knew I was gay for a long time and I was brought up in a really Christian home, so absolutes, like sin and stuff, are something you have to wrestle with. I’ve always loved Aesop’s Fables - there’s smething that’s haunted me about these animals being punished for making very human choices. i’m always in love with characters striving for something, who face the consequences and dissolve at the end."