Beyond Asian — From Free Time To Freelance

ciccio coppola
5 min readSep 19, 2020

Back in May I received my first freelance job offer. Blessed by positive manifestation or whatever you want to to believe in, I was immensely lucky that this first job was about visually representing identity. Something that had piqued my interest in university and in an entirely new way, the art of animation. The initiative that called me out is ‘Beyond Asian’. It is a podcast platform for Third Culture Asians to talk about their personal experiences on life, sex and everything in between. Emphasis on Third Culture.

Third Culture Kid

”Individuals who are/were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality, and live in such an environment during a significant part of their early developmental years.”

I had been searching for my own answers to diasporic identity. It involved embracing personal identity forming experiences rather than subscribing to a national group or otherwise. So I was inherently suspicious of the blanket term third culture to describe a people with drastically different experiences. In the past few years I have observed a rise of Asian diaspora facebook groups, youtube channels and Andrew Yang as US presidential candidate. Many of these entities, have sought to monetize convenient cultural stereotypes, while in reality only representing an elite ivy league aspiring middle class Asian America version of Asianness. It trumpets ideas of a ‘model minority’ and I have heard it mocked as ‘boba liberlism’. Though, more than a laughing matter it dangerously obscures the experience and variety of the Asian diaspora.

My suspicions fell flat upon my first listening to the podcast. The personal profiles painted in each podcast episode went far deeper imagined. These were acutely revealing conversations. Within which I found a lot that resonated. Furthermore, it seemed that the ontology of the podcast platform was extremely useful to flesh out such complex concepts as identity in an Asian diaspora. It avoided reductionist tendencies and allowed for a certain weight behind the words of two people speaking personally and intimately. Moreover, it is infinitely sharable and showed first-hand how potentially important and impactful such online content can be. Curating and facilitating these kinds of cross communication platforms was a privilege and something I’d like to do more of in the future.

Regarding the actual project itself, earning money for animation evolved my work flow. In summary — a lot less faff and more feedback. One is forced to be ever more efficient with time, and churn out numerous ideas. These ideas and experiments are all subject to approval. To begin with, receiving feedback on one’s precious creations is bitter to swallow. However, a little bit of humility never hurt anyone. I also had the opportunity to work with a web developer who synced the animation to the scroll and mouse movement of the website user. Technically speaking a lot of challenges arose out of this and communication was key.

Click here for the website link. Experience it as was intended and get a kick out of interacting with the animation. The podcast of course is where the real treasure trove is.

Below is the animation in video form with original sound from my good friend — Mosseka.

Below the video, I have also shared a bread trail of how the ideas and animation were developed

Final Animation

Brief — to make four parts of an animation that answered four questions. These questions would float on the screen as the animation progressed. They have to flow into each other and also capture the style of the podcast

My initial idea notes below- these aren’t even worth reading. But useful to see how much he initial brainstorm developed over time.

1. Who are Third Culture Asians?

OR (Who are the Asians that live in between cultures?)

  • Somethin about departing — leaving home — Airport Departure Board — Vaporwave — 80s/90s 5am in an Italian train station
  • Departures- Asian city names
  • Arrivals — Western city names
  • Sketch ideas for it or just make in C4D — use ref images for font, colours, neon

2. These are stories about global nomads with Asian roots, and the interplay of this identity with the multiple cultures that have changed their lives

Show a snippet of their personal lives. Partying, clubbing, kissing etc.

3. We explore their relationships to their pasts, their places in chosen and inherited communities, and the use of cultural languages and codes

  • Depth of Field City Scape — dawn — Tired city waking up — places
  • View out on to it — similar to the peak in Hong Kong

4. But these are more than conversations about Asian identity — they’re portraits of whole people. What their hearts long for, and the impact they hope to have on their communities

  • Show a Character becoming whole again
  • Either photogrammetry or learn how to character model
  • Abstract person becomes whole (End of film kind of scene)
  • Style — lofi study beats girl. Anime/cartoony like. Not too realistic

Trash canned Ideas

Once the ideas for the four part animation had been established, we collaboratively storyboarded the flow of the animation. e.g

To finish — model, animate, texture, refine, repeat. With special thanks to lockdown, watercolour and zoom…

Water Colour to blend with the background of the scene. It made the scene more painterly