Lachlan Pendragon is now an Oscar-nominated filmmaker after being nominated for his animated short, titled “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Believe Him.”
The project was produced as part of Pendragon’s doctorate and took 10 months to put together in his living room during the pandemic. Pendragon, who is currently earning his doctorate in visual arts at Griffith Film School in Brisbane, already won a Student Academy Award last year and now is vying for Oscar.
The short film follows a young telemarketer named Neil who is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich who tells him that the universe is actually stop-motion animation. Neil, voiced by Pendragon, then tries to convince his colleagues about the discovery.
Below, Pendragon chats with Variety about his nomination, the journey behind the film and who he’d like to meet at the Oscars.
The nominations are announced at 5:30 a.m. here, which would have been late night for you, so, what were you doing when you found out you had been nominated for an Oscar?
It was late Tuesday night, almost midnight. It was bizarre because you’re watching all these names that you’re familiar with, and your name is up there. I was texting everyone I knew, but they were asleep because it was the middle of the night.
Has it dawned on you that you’ll be going to the Oscars in March?
I’m the kind of person who finds all the films and watches them in the cinema. So, to be in the room will be amazing.
Let’s talk about “An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake” and its journey. Where did it begin?
It was part of a doctorate in visual arts program at film school. It had to come from a research perspective. The project needed to have a level of innovation and something that you were doing differently that you could write about and talk about. I wanted to do something on stop-motion because it’s something that I love doing, but I hadn’t thought too much about it yet. There was so much potential about what could be done and explored.
I wanted to look at the handmade quality of stop-motion animation and ensure they were as apparent as possible. That led me down this path of doing something that breaks the fourth wall and deconstructs it, so that the audience could be watching the behind-the-scenes as they were watching the film. I thought it was entertaining because it would show all that goes into making this kind of film. But then on the other side, it’s like, how do I make sure that it’s not too distracting that you can still connect with these characters? Finding that balance was difficult.
It reminded me a bit of “Wallace and Gromit” to that extent. What was the inspiration behind the main character, Neil?
I did the voice for Neil. That character has a lot of me in it. I did the reference footage and the animation. He has a lot of my idiosyncrasies in him. I’ve worked in jobs where I felt terrible at it and still gave it my best. I could relate to that, and I wanted to bring that into the story in a way that had humor to it and a way that is entertaining.
As the title suggests, there is an ostrich featured in the short. Did you have to study how ostriches move?
That’s a hard thing to track movements down unless you have access to them. I was very careful with what shots I was doing so I could figure out how to animate it, so if you look carefully, there are very few full-body shots. A lot of it is the headshot, so I put balls on top of my hand and acted that out before I started animating it just to get a sense of how it would play out.
What about your overall inspirations and influences?
“Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Gromit.” I love everything Aardman Animations does, and they’re a big influence on me. I love “Fantastic Mr. Fox” because of its ability to showcase tactile, handmade materials. I love what LAIKA does in terms of its technical innovations and everything that you can do with 3D printing. I used a lot of 3D printing to do the mouth shapes of the characters. That was really useful for someone doing everything all by themself. So, that was nice having access to the technologies.
How did you settle on the title?
It was one of the last things we came up with. We came up with a lot of different ideas, but none of them were working. We went through the film hoping that one of the lines would fit. It was one of my supervisors who suggested it. I thought he was joking, but it seemed to be the perfect fit for the type of film that it is and was the title it needed.
Is there someone you’re looking forward to meeting at the Oscars?
I think Guillermo del Toro. I love “Pinocchio” and his past work, so it would be amazing to meet him.