‘An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake’ Director Discusses Oscar Nom
Lachlan Pendragon is now an Oscar-nominated filmmaker after being nominated for his animated short, titled “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Believe Him.”
The project was produced as part of Pendragon’s PhD and took 10 months to put together in his living room during the pandemic. Pendragon, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in visual arts at the Griffith Film School in Brisbane, already won a Student Academy Award last year and is now competing for an Oscar.
The short film follows a young telemarketer named Neil who is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich who tells him that the universe is actually stop-motion animation. Neil, voiced by Pendragon, then tries to convince his colleagues about the discovery.
Below, Pendragon talks to Variety about his nomination, the journey behind the film and who he’d like to meet at the Oscars.
The nominations are announced here at 5:30am, which would have been late at night for you, so what did you do when you found out you were nominated for an Oscar?
It was late Tuesday night, almost midnight. It was weird because you look at all these names that you’re known for, and your name is up there. I texted everyone I know, but they were asleep because it was the middle of the night.
Has it dawned on you that you’re going to the Oscars in March?
I am the kind of person who finds all the films and watches them in the cinema. So, to be in the room will be amazing.
Let’s talk about “An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake” and his journey. Where did it start?
It was part of a doctoral degree in visual arts program at the film school. It had to come from a research perspective. The project had to have a level of innovation and something you do differently that you can write about and talk about. I wanted to do something on stop-motion because it’s something I like to do, but I haven’t thought too much about it yet. There was so much potential about what could be done and explored.
I wanted to look at the handmade quality of stop-motion animation and ensure it was as clear as possible. It led me down this path of doing something that breaks the fourth wall and deconstructs it, so the audience can see behind-the-scenes while watching the film. I thought it was entertaining because it would show everything that goes into making this kind of film. But then on the other hand it’s like, how do I make sure that it’s not too distracting that you can still connect with these characters? It was hard to find that balance.
It reminded me a bit of “Wallace and Gromit” to that extent. What was the inspiration behind the main character, Neil?
I did the voice for Neil. That character has a lot of me in it. I did the reference material and the animation. He has many of my quirks in him. I’ve worked in jobs where I felt terrible about it and still gave it my best. I could relate to that, and I wanted to bring that into the story in a way that contained humor and a way that was entertaining.
As the title suggests, there is an ostrich in the short. Have you studied how ostriches move?
Tracking movements is a difficult thing unless you have access to them. I was very careful with what shots I did so I could figure out how to animate them, so if you look closely, there are very few full body shots. A lot of it is the head shot, so I put balls on top of my hand and imaged it before I started animating it just to get an idea of how it would play out.
What about your overall inspirations and influences?
“Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Gromit.” I love everything Aardman Animations does, and they are a huge influence on me. I love “Fantastic Mr. Fox” for its ability to showcase tactile, handmade materials. I like what LAIKA is doing in terms of its technical innovations and everything you can do with 3D printing. I used a lot of 3D printing to do the mouth shapes of the characters. It was really helpful for a do-it-yourselfer. So, it was nice to have access to the technologies.
How did you decide on the title?
It was one of the last things we came up with. We came up with many different ideas, but none worked. We went through the film hoping that one of the lines would fit. It was one of my supervisors who suggested it. I thought he was joking, but it seemed like the perfect fit for the type of film it is and was the title it needed.
Is there anyone you’re looking forward to meeting at the Oscars?
I think Guillermo del Toro. I love “Pinocchio” and his previous work, so it would be amazing to meet him.