TORONTO – Montreal-based filmmaker Patrick Doyon heard the news that he’d been nominated for an Academy Award first thing Tuesday morning — and then the rest of his neighbourhood likely heard it too.
“I was screaming,” the 32-year-old laughed in a telephone interview shortly after the nominations were announced. “I was with my girlfriend and my daughter, and we were screaming in front of the computer.”
In fact, there was plenty of good cheer to go around as two National Film Board of Canada productions landed Oscar nominations for best animated short film.
Calgary-based filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby earned the other nod for their Prairie-based picture “Wild Life,” while Doyon claimed the honour for his debut “Dimanche/Sunday.”
They’ll compete against “La Luna” from Pixar Animation Studios, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” (Moonbot Studios) and “A Morning Stroll” (Studio AKA).
“Dimanche/Sunday” is a winsome animated fable that follows a bored young boy trying to escape a dreary Sunday. Doyon says the film is based on his memory of his own childhood — specifically spending numbing grey afternoons after church with parents and grandparents — but injected with sufficient whimsy to keep the charming tale from being autobiographical.
The work was Doyon’s first professional short film — his only other credit being “Square Roots,” a three-minute film he crafted while a student of an NFB program for emerging filmmakers — so he greeted the nomination with awe.
“It is special,” he said, before joking: “I don’t expect that on every film.”
Forbis and Tilby, meanwhile, have more experience with the Oscars.
They were nominated together in the same category for their 1999 collaboration “When the Day Breaks,” while Tilby also received a nod for her 1991 short “Strings.”
Still, they were elated by the recognition.
“It doesn’t get old,” said Tilby, 51, on the line from Calgary.
“On a personal level, it’s just so gratifying because we spent years on it and went through a lot of insecurities about whether it’s working, whether it’s understood, whether it touches people at all.”
Set in Alberta in 1909, “Wild Life” tells the story of an affluent Brit who immigrates to Western Canada to establish a ranching career, but finding himself devoid of practical skills, spends his time instead playing badminton, bird-watching and quaffing liquor.
The filmmakers were inspired by their own ancestors, Prairie-bound Englishmen who “did not fare very well” in their fumbled attempt at farming. They had been concerned that the sprightly short was too overtly Canadian to receive recognition from the Academy, but obviously they needn’t have worried.
“(It) certainly was a concern because it is such a deeply Canadian tale … (but) our hope was that you could really tell a story about anything and anywhere and if it’s well told, it would reach people,” Tilby said.
Oscar vets that they are, Tilby and Forbis can now begin preparing for the ceremony — which isn’t always a pleasant proposition.
“I think the last time we told ourselves: ‘We’re going to have fun, we’re going to treat this like a lark, we’re not going to take it too seriously,'” Tilby said. “And then as the day draws near, you get whipped up into a frenzy of nerves just at the prospect of having to stand up in front of however many billion people. Who can relax with that?
“So anyway, we’ll try to not dwell on that, because we have a very good chance of not having to get up.”
Interjected Forbis, 48: “It’s just all the preening that we find really terrifying. All the shopping you have to do, and making sure you look good, and the facials and the massages.”
“Men have it easy,” Tilby agreed. “You can just go and rent a tux.”
The 84th Academy Awards will take place Feb. 26 in Los Angeles.