When Erick Oh first started outlining what would become the animated short film, “Opera,” he didn’t envision it as a film, but more of an installation piece. “Think of it as it’s playing on a gigantic wall and you are there to watch it a couple of times to observe all the details. That’s how it was designed,” he tells us in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). When he started taking inspiration from fresco mural paintings is when it became clearer that this could work as a short film. “Then I thought of fresco mural paintings like Michelangelo’s “Genesis” in the Sistine Chapel, because usually those murals capture some historical moment in human history. It’s a contemporary version of fresco murals.”
The short, which has just made the shortlist for the Best Animated Short Oscar, focuses on a society that all exists within a pyramid-type structure. As the society experiences both night and day, we see how the actions of each individual affects the society at-large. We see the best and worst of humanity as everything comes together only to cycle right back to the beginning at the start of a new day.
One of the more striking aspects of the film is the original score that was composed for the film by Oh’s longtime collaborator, Andrew Vernon. “He was just going to do the sound design initially but we needed something to tie things together. It is a looping video but there’s gotta be a climax.” Since the project was so unconventional, Oh and Vernon wanted something that was more in the mold of a traditional filmmaking language. They wanted something “very classical because it’s a timeless piece and we want this to be enjoyed and interpreted in many different eras, hopefully, but at the same time, very modern too.”
Oh is also still processing the fact that his very unconventional film has been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination. “It’s still unreal. It’s crazy mainly because of the format. It’s not a conventional film. It’s more of a moving illustration or painting.” But it’s also something that he’s very reflective about, especially considering he never thought Academy members would take to the film in the first place. “Getting recognized by Academy members this way is such a humbling experience honestly, because I thought, ‘Academy members won’t like this,’ because it’s so different. But they appreciated it and they recognized it and I’m just so thankful.”
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