By Kate Teves
Perhaps no other food in the grocery store has survived more melodrama than cereal. It has been loved, neglected, indulged, and sworn off for life by just about every last one of us throughout our lives.
But through all those ups and downs, cereal has stayed true: no matter how fickle our hearts, those little krispies instantly transport us back to simpler, sweeter times. One spoonful carries us home.
Copenhagen filmmaker Tobias Rud’s animated short Sweetie O’s about a very sad man re-discovering his favorite cereal brings up a rich world of emotion. Pencil-drawn animation and expertly-edited sound work together to reveal the deepest pain, longing, and most of all, love.
Like a good cereal aisle, this film will stop you in your tracks, and our interview with Tobias will stay right there with you.
Tell us about your journey to becoming an artist. How did it start?
That's a difficult question to answer because even today I still feel kind of odd thinking of myself as an "artist". I don't know when I'll get to that point of "yes, NOW I'm finally a real artist!" But growing up I think whatever work of art that could transport me into another universe always had a lot of value to me. Mostly by listening to music. I would be completely swallowed and amazed that someone had created something that could make me feel like this. So I just really wanted to create something myself that would make others feel like I did listening to this music. But then I found out playing the guitar is hard and somehow decided filmmaking would be an easier way to get there. So I started making live-action films but eventually got tired of dealing with actors and lightbulbs and moved into drawing my own films instead.
Tell us about your film Sweetio O’s. Where did the idea come from? What was the process to create it?
Well, first of all, I like cereal! And sometimes doing grocery shopping I feel overwhelmed looking at that beautiful wall filled with cereal boxes. So that's where the image of a person completely struck and obsessively starring at cereal came from. Then from there, it was just building on top of that. Why would someone be so obsessive of this etc.? The film was my graduation film from Vancouver film school and we had around 5 months to do it. All animated with pencil and paper, which was fun and authentic but also a lot of work.
There’s a lot of going on in Sweetie O’s! It tackles some very complex emotions and feelings of existential emptiness that many of us can relate to. Why did you choose to explore these emotions?
I believe one of the most powerful things about art is exploring emotions that might not always be very nice. I think we're all just trying to figure out our inner emotional lives, and art is there to help with that. Recognizing difficult emotions through a song, painting or a movie has always felt helpful and meaningful to me, so its natural for me to try doing the same when creating my own stuff.
You are able to convey so much with just music, color and movement. It’s extraordinary! Can you talk to us about that?
Well, thank you! My secret is, that I'm not very good at drawing. So it forces me to compensate with good ideas and being thoughtful of the storytelling. I think sound and pacing is one of my strengths when it comes to that. Cutting around certain things even if it’s because of limited technical abilities often leads to more subtle and stronger storytelling instead of showing everything up front in the audiences faces.
Do you have any upcoming projects we should know about?
I have too many projects I want to do and not enough time. At the moment I'm working on an even shorter short film that I'm basically improvising to challenge myself to be more openminded and loose in my work. That will hopefully be out soon. Unless it ends up sucking and I never let it see the day of light, in that case you can forget about what I just said.
How did you choose the music for Sweetie O’s?
Having the right music is super important to me, and I wish I had the music completely locked down early in the process. But that wasn’t the case with Sweetie O's. A difficult part is also licensing, so I decided to go through 5alarm which is a site full of music that can be used legally for filmmaking. So I spent hours and hours listening to different songs, while watching an early rough version of the film. It’s all about trying to sense what feels right and what doesn’t. Even at the very end, I had different exported versions especially in regards to what cheesy supermarket ballad should be playing as he watches the cereal. The composer of the music playing while in childhood nostalgia is Joel Goodman.
What are you listening to right now that we should check out?
At the moment I'm enjoying a lot Tom Rosenthal, and for readers who also like animation, I can recommend checking out his music videos as well. He's got so many amazing animated videos and all done by very talented people.