Oscar-nominated Calgary animators joke with Clooney about Academy hoodies
TORONTO -- Oscar-nominated Calgary animators Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby managed to get a chuckle out of George Clooney at the recent Academy Awards nominee luncheon.
"Our producer in Los Angeles, who produces commercials with us, he introduced George to me and said, 'And Wendy is nominated for short animation,"' Tilby, 51, recalled in a recent phone interview from Calgary.
"And then I said, 'And what is it that you do, or what is it you're nominated for?' -- just to be funny -- and he laughed. He was very jovial."
The witty duo also snapped a picture with the dashing star of "The Descendants" and got a taste of his drollery as they mingled "in close proximity to people like Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep and Glenn Close," said Forbis.
"From the Academy, we got these gigantic black hoodies with the Oscar embroidered on them and (Clooney) suggested to (Tilby) that she should not wear that on Oscar night," Forbis, 48, said laughing via speakerphone from her home.
"They're all, like, men's large. We wore them to badminton night to impress our neighbours."
Badminton is also a pastime of the dandy Brit who struggles to become an Alberta rancher in 1909 in "Wild Life," which has earned Forbis and Tilby an Oscar nomination for best animated short. It's the second National Film Board of Canada piece nominated in the category this year. The other is "Dimanche/Sunday" by Montreal's Patrick Doyon.
They'll compete against "La Luna" from Pixar Animation Studios, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" (Moonbot Studios) and "A Morning Stroll" (Studio AKA).
A Genie Award nominee, "Wild Life" was in production for seven years. Tilby and Forbis made the film through a laborious technique: after animating the images on a computer, they printed them out, painted them with gouache, scanned them back into the computer and composited them using after-effects.
Their previous film was also hand-painted and Tilby said they love the randomness and texture the technique brings to their pieces, even though when they're in the middle of it "it feels like a bit of a nightmare."
"We don't want to do a film that looks like a Pixar film. That's really important. That's not what we want to do," said Forbis. "We're looking for something that has a much more sort of individual fingerprint on it.
"The best way to express yourself is through your hands and the computer takes all that away. It's just much too much a clean and detailed shiny world."
The longtime collaborators -- who first met while students at Emily Carr University of Art + Design -- were also nominated for an Oscar in 2000 for their animated short "When the Day Breaks, while Tilby earned a third nom for her 1991 film "Strings."
"I think after the last time we told ourselves this time that we would not allow ourselves to be over-booked, and we've already failed at that," the Edmonton-born Tilby said after detailing their packed agenda for their stay in Los Angeles.
"And we also told ourselves we would not get uptight and we would just try to have fun, and we're having a hard time with that."
Forbis and Tilby were to fly to Tinseltown on Monday and stay at the same hotel in which Doyon and his girlfriend are booked.
Their itinerary before Sunday's awards show includes a tour of several big studios in Los Angeles, in which they'll also screen their film and do Q&As for it.
For two filmmakers who make their animated shorts in a home studio, visiting such huge production houses is like being in "a totally different world," said Forbis, a Calgary native.
"I haven't been able to come up with just the right metaphor but something like, you feel like a basket weaver inside a factory or something," she added.
Forbis and Tilby also plan to attend several Oscar bashes, including one for Canuck nominees at the Canadian Consulate, another for women in film, and the Chocolate Foscas.
"It's an old animation community tradition," Tilby said of the latter event, in which animation nominees receive a big chocolate that resembles both the Oscar and the character Fosca from Vancouver animator Marv Newland's film "Anijam."
"Everybody's a winner at the Foscas," she said.
On Sunday, Forbis and Tilby plan to walk the red carpet in dresses made by Calgary designer Paul Hardy and get their hair and makeup done by a stylist they've already enlisted.
Their publicist has advised them to bring energy bars to the show, since they likely won't be able to eat from the early afternoon until late at night.
They are well aware, however, that they will be able to enjoy a drink during the lengthy show.
"The last time we were there, right after the animation category -- which happily is fairly early in the show -- we went straight to the bar and had some stiff gins and tonic. So that was fun," quipped Tilby.
Though their tight schedule has them feeling overwhelmed, they say they do feel a bit more relaxed than they were the last time they went to the Kodak Theatre.
"I don't have great expectations of it, or I don't have conscious great expectations. I can't vouch for what my unconscious mind is doing right now," said Tilby.
"You always find out once they announce who won how you actually feel about it, despite whatever you've been telling yourself. But it's a lot different this time, too.
"It's a lot more intense, and the whole Internet aspect of it means you can be more absorbed in it, which is not great. I don't really like that, actually. I might not look at it for a while."
Earlier Internet surfing revealed a blog that predicted "Wild Life" as a "dark horse" to win the Oscar, said Forbis.
But she and Tilby aren't expecting to win, noting their film has a slightly more understated narrative than the other nominees and "is probably the most difficult of the nominated films" because it's not as straightforward.
"We think our chances, well, frankly, we don't think we're going to win," said Tilby.