The Hero’s Journey of Tarek Saleh

What is the best thing that I love about my work? Definitely the people. It’s very hard to describe the privilege of working in a creative field like ours. You’re surrounded with the most creative people out there whose only limit is their own imagination, so expect to be surprised with something so gorgeous and out of the ordinary every day. It’s humbling and I am very lucky to live through that.

What is my idea of happiness? My five year old daughter. I credit her with giving us a form of happiness that we couldn’t imagine existed as well as changing our perspective in life. Just seeing her grow and be her own person is a delight.

What is my greatest fear? Well my answer will have to go back to my daughter. I fear that life would take me away and I miss out on seeing her grow or worse, not be a good dad. There are a lot of sacrifices one takes in life for work or career, but being a good and present parent should never be one of them for any reason. I think every parent can relate.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Deplore is a tough word because I’m pretty comfortable with who i am, but if i can say one trait that i don’t like is questioning myself. This has led me several times to miss out on opportunities that I should have sought or decisions that I should have been more firm about

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Well I grew up admiring Phill Tippet like crazy and always followed him and his studio very closely. I also lived in the Bay area for years so got to see a few of his appearances which was great.
But for someone I know personally it has to be Thomas Schelesny. He’s someone that I consider a mentor and a friend and has had a considerable impact on my life. I turn to him all the time and always admire his generosity with both his vast amount of knowledge as well as his time.

What is my greatest extravagance? Nothing really that i can think of now. It used to be owning cameras and lenses as i started my career in photography but with time that has changed.

On what occasion would I lie? Yea i try not to, cause i deplore (going back to that word) people who do. If you lie one time then your word later becomes worthless. Also practically, it’s so hard to keep up a lie, who has energy to do that?

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? Well it used to be two things, inflexibility and overtime. The inflexibility aspect changed with COVID 19 as we’re now all WFH. So now it’s just the overtime.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I think on “Kubo and the Two Strings”. That production was so smooth and well run from a production point of view as well as visually gorgeous that I doubt I’ll ever experience something like that again. I also started tapping into my more technical and problem solving side and came up with workflows that I still use to this day.

If I could, what would I change about myself? Other than questioning myself which I mentioned previously, I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. I think you obviously should always look to better yourself  but with age comes being comfortable in your own skin.

What is my greatest achievement in work? Two things come to mind. The first is being a comp lead on Fruitvale Station in 2012. It was my first time to be a comp lead and I had a team of 5 artists to finish 30 shots in my sequence. We worked with the director, Ryan Coogler, very closely and he even did desk sides with us at the end. He also gave me a hug when he saw me in the premiere, which is something I always remember.
The other is launching my own little studio, Cannonball VFX, which I run on the side of my day job. It’s the toughest and most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.

Where would I most like to live? I lived in the Bay area for a long time and would go back there in a second. It’s a special place that I didn’t find anywhere else in the world, and I’ve lived in three continents long term so far in my life.

What is my most treasured possession? Hard one to answer, I try not to get too attached to possessions. But I love a little monkey figurine that I got from working on Kubo and the Two strings. Laikans will know which one i’m talking about. It’s really cool

What is my most marked characteristic? I try to be nice and it takes effort sometimes but I think everyone should try to do that as well, and be genuine about it too. You never know who’s day you’re gonna make better.

What is my most inspirational location in my city? I currently live in Mannheim, Germany. I really like diversity so I find Marketplatz a very interesting place that’s a melting pot of a lot of different cultures.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? Home. My wife is an amazing cook who I think in another life was a chef. Which wouldn’t surprise me, because she’s one of those people who’s naturally gifted at every single thing they do, it’s unfair.

What books influenced my life and how? Two books come to mind. How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie has taught me how to be a better listener and be genuine in my interest about others. I learned from it how to really listen and it made me really interested in other people. I try to practice that everyday. The other is High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove, It taught me how to lead and manage which was really important to me even if I’m still learning it on a daily basis.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day? Only because I came across it the other day and it brought intense nostalgia and memories, but I‘d say “Desert Rose” by Sting and Cheb Mami.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? My mom definitely, the amount of times she has supported me is incredible. I grew up in a family and a culture where to be successful was to be an engineer or a doctor or something along those lines but I was pretty different. She played a big part in my pursuit to be a visual effects artist and to leave my home country to do that. I fought for it very hard for years and she was the one who was with me  through all of this. She’s a Doctor and I still believe she doesn’t fully understand what i do but she’s there anyway. As a parent now, I also understand the personal sacrifice she must have taken to let me take a leap of faith into an unknown and be so far away from her.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? I can list so many. My favorite movie though is called “Awakenings”. It’s not a “visual effects” movie or a movie you see for it’s incredible cinematography. It’s a movie that I always believed to have just the perfect story arc. It’s also very touching and personal to me. It’s a true story as well.

