Animator David O’Reilly’s work stands out in many ways, but on first view, it would have to be the raw, pixellated style of graphics that burst and disentegrate in the screen, and his disregard for the traditional conventions of typical computer animated films. He’s in love with 3d, but for all the wrong reasons. Forget slick reflected surfaces, render-heavy raytracing and Disney-esque cheesy voice-overs - here’s a 3d maverick kid who’s combining surrealist and darkly ironic narratives with the cuteness of colourful game-style graphics to humourous and often disturbing effect.
We’re sitting in a café in Kreuzberg in Berlin, drinking a coffee, and chatting freely about his career, filmmaking and his recent move to Berlin.
David got his jump-start through being noticed by guru design company Shynola, after sending them his first ever animation piece while still a student. The response was overwhelmingly positive, which later led to him being thrown into a Shynola project, with little hands-on experience.
"They took a big risk – I’d never done 3d character animation before, but they basically threw me in the deep end. They knew the best thing to do was give me a load of stuff, just to see if I could sink or swim"
So while working his day job at Studio AKA, David was churning out frames at Shynola on the night shift, surviving off toast and beans. Pretty normal stuff really, for a nineteen year old.
"What I learnt at Shyola was so important – to do really amazing work you had to give everything.. It’s really infectious to be around workaholics. They taught me how to not have a life. "
All aspiring animators take note – get ready for the slog! Picture hours bent over computer workstations, late nights punctuated by coffee, baked beans or cigarettes. For David O’Reilly, those long hours and poor diet have already paid off. With clients including the BBC and Sony, he’s now at the point where he can work a few jobs a year, and spend the rest of his time developing and creating his own film works.
Stills from David’s new series PSS
And he’s just finished the first episodes of a new series entitled ‘PSS – Please Say Something’, a surreally comic tale of a domesticated couple – a mouse and a cat – and their life together in a futuristic city flat. It’s Ren and Stimpy, minus the ‘kook’ factor, or as David puts it – ‘Thirty second breakneck heartbreak internet turbo drama emotion at nine thousand kmph’.
"RGB XYZ’, 2005
It will be exciting to see the response David gets from this new series, especially since RGB XYZ, a short film created in a similar style, received so much critical acclaim. Although it was created a few years ago, it’s just recently received a lot of attention, featuring in film and animation festivals around the globe, and this year, receiving an honourable mention at the Berlinale Film Festival.
Reading the media feedback, it seems the thing that perked people’s attention most, was the kind of ‘aesthetic anarchy’ of his animative style, and the unashamed crudity his 3d graphics.
So why strip a tool, especially the more sophisticated 3d animation software that is so readily available these days, down to its basic level, when it can do so much more?
"Most 3d animation I see uses the same things over and over – raytracing, motion blur, anti-aliasing, and so on. When I do something more raw, there’s an honesty to it, but it’s also about economics. I can render out the animations almost as quick as the preview, and at the end of the day I don’t think it affects the story at all. I don’t want to make things look polished for the sake of it."
Stills, "Serial Entopics", 2008
We’ve just finished our coffees, and are both noticing how relaxed everyone is around us in the Café, for a Monday afternoon. Which prompted me to ask David about his recent relocation to Berlin.
"I’d just finished working on Garth Jenning’s second film, Son of Rambo, and after that I knew it was going to be a quiet period, so I came here, and made a short film."
"I knew Berlin was pretty cheap and I knew I could afford to live there for about a year and not take on any commercial stuff, so that’s exactly what I did. I was sure after that, I’d leave, but I’m still here."
Still, "Son of Rambow", 2007
Since finishing work on Garth Jennings’ second film, Son of Rambow, in London last year, David made the move and sees no reason to go back. His sentiment echoes the reason a lot of artists, musicians and writers come to Berlin – not just for the cheaper rents, but the laid-back vibe, which is most other major cities is less easy to come by.
"I get so much work done here, and I still have a life. People are nice, and there’s a community, and it’s more open."
And there’ll be much more of David’s work to look forward to. Future projects include him curiously taking up an anonymous alter ego, under the name of Holy Ghost. Under this title, he’ll focus on collaborations with other artists, which even has a set of ‘ten commandments’ by which all projects must adhere to.
The grey clouds start to gather in the sky outside, and it looks like we’re in for another drizzly Berlin day. We pay the bill and leave, and as I say goodbye, I can just imagine David going back up to his flat to keep on working – set off a few renders, sketch out a scene, conceive more crazy script ideas for PSS, and have a chuckle to himself while he does it.
One thing’s for sure - this sprightly 22 year old is an innovator, who seems intent on keeping us guessing, and not content with throwing us the same old stuff we’re used to. As he so aptly writes on his website, ‘Walt would shit in his grave’.
Text: Peta Jenkin