Flickerfest : David O’Reilly

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Flickerfest : David O’Reilly


In June this year, industry bible Variety named 25-year-old Irish-born, Berlin-based animator David O’Reilly as one of its “top ten young animators destined to become household names”.

In June this year, industry bible Variety named 25-year-old Irish-born, Berlin-based animator David O’Reilly as one of its "top ten young animators destined to become household names".

O’Reilly first shot into the popular consciousness last year, when U2 commissioned the 24-year-old to create the film clip for I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight. In fact, O’Reilly had already amassed a sizeable fan-base before then, thanks to his Octocat webisodes, and his award-winning short Please Say Something – the bittersweet story of a fractured relationship between a cat and a mouse that took the festival scene by storm and won the Berlinale Golden Bear in 2009. His latest work is The External World – a frenetic mash-up of different storylines from the future that feels as if God is drunk and bored and flipping channels on the TV set of ‘life’.

O’Reilly’s trademark ‘low polygon’ aesthetic flies in the face of the highly detailed work of studios like Pixar and Dreamworks Animation, opting instead to strip back 3D animation models to their basic shapes. Meanwhile, his narratives run at a million miles per hour, in a sort of hyperactive mash-up of ‘videobytes’ that reflects our attention-deficit, media-saturated age. The scenarios are darkly comic fusions of cheerful nihilism (a la Ren & Stimpy) and existential angst (as per ‘cartoonist’ Dave Shrigley). In terms of tone and narrative-structure, an obvious point of comparison is American animator Don Hertzfeldt (whose work O’Reilly does indeed admire, and who he says is a good friend).

O’Reilly caught the animation bug at the tender age of 15 in his hometown of Kilkenny, Ireland, when he started dropping into the Cartoon Saloon (the studio behind Oscar-nominee The Secret Of Kells) after school. At 19 he moved to London and took a day job with Studio AKA, assisting Marc Craste (Jojo In The Stars); by night, he was working for Shynola (the animation powerhouse behind Radiohead’s Kid A animations). In 2007, having worked on the animated sequences for both The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Son Of Rambow, O’Reilly moved to low-rent Berlin, where he blasted out a series of solo shorts – including Please Say Something. From there, he answered some questions I emailed to him (although as you can see, not entirely seriously…)

What attracts you to using cat characters in your shorts, rather than humans?

I’ve found after countless seconds of research that cats cost less than actors in a production. They eat a lot less food and when left to their own devices will actually start devouring each other, creating a perpetual life cycle in which only the strongest survive. The ones who make it through three generations of catibalism are given starring roles in my films. This same system with actors was a disaster involving a pending court case. Thanks a lot, WikiLeaks.

When exactly did your pared-back 3D animation style begin – and why?

A few years ago I reverse-engineered archive.org’s Wayback Machine to show websites in the future. After browsing the internet sewer of commercial production companies from 2023, I found they were all using a low polygon style and making money off my future self while I had faded into obscurity, so I reverse-ripped them off by doing my own ideas before I actually did them.

Do you think that humour or humanity is the prevailing mood for you when you are creative?

My creativity comes from a meditation technique called Transcendental Flagellation, in which you dive deep within yourself and get eaten by mythological sea monsters. Inside their stomachs lie expensive subscription services in which you can sign up to achieve deeper levels of consciousness and total inner freedom. I have not been able to afford these courses and therefore will run out of creativity pretty soon.

Who/what are your all-time favourite directors/films?

Nothing beats Hitchcock, Kubrick and Tarkovsky, though lately I’m a big fan of NMA.tv’s animated news reports.

Catch David O’Reilly’s The External World in the Best Of Melbourne Shorts

Programme 1 at Flickerfest. More info at flickerfest.com.au.