It's been a tumultuous, life-changing month for young Irish producer Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly, 26. On February 2 her animated short film Head Over Heels won a coveted 2013 Annie Award at the most prestigious animation awards ceremony in the world held in Los Angeles.
But then came the really big news. O'Reilly, who hails from the village of Cromane near Killorglin, Co. Kerry, was nominated for an Academy Award and will find out if she’s won this Sunday during the telecast from Los Angeles.
Producer O'Reilly and director Timothy Reckart, also 26, are students at the U.K.’s National Film And Television School (NFTS) which is upholding its tradition of producing sophisticated animation projects that garner Oscar recognition.
Speaking about her surprise at the Oscar nod, O'Reilly told the press, “Myself and Tim were on Skype waiting to hear the announcement so we were able to keep each other calm. But it just went a bit crazy then. We spent all afternoon taking calls.
“We are absolutely overwhelmed and excited all at once. What a huge honor,” she added.
Alongside this year’s successful producer and director nods, the school Reckart wrote and directed Head Over Heels with O'Reilly. A tender, stop motion animated feature, the film tells the story of a long married couple, Walter and Madge, who have quite literally grown apart -- he lives on the floor and she lives on the ceiling. The highly praised short is the only student film competing in the Oscars this year.
To make the film, the enterprising pair enlisted the help of a large crew of students at NFTS to bring Reckart’s tragicomic vision to life, which was partly inspired by a Rembrandt painting.
Animator Nick Park, who Reckart reveals also inspired his stop motion film, became famous himself by creating the Wallace and Gromit characters for his graduation film at the NFTS 30 years ago.
“Head Over Heels is one of those stand-out little gems that doesn't come around that often,” he told the press. “It's a cleverly conceived but simple idea, a clear and inventively told story, very poignant and full of heart. I'm not surprised Timothy Reckart is winning awards with Head Over Heels. They're much deserved.”
NFTS director Nik Powell was full of praise for his two accomplished young filmmakers. “For one of our graduation films to receive an Annie, the pinnacle of animation awards, we hope this win gives Head Over Heels the momentum to get their extraordinarily human and humorous film noticed by Academy voters. Tim and Fodhla richly deserve the success and credit their film is receiving,” he said.
To give a sense of their achievement, Head Over Heels has been nominated for an Academy Award alongside major studio efforts from Disney and Fox, also competing for Best Animated Short Film. It's the little film that could, and tipsters are confidently predicting it will go all the way and win the award on Oscar night.
Meanwhile, interested viewers will be glad to know the film can now be seen at select theaters as part of the Shorts Program being distributed by ShortsHD, the Short Movie Channel and Magnolia Pictures.
Head on over and show your support for emerging Irish talent that's about to hit the big time!