Short filmmakers tend to be self-deprecating in the spotlight; last year, mop-topped Luke Matheny accepted the Oscar for best live-action short (“God of Love”) with the wisecrack “I should have gotten a haircut.” On Tuesday night, a similar sensibility ruled the Academy’s panel for the 2012 Oscar-nominated animated and live-action shorts at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Brad Bird proved to be an inspired and highly entertaining moderator, tossing off zingers about how boring life in Canada must be judging by the animators’ subject matter and indulging in a “Star Wars” fanboy sidebar with “Time Freak” director Andrew Bowler.
Among the highlights from the sold-out event:
Co-directors William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg of the post-Katrina bibliotheque fantasy “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” entertained the audience by acting out the monolith scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey” while explaining their motivation for developing an iPad app for their short.
“A Morning Stroll” (which Bird shorthanded as “the Zombie apocalypse film”) employs three distinctive looks, which director Grant Orchard explained were designed to personify the 100-year span of the film’s man-vs.-chicken storyline.
Enrico Casarosa, whose Pixar-produced “La Luna” was originally pitched with watercolor drawings, insisted that pastels be scanned as background to give a tactile/illustrative feel to his fable.
French Canadian director Patrick Doyon explained that he drew “Dimanche/Sunday” on paper because he didn’t know how to animate by computer or puppets. Bird described the film, which details a little boy’s typical Sunday in his dreary Canadian town, as a portrait of “boredom and death.” (Doyon agreed.)
Fellow Canadian animators Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby said they animated their earlier film, “When the Day Breaks,” by hand and swore their next film would be computerized. But when making “Wild Life,” a tragicomic tale of an Englishman settling in rural Canada, they missed the depth and random miracles that painting provides and went back to their old-school ways.
- To begin the live-action panel, Bird asked why the filmmakers chose to make a short film.
“The money, we did it for the money,” said Andrew Bowler, director of time-travel comedy “Time Freak.” (In fact, Bowler said he and his producer/wife, Gigi Causey, decided to make a film rather than buy a home — but that didn’t give them enough for a feature.)
“Good, you’ll go far in this town,” Bird said.
- Producer Oorlagh George said her father, director Terry George, wanted to make “The Shore” because it was a story he’d always wanted to tell. She added although her father had already made the features like “Hotel Rwanda,” the Ciarán Hinds-starrer about two friends reconciling after 35 years was her father’s first short and his first time working at home in Northern Ireland. George described the production as a home movie, with her aunt doing the costumes and her mom acting as caterer.
Producer Eimear O’Kane, representing the Irish church vs. soccer film “Pentecost,” explained writer/director Peter McDonald was inspired by the idea of a priest psyching up altar boys like a sports coach would do for a team.
“Why do you hate seagulls?” Bird asked director Hallvar Witzø, whose “Tuba Atlantic” features a dying old man obsessed with machine-gunning gulls. Witzø explained the birds native to his country are much worse than the cute Santa Monica version. Witzø also explained “Tuba Atlantic” was his diploma film, so if he didn’t make it, he would have failed not only himself and his school but the social-democratic nation of Norway and its king.
- Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren said that their India-set adoption story “Raju” was also a film school project, which mandated a story that would fit the required 25-minute running time.
Academy governor Jon Bloom opened the evening by emphasizing that Oscar-nominated short films are now more accessible than ever before thanks to iTunes, VOD and Shorts HD (in association with Magnolia Pictures)’s distribution of the films in 138 movie theaters nationwide.