Animation wizzkid premiers his film at Berlinale this week and wins! 12.02.09
At 23, animation wunderkind David O'Reilly has already contributed to films Son of Rambow and Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Please Say Something is his 25 part animated series, a heart-wrenching love story about the dysfunctional relationship between a cat and mouse. Geometrically severe, it's ambient scenescapes and raw, pixellated graphics burst and disintegrate on the screen, snubbing the trend towards slick Pixar cuteness. He premiered PSS at the Berlinale Film Festival on February 9th, taking home the coveted Golden Bear Award- the first prize of the entire Film Festival.
Interview by Viola Levy
How do you feel? It's crazy, I think what honours me most is that something so small, made on a single computer in my tiny apartment is considered in the context of world cinema, it was side by side with live action films. It's a big step for me but a even bigger one for independent 3d, it's an award I share with both Svankmajer and John Lasseter.
When did you first discover you had a gift for animating? Did you start out like the rest of us making flicker books and go from there? I was never particularly interested in anything until I was 14 or 15, but I took up animation very fast from there. I was among the first generation to start with software, I never made flipbooks, although strangely after learning the software I got a job doing them on the film Son of Rambow.
Can you describe your creation process? I get an idea, then I do it. I do it like my life depends on it.
I imagine creating the animation itself can be painstakingly monotonous at times- how do you deal with that? It doesn't get easier, you just push yourself every day to finish it. It's only hard when there's no set deadline, such as with my short films, but you just have to push harder, get up earlier, do whatever it takes.
"Please Say Something" is based on the dysfunctional romantic relationship between a cat and mouse. I got the impression it was a parody of middle-class angst. Would you describe it as pure entertainment or is there a message behind it? I wouldn't say it's middle class, it's about love. Maintaining a relationship. The endless battle between logic and emotion, left brain and right. There's an element of sarcasm to the tempo of the film, I wanted it to the opposite of boring, but the story is sincere.
What inspired the cat and a mouse couple? It's the oldest archetype in animation. The only thing I changed was making the relationship psychological rather than based on physical violence, or slapstick. One of the things that struck me about the film was its atmosphere- suddenly you're drawn into a surreal other world.
What were your influences in designing the film's backdrop? I always liked the comics by Jason (John Arne Sæterøy) and Chris Ware - Jason for using anthropomorphism in a sincere way and Chris Ware for his asceticism and reduction of style. It's important to avoid making animation into a moving comic book, you can do things in animation you can't do in comics, nonetheless unlike animation it's driven by individuals and can therefore teach us things.
When embarking on "Please Say Something" were there any films (animated or not) that you were inspired by? There's a few films I love and which stay with me through the writing process. It probably bears most similarity to Trier's Breaking the Waves and Bergman's Persona. There's also a nod to Funny Games.
Did you have an idea of how the film would look or was it a gradual process? I was very specific about the look from the outset. It did get more refined as the film progresses but it's essentially very consistent.
You're sharing the stage at Berlinale with world renowned experimental filmmaker Michael Snow, what direction do you think your Berlinale talk will take? I have no idea, I've never shared a stage before. He's nearly 4 times my age so it should be fun.
Is there one question you are eager to ask him? I'd like to talk about the current perception of experimental film. For me, experimental has become another way of saying oblique and boring... Even if I try a lot of new things in animation and ultimately want to push it forward, it's usually not in the name of experimentation.
What do you think viewers get from animation that they don't get from other art forms? The feeling of being absorbed into another world. What separates animation from live-action is that the world can be totally abstract from reality yet be just as believable. There's an excitement in falling in love with something totally artificial.
Do you have anything else in the pipeline? What would be your ideal project? Right now I'm working on the intro to the next Pictoplasma festival. I'd like to do more religious pop art, like Wofl and the piece I just did for the Pass It On project. I love the idea of depicting heaven and hell, even in the age of atheism we are still fascinated by these 2 conceptual worlds.
See more of David's world here