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Today is World Asthma Day, and in recognition of that fact filmmaker Ori Goldberg has given Cartoon Brew exclusive access to his respiratory-themed short Don’t Die on Me.

The film hit the festival circuit last year and eventually screened at more than 30 events worldwide including Annecy, Slamdance, Anibar, and Kaboom.

That’s an impressive run for any short, but in Goldberg’s case, it was also entirely unexpected. Don’t Die on Me was the filmmaker’s first solo work after graduation and was meant as practice for his real “first” short, which he’s working on now. Goldberg told Cartoon Brew:

It was very old-fashioned. No agent, no nothing. I did this one as more of a test, really. I figured that my first short after graduating would be self-produced, but be a bigger production than Don’t Die on Me with a bigger budget. But with the way that this film was received, it became my first real short.

Part of the reason that Don’t Die on Me being Goldberg’s debut came as such a surprise was that it was only made possible thanks to an open call from the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund’s “90 Seconds of Rest” initiative. According to Goldberg:

In late 2020 or early 2021, there was an open call here to make a 90-second short about “pause.” The open call was a very light concept. You just had to approach the subject of rest or pause. So, in my short, which is all about being awkward and gross in life, death is the pause. Like, the only way to know what it would be like to not have this disease is to die, because the disease is part of life. It comes with breathing and being alive.

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Early art used for pitching Don’t Die on Me

Goldberg has an affable, self-deprecating personality and sense of humor, so for Don’t Die on Me he decided to do something autobiographical and didn’t spare any of the gross bits.

I’ve been wanting to do something about issues resulting from hardships of breathing and asthma and allergies for a long time now. Back in 2015, I had a really awful ear infection and when I went to the ENT doctor, they told me that I had so much backed-up phlegm that it was contaminating my ears. I thought, wow, I’ve been taking medicine forever and this explains so many ailments that affect every area of my life. All these little problems stem from the fact that my body can’t do the most basic function it needs to do to survive, which is to breathe.

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A drawing from the day Goldberg’s inspirational ear infection was diagnosed.
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From concept to delivery, the short took about two-and-a-half months to put together. The characters and many of the events shown in the film were pulled directly from Goldberg’s own life experiences.

I wanted the lead character, the one that represented me, to be really abstract and wild so I could do crazy shit with him. So, I broke him down into very basic shapes that I could move all over the place. For the friend character, the big guy on the bench, I wanted to be more basic. When I got the approval to make this film, a friend of mine died who was a lot like the second guy. He was a big, always joking, fun guy and I thought this would be a cool way to pay homage to him. He was a very life-affirming person. He can be annoying or overbearing, but he’s really a good guy. In his short, he’s sort of the opposite of the Angel of Death.

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