Short Stuff: I’m Fine Thanks (1)

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Eamonn O’Neill, writer/director of BAFTA-nominated animation I'm Fine Thanks, reflects on the journey of his short so far, from the doubts he experienced in the early days to the hazy morning when he woke to good news.

It’s 7.25 am. A Wednesday morning in January. The alarm beeps. I fumble at the bedside locker. My girlfriend turns to a second sleep. My head hits the pillow again.

“Just ten more minutes.” The prospect of getting the tube to work nags at me. It’s still dark outside. “Just ten more.” Another thought enters my head. Ignoring the chill, wide awake now, I take my laptop from the sitting room. Back under the covers I open the computer. My girlfriend stirs.

We’ve just arrived back in London after the holidays. An array of suitcases and backpacks lay across the floor. I find the website. “We’ve missed the live feed” I say. A moment of hesitation and I scroll. I’m nervous. I can’t read the words on screen, but somehow I take in:

Short Animation – I’m Fine Thanks – Eamonn O’Neill.

There’s an “Oh my god!” I laugh. There are hugs and even more laughs. The intercom in the hallway squawks through the house. I pick up the receiver. “Yes hi it’s James from maintenance. I’ve come to fix your boiler.” “I’ve been nominated for a BAFTA!” I reply.

Rewind a year and a half. It’s 2011. I’m sitting in my tiny bedroom in Battersea. I’m wondering if I should have come to London at all. My girlfriend is still in Ireland. There’s a daunting tower block out the window. I’m sharing my flat with three other animators from my course at the Royal College of Art. It’s the first year of my MA. I’m working on a new short film. At the moment it’s called Superhuman, but I don’t like that title. I’ll change it later. It’s on the ‘To do’ list.

"You have to keep writing, keep drawing, keep shooting, keep thinking and keep feeling your way through."

 

I’m nervous about this film. I’m afraid that I’ve put too much of myself into it – too much of what I’m feeling. “That’s the point.” I keep telling myself. It’s hard to show it to people. I think they’ll judge me or think of me differently. I’ve made two shorts before but this is different. Plastered to the wall behind me is the script. Notes and highlighted sections. Scribbles everywhere. A flurry of Post-its and Sellotape. The house is empty today. Everyone is at the college working or not working on their films. I can hear my neighbour’s children screaming. Every so often their eldest son throws his Playstation controller at his/my bedroom wall. I jump, sigh and return to my animation. I’ve already passed the deadline.

A few weeks later I receive an email from the Ottawa International Animation Festival. They’ve seen the rough cut and have accepted the film. I’m shocked into finishing the short. The premiere is just weeks from now. It’s full steam ahead. I put out word for help and an incredible band of friends step forward. They are all over the world. I’ve never been so thankful for the Internet. We get the film done in time. Incredibly, it takes the prize for Best Graduate Film.

That was the beginning of this film’s journey. Since then, I’m Fine Thanks has continued to screen around the world and win some more awards along the way. I didn't make it along to too many festivals – it’s been a busy time. In the gap between making I’m Fine Thanks and receiving the BAFTA nomination I spent more than a year making my latest short film, Left. This is my graduate piece from the RCA which is playing at festivals at the moment. Only now can I contemplate the work I’ve completed.

I can say that making films does not get easier. I am constantly filled with self-doubt and always questioning what I am doing. Thankfully, being nominated for something like a BAFTA helps to quell those fears and doubts and replaces them with a whole new set to contend with. Until the next film at least. Nonetheless, it’s become clear to me that you have to keep making things; you get itchy if you don't. You have to keep writing, keep drawing, keep shooting, keep thinking and keep feeling your way through. After that you can show it to people. You never know, maybe good things will happen.

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