Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Meet an Icelandic cartoonist: A Chat with Animator Gísli Darri Halldórsson, part 2

by Alexandra Bowman

 (continued from part 1)

Alexandra Bowman: So what do you hope that people come away from this film thinking? How do you hope that their daily lives change?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: I hope people will look at their own life and their daily life, you know? That's why I've made this film for myself. Somebody told me, and I really took that comment kindly, is that somebody said that the film had just felt like a hug.

Alexandra Bowman: I was looking at the comments on YouTube and   the comments are beautiful. You should read them, if you haven't already. Someone said, “This really hit me hard. I feel this is what life is. We're a bunch of lonely people who are just trying to get along together. And this film kind of shows that amidst all the sadness we're going to keep progressing.”

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: It's funny because it seems like nothing's going on, but somebody said there's a lot of movies about Marvel superheroes saving the world but it feels like this is the battle of the everyday people, just people, who have normal jobs. And this is the biggest thing, how do I make life a bit more meaningful?

Alexandra Bowman: Realistically, like these are the battles we’re all are going to be fighting. There's so many definitions and concepts of what it means to see yourself on screen, but this is very much a way for everyday people to see things that they might not expect to be cinema-worthy on screen, in terms of “Wow, this is something that other people are dealing with and these are interesting kind of conflicts all their own as well.” How did you develop the humor in this film? Because there are a couple moments that are pretty dang funny.

Gísli Darri Halldórsson:  I don't know how to answer that…

Alexandra Bowman: Did you get it instantly or did you have to like think it through?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Some of them, some of those things have happened. I've seen a moment. I've seen an old man break wind and his wife go “Eww.” I knew I definitely wanted to have it light because I knew it was a really dull subject matter and it was going to be not very exciting. I was trying to go for the silent film format where you don't cut a lot. You don't have that relief, because that didn't seem right with that subject matter. [The film has] one still camera and it doesn't move or anything. So I knew it needed to be light. In fact, during the writing process, my grandparents died and they came into the story. When people die, you just suddenly see the big picture of their life as well. That's kind of what really inspired me about their life - they were married for 65 years or so. I know they got on each other's nerves and stuff like that, but they just had this unbelievable way to turn something into a game, or just make a life out of things. I guess maybe that's what you learn over time, kind of rebelling against the mundaneness. I don't know…

Alexandra Bowman: Rebelling against it, but almost reveling in it and seeing the beauty in it at the same time, maybe rebelling against thinking about the mundane is mundane.

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: It's just like a twist in attitude. This person may annoy me, but we can have fun. I don't know, that's not the right way to say it.

Alexandra Bowman: This is in a way, even though it's so “every day,” and even though it seems boring and unexciting and regular at the time, there a beauty in it, and it probably is different, in terms of what that beauty is for everybody. But there is beauty there.

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Yes, a little bit refusing to take part in this everyday-ness, you know, without having fun, your own fun, something like that. So I'm really happy because I did, even though the characters aren't really them, the energy between them is from my grandparents really.

Alexandra Bowman: So what will you be doing on Oscar night?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: I'll be in LA. I'm going to LA soon and we'll be quarantining until the ceremony. So I'm looking forward to that. Obviously if I'm COVID positive, I won't be going. [laughs]

Alexandra Bowman: So you're going to be in the Oscar auditorium then. When your film gets nominated, what does that look like? Do you get an email or…

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: I just have to watch the live show and then you get an email later after that.

Alexandra Bowman: You don't get anything in advance?  You find out that your film got nominated at the same time as the rest of the world?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Yeah. Also when it was shortlisted, it was the same. I heard they I think I have Price Waterhouse Cooper to hold the envelope of the results, so nobody knows apparently who wins and stuff.

Alexandra Bowman: How do you submit a film to the Oscars?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Well, it has to be eligible, so they have a rigorous process. You have to go through to make it eligible. And to be honest, I have to say, I was just happy that it was eligible. That was my peak. And then I got nominated and I'm on cloud nine.

Alexandra Bowman: What makes a film eligible? Is it length requirements or what does that look like?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Yeah, a lot of requirements. It has to win in a certain film festival or be screened in a major city for a week in the cinema. Some other ones - obviously the year counts as well.

Alexandra Bowman: What do you hope wins the best animated feature Oscar? Do you have preference for those?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: I've seen Soul. It's beautiful. I really like it. I have a three-year old, so I haven't been able to see a movie in a long time. I managed squeezing Soul there, but I'm hoping to use the time in quarantine to see them. Cartoon Saloon did WolfWalkers. I'm always a fan of them. I went to the same college as the founders of that studio.

Alexandra Bowman: Speaking of filmmaking, what is your next project?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: Oh, I have a few. I'm not sure which one is next. I think after this Oscar discotheque I'll know better, but I have a book that I want to do that’s almost ready. And I have a TV series and a live-action film and an animated film.

Alexandra Bowman: Any sneak peaks or into what they're about?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: No. I burned myself on this before, about revealing something too soon that takes a bit of the edge in your head about it. I've learned that hard lesson before, but believe me, I want to say it…

Alexandra Bowman: Do you have anything else that you want to say to the masses about filmmaking or inspiration or art, creativity, any of that?

Gísli Darri Halldórsson: I don't know. I don't think so. Probably when I'm in bed tonight, I’ll go “Aha! I have this golden nugget that I could have shared.”

[End part 2, as the conversation turns to Georgetown University and basketball…]

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