On My Radar: Kristine Tsui
Bindery director Kristine Tsui tells us how she collates her thoughts, why she's a sucker for magic realism and why Paddington bears repeat viewing.
What’s the best ad campaign you’ve seen recently?
I love this recent campaign for Nürnberger Insurance from DDB Berlin and directed by Wolf & Lamm.
It’s an unexpected and clever way to tell an insurance story. The word is idealistic and pleasant, but also offbeat without going full on dystopian. Plus, the jokes land every time. The geometry, colour palettes, sharp depth and rigidity are visually stunning and effective. It feels like a cross-section of Edward Hopper and David Hockney.
What website(s) do you use most regularly and why?
Pinterest. I’m a collector of anything visually striking and the platform makes it easy to organise files that I want to save for later. It’s great in pre-production for consolidating reference as I explore the possible look and feel of a piece. While it’s often video projects I’m sourcing reference for, there’s something special about letting other mediums like photos, illustrations, set designs, product packaging or magazine layouts inform how we approach a project.
My daily routine also includes time on AIGA’s Eye on Design, Behance and Dribbble to keep the design-thirsty part of my brain engaged. Taste is something that evolves. Time on these sites is my daily eye-workout of sorts.
Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?
Instagram. I think it’s an incredibly powerful visual tool to find people who share tastes and spur each other into better and greater work. I’ve met many filmmakers, photographers and illustrators because of it. However, my goal is to be more of an onlooker than an active participant. Social media breaks are also good.
What’s your favorite app on your phone and why?
Evernote helps me collect ideas and thoughts in one place. It’s where I write everything down - from short notes to full treatments – while working between desktop and mobile. I do some of my best brainstorming on the subway ride home, so I love having a place to capture everything. Often, random or disjointed thoughts guide me towards things that I pitch and make, so it’s important to have it all stored somewhere.
What’s your favorite TV show and why?
Can’t lie, it’s The Office (and has been for over a decade). But this month, I’ve been loving Maniac [below] and The Series of Unfortunate Events. I’m a sucker for narratives with elements of fantasy, magic realism or anything quirky and slightly off-kilter. Plus, both have killer production design and amazing casts.
What film do you think everyone should have seen?
Paddington (One and Two) directed by Paul King. Many of my favorite movies are young, coming-of-age films with fantastical worlds that tell smart stories. Stories that don’t patronise kids for being kids. I'll also admit that I’m easily drawn in by big movie magic: great casts, CGI, stunts and amazing set design. This series hits every mark and King perfectly grounds a larger-than-life world with a script where the magic is never too far out of reach.
Where were you last when inspiration struck?
Probably the subway. I think the best kind of inspiration stems from choosing to be observant and watchful. You never know what piece of information, conversation or experience sparks an idea.
If you could change one thing about the advertising industry, what would it be?
A wider, more level playing field. Being a Chinese-American female director at Bindery is a glimpse of what the industry should be like. It’s where being simply “Chinese” or “female” neither impedes nor advances what projects I’m put up for - it’s about hiring the best person for the job.
But in a larger industry context, where this isn’t a current reality, fighting for representation and gender equality matters. As long as we narrowly dictate who the storytellers are, a much larger message remains: some stories are worth being told and some aren't.
We’re partners in culture-building and if the content we produce has an audience, it alters, even marginally, how people perceive the world we live in. It can either make the world more welcoming and thrilling, or more exclusive and cold. Ultimately, this is not about being “colour-blind” or meeting a bid quota, but rather hiring the right people with unique world-views to tell diverse stories.
"Being a Chinese-American female director at Bindery is a glimpse of what the industry should be like. It’s where being simply “Chinese” or “female” neither impedes nor advances what projects I’m put up for - it’s about hiring the best person for the job."
What or Who has most influenced your career and why?
My faith. As a Christian, I’m thankful for the perspective, identity and sense of value that it's instilled in me.
In the day-to-day of being a director (and human being), I'm also incredibly influenced by culture at large. I find inspiration in a diversity of experiences and perspectives that inform all of my work.
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people don’t know…
My mom is a designer and my dad studied lasers in college. The perfect background for my career as a director.