By Seana Sperling
eyed readers may notice that our current interviewee, Amanda
Forbis, has the same last name as I, your faithful Acid
Logic editor. This is because we are indeed related, Amanda
is my cousin, and I hers. Of course I've known about her
burgeoning animation career for some time now, but when
I heard that she had narrowly missed receiving an Academy
Award for her work, (after receiving a nomination for the
"Best Animated Short Category") only one thought went through
my head: "What a loser! She can't even win an Academy Award?
How hard can that be?"
it seemed best to let Amanda be interviewed by A.L. contributor
Seana Sperling, someone with a bit more tact and an actual
knowledge of animation.
Two characters from "When The Day Breaks."
Click here for more info and streaming video from the film.
In 1999, the National Film Board of Canada released,
"When The Day Breaks," an animated short, created and directed by the
talented filmmaking team of Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. The film
went on to win several awards including the Short Film category at Cannes
and more recently, a Y2K Oscar nomination. As an avid animation fan,
it was a great pleasure for me to get an opportunity to interview Amanda
Forbis about her filmmaking techniques and Oscar night experience.
Q: When you heard about the nomination, what went through your
mind? Capitalists/ Superficial Hollywood Geezers/Damn--I suppose I'll
have to dress up.
AMANDA: I was thrilled. It is a big fish. It almost doesn't
matter what you think of the Oscars in a way. It's a great honor and
it's very good for the film. It's a lot of work in the sense that you
have to do a lot of interviews and people just expect things from you
and you can't fade into the background. I noticed this with a friend
Torill Kove, who was nominated for "My Grandmother Ironed the King's
Shirts." We all went to a party at the Norwegian Consulate and suddenly
we noticed that all the attention was shifted to Torill, so we just
sat down at a table and ate and it was so wonderful. Afterwards, Torill
said she kept trying to put some food in her mouth and every time, someone
would ask her something.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your Oscar night experience?
AMANDA: In retrospect, it was lot of noise and very little content.
It was fun, but it was also extremely exhausting. I got some small insight
into what it would be like to be really famous and I think it would
be really hard. You would have to adore being in the spotlight and pestered
all the time. We discovered it just wasn't for us, but the actual night
was quite a bit of fun and there were some great events surrounding
it. We had a nice lunch at the Canadian Consulate.
Q: Any encounters with the Hollywood Aristocracy?
AMANDA: We ran into Robin Williams in Roots Shoe Store. He's
a long way from being that type of, "Don't look at me." celebrity. He's
very chatty and friendly and very likeable. It's just surprising to
come face to face with someone who is so recognisable and talk with
them about shoes. After he found out we were going to the awards, he
told us he was going to be backstage because it got a little bit boring
and the way to have fun was to be in the back. At that moment, a young
woman, about 20-something, was passing by and she saw him and did a
double take. She was so excited. Then she ran in and grasped his hand
and, gushed, "Oh, ohh, I want to be you. Oh, I'm gonna cry." And he
said, "Don't do that. Save your moisture."
Q: And at the Awards?
AMANDA: We saw a lot of people in the auditorium of course,
but the way it worked was, the nobodys like us arrived an hour in advance
and they have people that herd you into the building so you don't loiter
on the red carpet and ogle stars. Here you have a situation where you're
some kind of a star in your field and you're ogling the real stars and
they don't want you to do that. They really want you inside the building
and then they make all sorts of announcements that you must take your
seat. You have to ignore all of them so you can see the movie stars,
because that's what you're there to do. The movie stars all arrive in
the five minutes prior to the show and in those five minutes they're
warning everyone else to get to their seats or they'll close the doors
on you. And you're thinking, "You're not gonna shut Tom Cruise out."
The highlight of the evening was when Robin Williams did the, "Blame
Canada." song from the South Park movie. It was the high energy moment
of the whole evening and he was wonderful. It was fun and as a Canadian
it was an unparalleled thrill.
Q: What are you doing in Boston?
AMANDA: I'm supposed to have been helping Wendy do a trailer
for the Harvard archives. She's working teaching Animation there. It
is a non- paying job, but we thought it might be the means of getting
up to speed on some computer programs. We are way behind technologically
and we're interested in using programs like Photoshop and After Effect
to help us in our work . There's no denying that the computer is just
a fantastic tool. I don't know if it could do what we did for, "When
the Day Breaks," but it can do other things that are great. So, I've
been learning programs.
Q: So, how has the Oscar nomination changed your life and what's
the next step? Any calls from Hollywood?
AMANDA: Had a couple of phone calls, nothing ever came of them.
One of them was kind of open-ended. Hollywood actually called before
the Oscars. They called after Cannes. I dont know if I should say who,
but a big Hollywood production company told us if we ever wrote a script
they would like to look at it. Which was nice, but other than that,
not really. We have gone to a lot of festivals which has been great.
Also we've done a lot of travelling with the film, so in that way, life
changed a lot.
THE NEA vs. NFB
Q: You worked for The National Film Board for a number of years
and are aware of the political climate surrounding the Arts. In the
U. S. there has been a conservative trend since the 1980's that has
effected funding for the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) and other
sponsors. In some cases there was an outcry to cut funding for certain
controversial projects or to even prohibit the exhibition. Has this
become a trend in Canada as well?
AMANDA: I'm very saddened by what's happened to the NEA. What
people don't seem to realise is, sure, the NEA is going to fund some
crap just like the film board will fund some crap, but with the chaff
you get wheat and public funding gives talented, non-commercially-motivated
people the opportunity to create adventurous and risky work. You get
work that you would not get if it were all dictated by commerce and
private money agendas.
Q: How much support does Canada give Public film and has the
support decreased over the last 20 years?
AMANDA: In 1995, the board which had a budget of, I'm guessing,
80 million, and it was reduced by 30 million, during those four years
we worked on the film. We saw drastic changes. The NFB in Montreal had
been a full production facility. They could process film, run sound
mixes, do visual effects, they could do everything in one big building
and it just isn't that way any more. The film lab has been shut down
and the shooting stage was sold. We saw some harsh changes in the board
while we were there. I always feel that the board needs defending. It's
not particularly well thought of in Canada. It's not poorly thought
of, but it's not well thought of. The thing that frustrates me is that
if I go to a festival in another part of the world, and they hear that
I work at the Film Board they all practically collapse in envy, saying,
"Oh my god. You are so lucky."
Q: When you receive funding, do you have autonomy or are you
AMANDA: It depends on the mandate of the project at the film
board. If it's an educational film or another type of film with an imposed
structure, they will watch that in a different way than a film they
expect to wind up at festivals. I guess an auteur film will be watched
in different way. It's very delicate and difficult for a producer to
know when to stick their nose in and when to pull back. Our producer
David Verrall was really great in that he discussed a lot of important
issues and gave us a lot of room to do what we wanted to do. We were
really grateful for that.
Q: I heard that your aunt invented Q-Tips.
AMANDA: Yep, my Aunt Hazel invented Q-tips and as you can imagine
it is an immeasurable source of pride for our family. Actually, I love
to bring it up at parties, but for some reason no one ever believes
me. I mean someone's aunt had to to invent them. Too bad we're not all
rich from it, but there you go. She sold the patent way back, but she
made pretty good money at the time.
Click here for Part 2
Seana Sperling is a freelance
waiter, uh, writer, in Seattle.
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