BREWMASTERS NOTE: This week Cartoon Brew takes a closer look at the five Academy Award nominated animated shorts. Each day at 10am EST/7am PST we will post an exclusive interview with the director(s) of one of the films. Today, we discuss the NFB’s Sunday with its writer/director Patrick Doyon:
An Oscar nomination is the ultimate hard-won honor for a short filmmaker. Thirty-two-old Canadian filmmaker Patrick Doyon achieved the Oscar nod with his first professional film. His short Sunday is as quiet and reflective as the day of the week its named after. Told through a young boy’s point of view, the film celebrates the triumph of imagination over the mundane routine of childhood.
The events that take places in this quaintly drawn world are accompanied by a feeling of foreboding. “Death is very present throughout the film,” Doyon says. “The three crows are never very far.” The apprehension about the future–signified by a large factory with a “for sale” sign on it–is in part rooted in Doyon’s childhood memories growing up in the Quebec town of Desbiens. “As young as I can remember, the factory was always closed. Maybe just a few times, it was functioning, but only for a short period of time,” Doyon says.
Watch a making-of documentary about Sunday.
Doyon acknowledges that a lot of the film is autobiographical–going to church with his parents, visiting his grandparents–but he took liberties with the animation. For example, though he lived near a railroad and his house vibrated with each passing train, his home didn’t jump and bounce off its foundation as the houses do in Sunday. “This is the pleasure of animation: not trying to recreate reality,” he says.
Animation wasn’t always the goal. Doyon studied graphic design at the Université du Québec Ã Montréal where he enrolled in a couple of elective animation classes. After graduation, he found a job as a storyboard clean-up artist, which set him on a dedicated animation path. He taught himself to animate using Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit, and when he felt he had learned enough, he set the book aside and began to break all the traditional animation rules he’d learned up to that point. The resulting loose line and quirky, inventive movement in his work is equally inspired by comics (he likes the output of Drawn & Quarterly and the French publisher L’Association) and the animated films of Paul Driessen, UPA, and French studio Folimage.
Doyon was introduced to the NFB in 2006 when he participated in their Hothouse program, which is an intense, twelve-week paid apprenticeship in which participants make short animated pieces. With that connection established, he worked on a proposal for Sunday. “I came up with the story first,” he says. “But the first storyboard was not the same design as the final. The design changed a lot in the process. It took me a long time to find a design for the little boy that I liked–and I could animate for two years. When I’m writing the story, it’s always through the drawings, more comic strip style, on very small pages.” (Click below to see a larger version of his storyboards.)
He is appreciative of the NFB system, which gave him room to express himself while providing him the production support he needed to complete the film. He animated the film in-house at the NFB’s Montreal studio “which is good because you can really concentrate on your stuff and consult with a lot of directors already involved with their own productions. I consulted with my NFB producers and one my former teachers at the university for their feedback.”
Doyon says he’s a “realist” and knows he won’t be nominated for every film he makes in the future. With a long career still ahead of him, he also recognizes that trying to repeat Sunday won’t help. “You have to forget a little bit your previous film and try to not recreate a recipe for success.” To avoid the pressure of jumping straight into a follow-up short, he is currently illustrating a children’s book for Les éditions La pastÃ¨que while developing ideas for future animated projects.