Australian Oscar hopefuls on a quest to get an Academy Award nomination for animated film
They say the Oscars are all politics.
It’s about who you know. Which LA restaurants you take them too. What private screenings you host and which Hollywood stars you have on deck to schmooze the Academy voters.
So how did two Australian mates and their seven-minute love story about a crochet fox and dinosaur find themselves in the running? And could they pick up the coveted gold statue?
First, let’s back up a bit.
Lost and Found is the heartwarming short animated film about a fox who finds itself in danger and the lengths its dinosaur friend will go to rescue it.
You can watch the whole film below (get the tissues ready).
It was the creation of friends and co-directors Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe, and has been in the works since 2014.
They put a storybook together, received some funding from Screen Australia and then set about filming.
It took them 14 months to complete the stop-animation shoot — equating to about 1 second of film per day.
“It first started off in terms of, what if a doll needed to unravel itself?” Mr Slabe said.
“We loved the idea of what you are really willing to do to keep a relationship together.”
The short film has found fans around the world and picked up a number of awards at film festivals, which qualified the creators to enter the Oscars race.
To their delight, Lost and Found has been shortlisted in the Short Film (Animated) category.
To be clear, this isn’t an Oscar nomination yet. More on that in a minute.
“When you are working on something so closely for three years, you do get a bit scared that maybe we are the only ones that are really loving this,” Mr Slabe said.
“It is really scary putting it out into the world, so to get the reaction it has been getting has been overwhelming and exciting as well.”
Mr Slabe and Mr Goldsmith are now entering the race to get the official nomination, which would include an invite to the ceremony and be a huge career step.
Regardless of winning, even being an Osacr-nominated director is a big deal.
The Academy nomination process is a complicated political and mathematical game that works like this:
- In each Oscar category a shortlist is compiled. For Short Film (Animated) there are 10 films jostling for five official nominations.
- Accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is tasked with sending out the ballots to Academy members, who rank their picks in order of preference 1-5.
- To be a member of the Academy someone has to have “achieved distinction in the motion picture arts and sciences”.
- PwC then tallies the result using a complicated formula that gives weighting to the ranking.
So, if you are hoping to get nominated for an Oscar, you have a very particular group of people you want to impress and hopefully get them to put your film at the top of their list.
“The process of Oscar voting is definitely very political … there’s lots of different ways that distributors can influence voting,” says writer and film critic Luke Buckmaster.
“They might hold, for example, private screenings, they might have dinners with certain talent attached as guests, they will send out screenings ‘for your consideration’ and so forth.”
Mr Buckmaster said in the 1990s then-heavyweights like Harvey Weinstein and the Miramax company would literally call Academy members and “strong-arm” them into pledging allegiance to their films.
“The Academy Awards is an American system that is very LA-centric, so of course independent Australian filmmakers are up against it when it comes to Oscar campaigning,” Mr Buckmaster said.
Mr Slabe and Mr Goldsmith don’t have the cash or clout to compete on this level, and they face some serious competition.
Among those shortlisted in their category is Bao (from the Pixar animation juggernaut), Bilby (from Dreamworks), and Age Of Sail (made by John Kahrs, who is already an Oscar winner and has worked on the animations for films like Frozen and The Incredibles).
In the face of this, Mr Slabe and Mr Goldsmith have taken a more grassroots approach to getting the attention of the Academy.
“We have basically been doing as much promotion as we can to try to get noticed by voters and everyone around the world,” Mr Goldsmith said.
“We are trying to engage our fans … there is a lot of crochet enthusiasts who have really taken to the film.
“We are pretty small fry compared to some of the people we are competing against, big American studios, so we have just been thinking of creative ways to get attention.”
That includes mocking up various “for your consideration” posters that play on classic films, in lieu of new photoshoots the pair didn’t have the funds for.
The nomination voting process is currently open and will end on January 14, with the official Oscar nominations to be announced on January 22, US time.
For now Mr Slabe and Mr Goldsmith are simply enjoying the ride and not booking any tuxedo rentals just yet.
“We are trying to not get our hopes up too high,” Mr Goldsmith said.