5 December 2019
Patrick Lin, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, is a director of photography at Pixar after joining the US animation studio in 1997. Photo: HKEJ
Patrick Lin, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, is a director of photography at Pixar after joining the US animation studio in 1997. Photo: HKEJ

Patrick Lin and his 18-year journey at Pixar

Patrick Lin is a director of photography at Pixar after joining the US animation studio in 1997.

Lin was born and raised in Hong Kong. After completing Secondary Three at St. Paul’s Co-educational College, he went abroad for further studies.

Since the age of twelve, Lin had been determined to enter the film industry.

“I read about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in newspapers. After that, I decided to pursue film studies,” he says.

Working at Pixar for 18 years, Lin has participated in the production of numerous movie blockbusters, including Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc.

Inside Out is the latest Disney-Pixar movie as well as Lin’s latest production.

According to the story theme, inside the head of everyone there are the five core personified emotions — Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness, which are responsible for one’s actions and memories.

The protagonist, an eleven-year-old girl named Riley Andersen, experiences emotional distress because of her family’s relocation to San Francisco.

“The script narrates a serious story about how a person transforms from childhood to adolescence. We present it in the form of a comedy to handle this complex topic,” said Lin.

Lin majored in live action at university, which is nothing related to animation production.

“I hadn’t thought of pursuing a career in animation. I studied film and video at university, majoring in live action. My first animation was James and the Giant Peach in 1996 — which features live-action and stop-motion sequences.”

“San Francisco is where George Lucas rose to fame, and there are many production houses there. I was also studying in San Francisco at that time, so naturally I stayed and looked for a job.”

Lin says he began his career with stop-motion animation, which is more similar to live action. “Then my colleagues and I switched to Pixar together, which was eight years after my university graduation,” he recalls.

Lin reveals that Inside Out is his personal favorite, as the plot attracts him and the filming process has been delightful. This is also the second film Lin worked the film director Pete Docter. Their first collaboration had been on Up, the 2009 computer-animated comedy drama adventure film.

“Inside Out is the film that I have been most devoted to, working from 7 in the morning till 7 at night. All my colleagues have given 110 percent of efforts on it.”

As a father of two, Lin hopes that parents can take the film’s message home, encouraging their children to express all kinds of emotions.

“Parents shouldn’t prevent their children from unleashing their emotions. For instance, it is natural for one to feel pain after falling down. But we Chinese often order the children not to cry. What’s wrong with crying?” he says.

Lin also seeks to demystify animation filming.

“Like filming live action, you need a camera for filming animation, except it is a virtual camera that can allow you to do all the possible and the impossible. It is really no different from those in the reality as you have to take care of everything such as the camera position, the establishing shot, filming angles, etc.”

“Animation professionals should stay alert and disciplined, and follow the laws of motions in the actual world. Otherwise, it won’t look real to the audience,” Lin says.

Though he has a successful career now, Lin recalls his hardships before entering Pixar. He says he spent around four to five years surviving only on part-time jobs.

“I tried my best to live a self-sufficient life; however, I could only get one or two jobs for an entire year. I remember once I worked as a location manager for assisting RTHK to do some filming in the United States. All I could earn was only one hundred something US dollars, but it was still OK as I gain some work experience and enrich my CV.”

Working at Pixar isn’t all a smooth ride either. Lin has managed to take it easy in his ups and downs.

“I had been the director of photography for The Incredibles, and I was also slated for next film, Ratatouille. However, Ratatouille’s director was switched and so was me. I was heartbroken as my two-year efforts had gone in vain.”

And history appeared to repeat itself after the success in Up. Lin was demoted again.

“First you’ve got to control your emotions. After all, you used to be the lead and it’s not easy that you have to step down and follow somebody’s orders. I would ask myself whether I am truly into doing animation. Then I know it is still the best option to stay in the best company in the business.”

Working in a multinational enterprise, Lin points out some advantages that he has had by growing up in Hong Kong.

He says he gained easy access to Japanese and American comics by living in Hong Kong.

As he grew up in an international city, Hong Kong had influenced him tremendously, Lin says.

Despite living in the United States for many years and having a successful career there, Lin’s heart still longs for Hong Kong.

He says that he will definitely return to Hong Kong for retirement.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 15.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Working at Pixar for 18 years, Lin has built a successful career in the United States. Photo: HKEJ

Inside Out (left) is the latest Disney-Pixar movie as well as Lin’s latest production. Lin has participated in the production of Toy Story 2, among other movies. Photo: HKEJ

HKEJ writer