Interview with Animator/Filmmaker Tim Ballard (OH MY…)

 OH MY… played to rave reviews at the June 2018 Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Tim Ballard: My friend Michael is a San Francisco area musician who asked me to make an animated music video for one of his songs. The song made me think of a sort of dream journey, and I wanted to depict themes and images that had been in my mind for awhile – environmental apocalypse, indigenous cultures, the desert toad.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I worked on this in pieces over the course of a year – much longer than I anticipated. It was a sort of learn as you go process with the technical aspects of the various adobe software platforms.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Imaginative resurrection.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Mostly as I said above, the technical aspects of getting the watercolor effect to coloring, learning the ins and outs of a larger scale project than I was used to in the past. Also – time and money were tight, of course.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I felt disappointed that it seemed to have only elicited a bad acid flashback for most people and didn’t resonate or make sense in a dream logic sort of way as I had hoped. Many of the images were from sort of personal imagery, but I’d hoped it would make some symbolic sense to some people. If not, I hoped people enjoyed the combination of image and mousic.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Believe it or not there were no drugs involved in the conception or execution of this animation (besides coffee and whiskey).

I’ll do my best to answer below, forgive me if it is a little long!

It was a combination of the feel I got from the song itself and vignettes or motifs I’d had swirling in my mind for a long time before.
The song, for me, conjured up a sense of flying and floating and a sort of journey that climaxes in awe, but also speaks of some sadness or difficulties being transcended. I added to that the themes I’ve mentioned above: apocalypse, wastelands, the writings of Zhuangzi, an interest in indigenous cultures and ethnobotany, an interest in what I guess I’ll call “the ontology of imagination” and, (as someone in the audience correctly pointed out) the Sonoran desert toad.

Because it seemed to not translate well to the audience, I’ll summarize the narrative here: basically, the main character starts off in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, looking exhausted and alone. Then he finds a cave entrance with mysterious petroglyphs that leads to a subterranean lake where there is water and spirit guides in the form of three animal headed beings waiting to greet him. An elixir is given and he sinks into a dream journey/ sinks into the lake. He’s brought up from the depth to the lake surface which becomes the same wasteland desert surface. He awakens after passing over the dormant, dreaming frog in the soil. He rises and flies towards a distant city that is populated with creatures having a ceremony of some sort. I turns out it was a ceremony to coax water and life from the dead dry land. Raindrops begin to fall. Then he awakens on the lake’s edge at the same time the frog awakens under the earth. The story is bookended by the moment the water hits the soil, awakening life from the dead land.

The Sonoran desert toad fascinated me when I heard them in the desert after a rain and someone told me they are hibernating under the dry desert soil most of the year and suddenly arise when the rain comes to mate and sing in the rainwater ponds. Also in this time of year, flowers and plants you never assumed were there, burst through dry, cracked soil with a vigor that is as inspiring as it is beautiful. Obviously it seems like a sort of Lazarus-esque resurrection. In my imagination I liked to think that the toads spend more of their life in a dreaming state down under the soil than in a waking state and that the dream state was more real for them than the waking state. Then a few years later I heard that they have a hallucinogenic mucus which only added to their mystique for me. So, in my mind, the world represented in the animation is like a manifestation of the toad’s dream, and the completion of the ceremony reawakens life in the dead land in the way imagination can reawaken vitality in our personal lives.

So there are a few layers of dreams – I was inspired by Zhuangzi’s story of the butterfly dream on this part – and for better or worse I wanted it to be a little ambiguous.

Anyhow, the basic theme is in the hope that even in desperate times we can still find life and potential beneath the surface with which we might be able to manifest a rebirth or resurrection of sorts.

So, yeah, basically an acid trip.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Hmmm. Probably Milo and Otis or The Road Warrior.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

It certainly makes it a lot easier and very streamlined. I appreciate it.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I’d like to choose one of my favorite songs but in reality it is probably the “Happy Birthday Song” or a Christmas carol like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I am hoping to start a series of short, 3min or less, animated documentaries about food and cultural history – how a single ingredient or dish can tell the history of a culture.

oh_my_2

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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