A mysterious traveller journeys across space and time in search of the origin of the universe, life, and God. Eventually finding himself alone in the dying light of an aging cosmos, he arrives at a devastating realization. Yet the world continues to spin.
Through sharp modernist shapes and a riveting score by composer duo Menalon, I Am Here takes a curious and contemplative approach to dark and complex themes like the nature of time and consciousness. Directed by Oscar®-shortlisted animator Eoin Duffy and featuring the voice acting of Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Goon), I Am Here is a thoughtful and open-ended exploration of existence itself.
Could you tell us a bit about the drawing style you use in I Am Here? While it’s very minimalist, with clean, simple lines and sharp graphics, it also has a lot of nuance and fluidity in it. How and why did you come to this style for this particular film? How is it influenced by your previous work? What techniques or technologies facilitate your style?
As a kid I was constantly sketching and drawing. My father was an artist, so it ran in the family. For years I drew as he did, highly detailed photorealistic illustrations. It formed the foundation of everything I do and gave me a good sense of composition, hierarchy, light and dark.
But then I studied design. I discovered pioneering minimalist designers like Josef Müller-Brockmann and Jan Tschichold. I saw how they played in the world of layout and composition, utilizing as few elements as possible. No filler. No unnecessaries. The layout was the medium, details were no longer important. I haven’t looked back since.
On the business side of things, the promotion and distribution of short films these days is so web-reliant, though films still do make the festival rounds and occasionally have theatrical screenings. What are your thoughts on digital marketing and distribution of films, and particularly the importance of social media? What do you hope I Am Here will get out of social media chatter, and how do you interact with/reach your audiences online?
My previous film was very fortunate to have a highly successful festival year: 100+ festivals, dozens of awards, the sniff of an Oscar, a large theatrical release, and a crazy amount of media attention. But after a year the film had yet to appear online. Festivals and distribution deals won’t allow it. Although perceived as a highly successful year, the collective audience amounted to a mere 40 to 50K.
The real release came once the film launched online. The audience grew exponentially, primarily driven by social media. The film spread organically, originating from my initial posts on Vimeo/Twitter and Facebook. The resulting media coverage resulted in a continuous stream of new work for myself and drew great interest towards the funder’s animation program.
No festival, no distribution deal came close to offering the same value as simply releasing the film online for free. Although I’m excited about I Am Here’s festival run, I really look forward to the date the film can be released online.
In I Am Here, the cafeteria worker at the end of the film is voiced by comedian and actor Fred Ewanuick. It’s only a few lines, but it’s a relatively powerful and impactful role, considering the narrative and the themes at play in the film. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Fred, how you came to work with him, and what you thought he brought to this role?
Fred is awesome! Local Vancouver casting agent Caroline Young put us in touch with him. Fred rounded off the film with an amazingly subtle performance, which is surprisingly rare. Most voice actors are conditioned to be attention-grabbing, over-the-top performers, as is called for by the majority of commercial voice work. But Fred is a very natural performer. Really fun to work with, and we were delighted to have attracted him to the project.
What has it been like to collaborate with the NFB for this project? How did you get together with the production team, and what do you think is particularly unique about working with a publicly funded media-production organization like the NFB?
I have always had great admiration for the NFB. I was thrilled that we could finally team up and simply blown away by how easy it was to work alongside them. The film is an infinitely better version of itself after having had the advice, support and backing of the NFB. Having come from the world of commercial animation, the NFB’s patience and dedication to the project’s vision was a breath of fresh air.
I Am Here ends with quite a bit of ambiguity. Viewers might not be sure whether (spoiler alert!) the time-travelling protagonist is simply imagining his entire journey or not. Can you shed some light on this? Was this ambiguity intentional? How and why did you choose to end the film this way, and is there a larger meaning to the ambiguity that you want to tell us about?
I have my own exact interpretation of the film. But I’m far more excited to hear the perspectives of others. Out of fear of corrupting this open discussion, I think it’s best I leave the film’s ending hanging in ambiguity. Sorry. 🙂
Written and Directed by
Fred Ewanuick (Gerry)
Jean Paul Vialard
Technical Edit Coordinator
Rosalina Di Sario
BC & Yukon Studio & Animation Studio – English Program