Oscar 2012: Grant Orchard Talks A Morning Stroll
He was inspired by a quirky short story about a chicken out for a walk in the middle of a big city. Director Grant Orchard set off to make a film comprised of sections exactly 1 minute long. His producer, Sue Goffe, knew it would turn out otherwise. With good reason. In any event, the final result of their collaboration is a unique and compelling film, something akin to “poultry in motion.” Yes, I couldn’t resist. Grant discusses the genesis and challenges of the project.
Dan Sarto: Has it hit you yet that your film has been nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar? What was your initial reaction?
Grant Orchard: Yes it’s hit me. It's hit me straight in my fat, slack-jawed face. You know in Austin Powers when Mike Myers hypnotizes Christian Slater and demands that he gets him some orange sherbet? Well my face looks exactly like Christian Slater’s at that point- but all the time. (p.s. that’s an Oscar nominated quality cultural reference).
DS: This film grew into something much larger than you originally planned. It also has a unique concept. How did this film begin – what is the genesis of the story and what shaped your path to finished film?
GO: I read a short story that was in a book edited by Paul Auster called True tales of American Life. There was a rather lovely section in it where a woman sees a chicken walk down a busy city street. I don't know why, but that image stuck in my head. It felt like one of those urban myths people recount that then get exaggerated with each re-telling, like Chinese whispers, into something more and more outlandish. I guess that was my initial thought process too. I kept on thinking about different variations on that theme.
Also around that time a friend of mine put me onto the work of Raymond Queneau who wrote a magnificent book called Exercises in Style. It re-counts the mundane story of a man on a bus who sees two people arguing. He writes this page long story in 99 different styles. I really enjoyed the rhythm of it, and the more he retold it the more engaging the whole book became.
So I suppose over a few days all that coalesced in my head, made me excited and got me talking to STUDIO AKA about making it into a film. At this stage I was determined to make each section exactly one minute long, but as the process went along the duration expanded. I think Sue Goffe, my producer knew this. As a rule of thumb, however long a director thinks a project will take, and how many people they need to make that project happen, she multiplies it by three. Very wise.
DS: What was the most difficult story challenge? Production challenge?
GO: Apart from the length of time it took, which was just under 2 years due to commercial commitments, I suppose the most difficult aspect of the film was the 2009 section with the I-phone game. It always seemed a tricky one to get right. I wanted to use it as a distraction for the main character, and simultaneously distracting for the audience.