What role plays art in my life and work? Well It’s gives meaning to my life to put it mildly. I started my career studying something very different which was computer science. I severely didn’t like it and felt very lost for about four years. Through that time I worked on the side as a freelance photographer and graphic designer, and that work was what saved me. I always credit art to saving me when I was a very confused teenager.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me? To me it means you should continuously take leaps of faith in your life. I personally do and I’m always very open about what I don’t know. I’ve left my country as a teenager to go pursue what I loved, then learned and worked and then jumped to another state to join a studio that I felt was very unique. Years later I left the US altogether and came to Germany to experience a culture that I’ve never experienced anything close to before and now work with some of the most unique people and best artists I had the chance to work with.
So far I’ve worked as a photographer, graphic designer, motion graphics artist, compositor and a business owner. With each I had no right to be any of these but I just took the jump to learn and make mistakes and fail and hopefully succeed at the end.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My wife definitely, You don’t move forward in life without support and she’s my support and i’m hers. We’ve known each since we were kids and have been together for 13 years, being married 9 of these. As previously mentioned she’s just good at everything she does, and even her support is unparalleled.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2020? I like working at Pixomondo currently, but on the side I love seeing my company grow. We’ve been hit a bit by Covid-19 and I can’t wait to see things go back to some form of normal, whatever shape that normal will be.

What project, in 2020, am I looking forward to work on? Hard to say currently as the industry has been hit hard. I’d say any project that comes in that would mean something to my daughter.

Where can you see me or my work in 2020? My website is and it has my reel. It’s pretty outdated as well as my reel unfortunately but I promise I’ll update these when I have some time on my hand 🙂

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Well, Passion is what gives your life meaning. And your passion can change because you grow and evolve. If it retires, I fail to see how life can be fulfilled. You always have to be passionate about something, anything …. But never let it die or retire.

Which creative heroes should Peter invite to tell their story? I would mention Thomas Schelesny, My mentor. He’s an incredible human being and Visual effects supervisor. Also Ken Kurras, one of the most incredible CG supervisors any company would be lucky to have.

How can you contact me? You can always contact me on Linkedin or my personal email. I’m always open and really try to get back to everyone.


Here follows a message of Peter de Kuster, founder of The Hero’s Journey 


Are you a creative leader or creative professional looking to develop your business skills and storytelling?

Amidst today’s uncertainty, it is more important than ever to reconnect with yourself and others, develop your creative business, and build your story. Dive deep into your unique business style and areas for growth with the coaching of Peter de Kuster.


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    You are a creative leader or creative professional  who is interested in developing yourself, your business, and your story.

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    You are aware that there are no quick fixes. Learning is a journey that works when you are fully committed to it. Coaching can bring awareness and help you navigate, but in the end it’s you who is in charge of your growth.

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    You want to learn more about how to resource yourself, learn about blind spots, and get feedback.

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    You are curious and want to engage in online learning.

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    You are motivated to work in-between sessions on yourself (e.g. working on homework assignments that will help you develop new storytelling, skills, and behaviors).


The Hero’s Journey Coaching is all about your development. To make the most out of your sessions, we ask you to prepare topics to work on with Peter. These topics can serve as a starting point for further in-depth exploration with Peter.

These coaching topics typically resonate with the creative leaders Peter works with:

How can i tell the most powerful story possible about myself and my creative business?

How can I handle self promotion and marketing of my creative business better?

How do can I stay authentic and with focus when having difficult conversations with potential clients?

What are my creative values and how do I align these with my business values?

How can I manage my time and energy better?

How can I radiate confidence to my clients while feeling anxious inside?

How can I steer myself towards creative excellence without becoming rigid?

About Peter de Kuster

Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey & Hero’s Journey project,  a storytelling firm which helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lives and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.


Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing,  MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.

individual coaching for leaders


The Hero’s Journey Coaching online sessions last 50 minutes and the fee is Euro 189 excluding VAT per session. The Hero’s Journey Coaching is suitable for people at any stage in their career.


Who can sign up for The Hero’s Journey online coaching?

Creative leaders and creative professionals who wish to improve their business story and develop their business skills and mindset.

Should I choose 1:1 coaching?

Our The Hero’s Journey experiences in world cities allow you to learn not only from the coach but also from your peers. For the small group coaching (1 – 4 people), we have selected important, relevant topics that we find regularly come up for creative professional: purpose, storytelling, creative confidence, self promotion, time & money and resilience.

If you would prefer to work alone or on a different topic, individual coaching is a better fit for you.

What language do we speak in the coaching sessions?


Can I buy coaching for my organization?

Yes, you can! We support many organizations around the world with their coaching needs. Please contact us for more information.

Can I bring my own topics?

Yes, for individual coaching you get to choose your own topic.

Are coaching sessions confidential?

Yes. Peter will not share anything that is discussed in the coaching sessions.

Where will the coaching sessions take place?

Sessions will take place online (as per the times we live in) via an online tool like Zoom or Skype. Peter will let you know.

How do I sign up?

Send Peter a mail to to start booking your coaching sessions.

How do I pay?

After you send the mail, you will receive an email with a link to pay.

How do I book and reschedule sessions?

Once we’ve received your payment, Peter will contact you and book your coaching sessions. He will also support you with rescheduling sessions if needed.

What is your cancellation policy?

Individual coaching sessions can be postponed up to one week before the session.

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