Hi How Are You? With Filmmakers Alison Snowden and David Fine

Thursday 14th, June 2018 / 08:00
By Hogan Short

When the Vancouver based duo of English born Alison Snowden and Canadian born David Fine made the short animated film Bob’s Birthday, it changed their lives forever. That short won them an Academy Award and an order for a television show that we now know as the beloved Bob and Margaret. They are back on the film circuit with a new short called Animal Behaviour about a motley crew of animals subjected to their instincts and trying to work through their issues. These two legends spoke with us about the process of making animated films together.

Where did the idea for Animal Behaviour come from?
We were inspired by the notion of examining how difficult it can be to deal with personality issues and especially the question of whether one should seek to change, or whether change is impossible because it’s in your DNA and people should accept and appreciate you for who you are.

What is the collaborative process like for you both when making an animated short?
We enjoy working together because we share a lot of sensibilities, humour and story wise, but we also have a great deal of appreciation for each others talents and what each of us brings to the table, both in terms of production and dinner each night.

What is the audition process for the characters like?
Casting the right voices was vital for this ensemble piece so we worked very hard to find exactly the right quality of voice and comic sensibilities. We reviewed over 300 voice auditions to settle on the group of six, although we were already very keen to work with Ryan Beil and Taz van Rassle as they have unique voices and work together in an improv group called The Sunday Service and so we thought their improv background would be an asset. The script was very tight, but adding little back and forth moments was really important too. Ryan is also a very accomplished actor otherwise. We have such a great voice talent base in Vancouver, so it was a lot of fun to find the right voices. We are very proud of our cast.

How long did this 14-minute short take to make?
It’s kind of embarrassing to say how long it takes to make a short personal film. It was probably about two and half years of production time, but that was after a development period as well. All in all, we have been working on this since… Ugh, too long.

How did winning an Academy Award change your lives?
It’s a special thing, no doubt. It has certainly opened doors, but once that door is opened, no one gives you a free ride because you’re an Oscar winner, so we still have to work for everything. It’s certainly a good marketing tool for us. “From the Oscar-winning team…” seems to attract attention.

What does your very successful show, Bob and Margaret, mean to you now that you can reflect on it?
It was a wonderful opportunity to expand on the short and learn about telling stories in a longer format like that. Mind you, the short was never intended to be a pilot for a series, so going there was something we initially resisted because we were intimidated, but once we started developing it, we found it easy to write. We are very proud of the series because it was seen so widely and had a great run in Canada and the U.S. on major networks. Channel 4 in the UK treated it pretty badly though, which was a frustration. We worked with some amazing talent in the UK and Canada and having a large team to help us realize our vision was energizing and inspiring. It freed us creatively to write without worrying about actually having to animate those scenes ourselves.

What is your view on the current state of big budget feature animated films?
Must admit, we find so many of them kind of tiresome. We are a lot more interested in more personal indie feature animations like this year’s Oscar nominee, The Breadwinner. Also loved Don Hertzfeld’s feature from a few years ago, It’s Such a Beautiful Day. Having said that, Alison really loved Trolls, which shocked both of us.

When and how can people see Animal Behaviour?
The NFB will distribute it at festivals first and so it will play in Canada at select festivals, but then it will eventually be on the NFB website and apps, for all to see.

For more information on Animal Behaviour visit www.snowdenfine.com