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Meet Joel Lava of Stun & Volcanica in Mid LA and Burbank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Lava.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Joel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After being raised with a super-8 and Star Wars stop-motion movies, I went to film school at Northwestern (with a double major in Anthropology) and then worked film crew in the Chicago production scene.

Along the way, I picked up a Mac and learned gobs of graphics. Soon enough, I ended up at Northern California’s Industrial Light & Magic’s Art Department – animating storyboards. From there, it was down to So-Cal to work in the blossoming motion graphics scene.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has always been exhilarating & heartbreaking, with large stretches of lethargy, distraction, and peppered with inspiration. The biggest leaps in my career always came when I took many months off to work on a personal project. The biggest struggle has been when to recognize and seize a true opportunity, and to know when to pass. This gets even harder when a family and mortgage are involved!

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I work as a staff DGA Director and Creative Director at Stun Creative, while also doing side projects through my company Volcanica Films (get it? Lava?) with my wife who is a graphic designer. I’ve been fortunate to build a diverse reel of commercials, ranging from VFX/image to comedy dialogue. But what I’m best known for is playful VFX. I got my start – at being “known” – as a star animator in the early LA motion graphics scene. I loved to do complicated and engaging transitions, inspired by the works of Psyop, Shynola, and MK12.

I’d say what sets me apart is my artistic voice is irreverent, magical, and playful. Combine that with unexpected visuals, and hopefully, you’ll be entertained!

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in Austin, TX. The Austin of Linklater’s SLACKER. I was a good student and athlete, and I got in trouble for goofing off in class. I didn’t know if I wanted to go into film, advertising, or engineering. But once in college, I saw all the film classes and thought “That’s not fair, why do other students get to take all those classes?” Then I realized I could do that too.

My initial inspirations were VFX related. For some reason, I had the focus and tenacity to spend days shooting stop-motion in my bedroom, or even to spend a summer in college doing a hand-drawn animation.

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