For the roughly two years Win Leerasanthanah has animated blockbuster films such as Avengers: Endgame, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Spider-Man: Far From Home, he’s never encountered anyone like him in the industry.
Win told Coconuts Bangkok in a long-distance interview that while it isn’t easy working in Hollywood – where he feels like the only native Thai – it has absolutely been worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears.
“If you want to follow your dream working in Hollywood, you have to put in a lot of hard work and long hours. But considering all the coolest and most talented people I’ve worked with, it is for sure worth it,” he said.
In the two years since he joined an award-winning visual effects studio, Win’s name has appeared on the IMDB for work on eight blockbusters, including Bumblebee and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Born and raised in Bangkok, Win attended Ruamrudee International School. Though he originally went to the United States in 2009 to pursue an architecture degree at Seattle’s University of Washington, he fell in love with 3D animation after taking several classes in his sophomore year. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in animation at the renowned Savannah College of Art and Design in the state of Georgia.
There, Win directed a short film called The Fallen Swan, about a baby swan who has to overcome fear and doubt to escape a deep well. It became a featured entry at several festivals and was named Best Animation at the 2017 Southern Shorts Awards.
The Fallen Swan
That, Win said, opened the door to Hollywood. He now works at The Third Floor, a visual effects studio founded by Lucasfilm alums who worked on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The firm took home several Emmy Awards for effects it created for Game of Thrones.
His favorite job, Win said, was creating previsualization – which involves story-boarding and modeling 3D mock-ups – for 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“My boss would bring in mini-Star War toys like the Millennium Falcon and Tie Fighters for us to play with in order to understand how everything moved,” he said, adding that it was a lot of fun.
Working in a high-pressure industry took awhile to adjust to. But after proving his ability on several major films, he’s earned industry respect, especially having come from overseas.
“People are impressed to hear that I’m working here, so far from home,” Win said, adding that – though there are Thai-Americans in the industry, he hasn’t met another a native Thai yet.
“Sometimes, I’m like, ‘Where are my Thai people?” he said with a chuckle.
He said the culture and language gaps, as well as visa difficulties, are big barriers for immigrant artists. In recent years, however, he believes Thailand’s domestic animation industry is starting to boom, meaning more Thai talents may have space to develop their craft.
Not say he’s the only Thai-born creative to win recognition in Hollywood.
In 2014, a Chonburi-born artist was recognized for her work on Walt Disney’s Frozen. At the time, Fawn Veerasuntorn told Coconuts Bangkok she was blown away by the outpouring of pride from her homeland after she went viral for holding an Academy Award for the film.