Oscar 2012: Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis Talk Wild Life
It’s hardly a surprise that animators Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis are back in the Oscar hunt again with their new film, Wild Life. Their last short, When The Day Breaks (1999) was an artistic and critical success, garnering the pair numerous awards as well as an Oscar nomination. Their latest film, co-produced by the National Film Board’s Bonnie Thompson and Marcy Page, took 7 years to make, a quirky but realistic depiction of the life and times of a generation of young British men, often of considerable family wealth, who were cast off to seek their fortune in one of the numerous British Colonies (which at that time still represented half the globe). Known as Remittance Men, these mostly clueless chaps with more gumption than sense made their way in large numbers to the “wild west of Canada,” which was short on wild and long on isolation and boredom. The toll prairie life took on scores of people, including these transient Englishmen, was tremendous.
The two animators were moved by family stories of these pioneers and the odd but fascinating place they hold in Canadian history. Wild Life is a deliberate film, austere in a way that doesn’t complicate or suffocate the story. Brilliantly and beautifully animated with vibrant characters and prairie vistas, the film is an intimate, often funny snapshot of a uniquely Canadian experience from over a century ago. We caught up with the pair of directors while they were visiting Los Angeles.
Dan Sarto: Congratulations on the nomination. As an artist, do you ever expect accolades? Do you ever sit back and say, "Yah, this is good. We made a good film. People are going to like this."
Amanda Forbis: We're absolutely delighted but I can't say it was expected. You never really know. When we finished this film, we had a lot of open questions about how it was going to read and what people would think of it. It got off to a very slow start. In Europe, it didn't do very well at all. We spent a lot of time saying, "What did we do wrong? Why isn't it reading? Why aren't people getting it?" You never know what to expect.
Wendy Tilby: Also, compared to When The Day Breaks, I think it has a different audience because there is a lot of talking in it. The language slightly inhibits its potential with a European audience. They just don't "get it" in the same way even with a translation. We knew that going in, we knew having speaking parts was a slightly different thing.
AF: It's also a slightly odd film in its structure. Like Amanda said, we didn't know if it was translating. When you get immersed in a project that goes on for years, one begins to doubt one's ability to tell if it works or not because you're so far into it.
WT: The other thing too is that it's so Canadian. We weren't sure how audiences would respond to such a regional story.
DS: It's a different film from your other work and it's very Canadian. The humor is also very dry.