The Danish Poet is a story of longing, growth, and the little everyday details that entangle everyone. It has garnered director Torill Kove her second Academy Award nomination; her first was in 2000 for My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, and the National Film Board of Canada’s sixty-ninth. In a recent email conversation, Ms. Kove talks about her hand drawn animation and what it’s like competing with Disney, Pixar, and 20th Century Fox.
Where did you get the inspiration for The Danish Poet?
Inspiration came from many places over a period of time. I had wanted to write a story about coincidence, connectedness, and the bizarre turns that life can take for the silliest reasons. Once I had a grip on this concept, my inspiration came from many sources, like for example how my parents met (though, The Danish Poet isn’t about them at all).
Your film is a coming of age type love story that doesn’t get too sappy or overly dramatic. How did you avoid these pitfalls?
I guess don’t think of it as a coming of age film (though that’s an interesting interpretation), and maybe that’s how I avoided those pitfalls. But in general, the great thing about making an animated short is that it is actually possible to have complete artistic control. Since I wrote and directed it, I was able to steer clear of anything that I don’t like.
The art style in this film is minimalist yet very emotive; what prompted you to use this particular style over another perhaps more complicated or busy style?
The style is deceptively simple but since the film was digitally colored I did have other options that could have rendered it into a more visually complex film. I declined to go that route, mostly because I was worried that it would no longer completely match the narrative. Once the artwork is combined with the narrative the outcome is something that works for me and audiences have responded to the film for the most part.
It looks like your film was hand drawn with minimal help from computers, how long did it take to create this film?
Yes, the animation is all hand drawn and none of it, except the camera moves, is computer generated. For instance my drawings on the film are complimented by Montreal based artist Anne Ashton whose original oil paintings of the sky are included. The film took about three years to make, more or less.
Your choice of soundtrack really illuminates the characters’ state of mind. Was it difficult to find the right sort of music to fit your film?
The music is all original and was composed, arranged and largely performed for the film by Kevin Dean, a brilliant jazz musician and composer. He is also very familiar with Scandinavian folk music and we agreed that he would create a score that would sound Scandinavian without using existing music. The music ended up playing a very important role in setting the tone for the film.
The Danish Poet has won many awards ranging from the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario to the International Animated Film Festival in Portugal. What was your reaction when your film was selected for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short?
There’s no question that getting nominated for an Oscar is very exciting. Not just for me, but for everyone who worked on it here at the NFB and in Norway. So, I was of course very pleased. But I was also quite surprised. There were many really wonderful films on the short list and I was not at all confident that mine would be among the five nominees.
Have you seen the films that you are competing against? How does it feel to be matched up against some of the best animation studios in the business like Pixar, Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox?
Yes, I have seen all the other films and it would be quite easy to feel intimidated in this company. But at the end of the day, because of the fairly insular nature of the animation community, I think animators are probably each others biggest fans. I look forward to meeting the other nominees and maybe finding out something about how they work and what makes them tick. The nomination gives me an opportunity to do that and that is a real bonus.
Are there any new projects that you are working on for the near future?
Right now I’m making a picture book of The Danish Poet for a Norwegian publisher. Afterwards I hope to make another film, but it’s too early to tell what that’ll be.
Thank you very much for your time, and I hope that by the end of February you can add Academy Award Winner to your list of achievements.
I’m not banking on it, but thank you anyway!