[Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted after Sunday was short-listed but before it was nominated for the Oscar]

The Oscar-nominated animated short Dimanche/Sunday is a timeless and whimsical look at a child living in a small Canadian town during a period of hardship and how the child’s imagination helps color the world around him. I recently spoke with French-Canadian filmmaker Patrick Doyon who makes his professional directing debut with Sunday. Here’s what he had to say about working with the legendary National Film Board of Canada, how his childhood provided inspiration, and crafting Sunday. Check out our conversation below and go to http://www.nfb.ca/film/sunday to see the film

Jackson Truax: I know you graduated with a degree in graphic design. How did that lead to you being an illustrator, and then to you being a filmmaker?

Patrick Doyon: While at the university, studying graphic design in Montreal…there were two optional courses in animation. I always loved drawing. I took both of those classes. I got bitten by the bug. I wanted to continue this exploration.

JT: Sunday is your first professional film, but you had already done several projects. What gives it the distinction of being your first professional film?

PD: It the first professional project, because I was given the [production budget] to do this. I consider it my first film because of the production.

JT: You had been working with the National Film Board of Canada on your earlier work. Did that make it easier to get Sunday made?

PD: Yes, I worked previously with the [National Film Board], and there I met the producer Michael Fukushima. So when I applied in the open process, anyone can apply, they also knew me and my work. There was also another producer, Marc Bertrand who attached himself to the project. Some of the funds came from both of them.

JT: In the decade that you’ve been working on animated short films, the distribution and availability of them has exploded via the internet. What affect has that had on the National Film Board and their producing these films?

PD: It has changed the way that animation is seen and made. Primarily for me, it’s a case of being able to be inspired, because one can watch animation a lot more readily… Before the year 2000 it was really difficult… Now you can look and see what’s going on. There’s a community there. You can contact directors and see how they work, or exchange information about techniques… The internet has helped elevate the quality of animation in general.

JT: Sunday is about a kid surrounded by family and church, and what leads him to see the world differently from the adults around him. Does the film draw from your own childhood at all?

PD: There are many elements of my own childhood and childhood memories. But they’ve been transformed and exaggerated to become somewhat fictional. It’s not an autobiography. I had a brother, there were cousins… It’s also a story about Canadian towns today that are getting older and older with less and less children. So it’s describing what’s going on [there].

JT: The adults in the film are coping with a period of economic hardship. Does that speak to the reality in Canada right now? What made that something you wanted to draw on?

PD: Yes, to answer your question… But [the film is] not necessarily about the world economic crisis today. I grew up in a rural…faraway town. So towns would live and die…by factories either opening or closing or companies [coming into] very small towns like that.

JT: Sunday is entirely hand-drawn. What made you want to use that technique?

PD: I used the technique because that’s the one that I really mastered. I’ve always drawn on paper. I couldn’t imagine not doing it… Perhaps on latter projects, there might be a combination of hand drawing and drawing directly into a computer.

JT: How did you find your color palate, and then decide what styles of hand drawing you wanted to use to execute it and get the feel you wanted?

PD: As far as the palate, I wanted something that had a faded look. Kind of like this autumn look, this movement in emotions from autumn to winter. This grayish assortment of colors. As far as the drawing style, [I spent] a lot of time researching and trying to find that graphic look. And also to have a unified feel to the whole thing. That was important to me. So I did a lot of research and testing. When I came up with the design of the boy…I built the whole universe around him, in that style.

JT: What do you think Sunday has to teach or remind audiences about the perceptions children have on the world that the rest of us might be lacking, particularly during times of hardship?

PD: One of the things…that’s alluded to, is that the boy’s bored. There’s a sense of boredom. It’s because of the adult world and him just being there. It’s as if he’s living the same Sunday over and over again. There’s this sense of repetition. What happens is that in that boredom, it fires up his imagination. And his imagination is what helps him escape or cope. Something that’s important, is that boredom does actually add something productive to your life, and helps to find a creative outlet for your own imagination. Today’s kids, there are a lot of things that are occupying them all the time. That actually a sense of boredom can be a positive thing. That’s something I wanted to state in this film.

JT: The National Film Board of Canada gives their films a lot of support and gets them into festivals and pushes them for Oscar nominations. What was your involvement in that process? Did you go to a lot of festivals with the film?

PD: The thing I’ve done the most is accompany the film to the festivals. The first big one was Berlin and then…to animated festivals and smaller festivals. I also wanted to see what the reaction would be abroad. I went to Denmark, to London, to Portugal. The life of the film, the great thing is being able to travel with it. That’s one of the big rewards.

JT: As you were going all over the world with the film, what feedback were you most proud of?

PD: One of the things I noticed by sitting in the audience and watching different people from other places, is that they all react in the same places. And they pretty much react in the same way. So I realized the international quality and character of the film. I’ve been really surprised by that and really proud.

JT: Sunday is currently available online for anyone to see. Why is it important audiences see Sunday, as well as make a point to see animated shorts from Canada and around the world?

PD: Short films have a very short life. So the fact that this film can exist on a website or on-line, that really extends the life and the impact that a short animation film can have.

JT: If Sunday were to get an Oscar nomination or win, what would that mean to you personally, or to Canada as a whole?

PD: A nomination would not only raise the visibility of the film itself and me as a filmmaker, but also definitely raise awareness of the [National Film Board] and it’s visibility. Because of the completely global nature of that award and the Oscars, having a nomination for this film is like being an ambassador for Canada.

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All material copyright 2007-2012 by Craig Kennedy unless otherwise stated