David O’Reilly’s cv is looking good. He’s directed a couple of music videos and worked on various projects with Shynola, Studio AKA and Hammer & Tongs–all of whom heartily sing his praises. Signed to Colonel Blimp, this year he worked on a pilot with Adam Buxton for the BBC in which he looked after the animation, Dougal Wilson was on live action duty and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead created the music. O’Reilly is 22.
It was Shynola who gave him his first break when they responded to a ‘message in a bottle’ —to use O’Reilly’s phrase—which he sent as a frustrated animation student in Dublin. “I felt at odds with how I was being taught at college,” he explains. “Shynola were the only animators I knew of that were doing the kind of work that I knew I wanted to do,” he continues, “so I sent them some of my work and a note–I never thought they’d respond.” But respond they did, inviting O’Reilly to work with them on the animation sequences they were directing for Garth Jennings’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. O’Reilly literally dropped everything, including his animation course, to take up Shynola’s offer.
Shynola subsequently talked so highly of O’Reilly that video commissioner and co-owner of production company Colonel Blimp, John Hassay, signed him up without having seen any of his work and, in 2005, O’Reilly unleashed his first commissioned promo–for Venetian Snares track Szamar Madar (which appeared on our CR dvd 11). The film is an abstract, stormy animation in which lightning bolts flicker to the syncopated beats of the track while rain pours down on an ancient stone circle. The video contains a memorable section where sound and image suddenly cut to a silent blue screen with flickering computer code that makes you think that the equipment you’re watching it on has just died. That screen then twists and morphs back to the animation to appropriately frazzled sounds. That was the last animated music video O’Reilly made, although his reel reveals a cluster of short films produced since, their marked stylistic difference to each other suggesting his desire to experiment with animation techniques and visual style.
“I had spent around six years focusing on art and developing animation technique,” O’Reilly explains. “But I only considered filmmaking seriously about two years ago.” In early 2006 O’Reilly took a job at Fabrica in Treviso, Italy and soon discovered a large and mainly unused private cinema. After befriending the security guard, he spent as much time as possible there, “absorbing hundreds of films over a very short period of time.” If it wasn’t for this experience, he maintains, “I may have stuck with doing the kind of abstract animation that I did for the Venetian Snares video.” It was during his time at Fabrica that O’Reilly made Wofl, a short film which received rapturous applause when screened recently at his Creative Futures lecture at 3Rooms in London.
O’Reilly is very specific about who and what inspires him. Film directors Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Haneke, Jodorowsky, Bresson and Van Sant get a mention–as does animator Oskar Fischinger. His Fabrica cinema sessions awakened a passion for filmmaking and in January 2007 O’Reilly took himself to Berlin, where he currently resides, specifically to concentrate on a new project–a short film entitled Serial Entoptics. The film looks at the relationship between two people living in the same flat in a city–although O’Reilly candidly reveals the decision to make the characters human was something he struggled with for a while. “I’ve always been the first person to say that using human characters in animation is pointless and impossible,” he says. “I’m very conscious of the ‘uncanny valley’ idea [that the closer a robot resembles a human, the more the differences between it and a real human are magnified and disturbing] but I basically cannot bring myself to do talking animals. It’s just wrong. This was one of the reasons why we never see the main, male character’s face until the last shot of the film. I just don’t know if it’s possible to empathise with a CG ‘human’. The possibility of emotionally misfiring is huge.”
The ten-minute film, which has taken a year to create, however, doesn’t misfire, but rather plays out like a rather disturbing dream. Which is precisely what O’Reilly wanted–he claims to have edited and animated it “solely on feeling. I would often wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and just go and do it, regardless of whether it could logically fit with other shots, as long as it captured a mood.”
O’Reilly’s approach sounds unorthodox but he maintains that it is essentially straight-forward in intention: “I want every idea to justify existing in animation–to be ideas that would be useless in any other medium,” he explains. “Essentially I want to capture elements of life which could never be recorded by camera. If film is ideal for capturing a sense of reality, then animation offers the chance to embrace ideas of perception, which is an entirely different proposition.”
Of being a Creative Future, O’Reilly beams, “This will be great. I’ll finally be able to show my mother what on earth I’ve been doing.”