This Friday, August 6th, Rooftop Films is screening short films about lost love for our “Doomed Love and the Devilles” show. One of these, 80 Billion Guys, takes us back to New York City during the 1950s, with a story about love found and love spurned, a story about jealousy and the kind of love that one found in a bar at the beginning of the free love era. Filmmaker Kieran O’Hare uses hand-drawn illustrations to create a grainy black and white style that gracefully communicates the film’s universal themes of longing and regret.
Rooftop’s Dana Arbel spoke with spoke with Kieran about how he created the unique look of the film, where the story came from, and his new film project that teaches grammar lessons with sentences containing taboo subjects (think nazis and STDs).
Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of the film for those who haven’t seen it.
Kieran O’Hare: 80 Billion Guys is an animated short that takes place in the 50’s in New York about a guy who meets a girl in a bar, falls in love with her, and then drives her away with his hangups about the 80 billion other guys she’s slept with.
RF: Everything is done in hand drawn illustrations, how long did it take to make the film?
KO: I would say from the beginning of the writing process through creating a shot list, drawing, and then scanning the individual frames it probably took about three weeks. The time consuming part was the scanning, erasing, and re-drawing, of course. I did ten frames a second and the shots in the film are generally about 3 to 4 seconds, which took me anywhere from an hour to four hours to to complete depending on how much movement was going on.
It’s hard to be patient in a situation like that, because once you write the story and see it in your head, you feel like the hard part is done. And it is. But then you have to go through all the mechanical shit to execute it. The good thing is since you’re not actually really thinking while you do it, you can just listen to music and drink beer.
RF: Have you practiced other styles of animation, why did you choose this particular type for the film?
KO: Not really. I sort of figured this out as I went along. I was making films that used a combination of illustration and photography—so illustrations placed into photographic backgrounds. I was looking at a lot of William Kentridge films though—the South African artist–and I thought I’d try something similar.
RF: Was this a personal story, if not where did the idea come from?
KO: Well, it’s not, like, a page ripped from my diary or anything like that. But I did start with real feelings that I’ve experienced and that a lot of people experience—jealousy and love—and tried to explore the connection and the clash between them through a fictional story that an audience might actually care about.
RF: Was the mood of the film particular to that of New York in the 50’s, or do you think it is relatable for modern audiences?
KO: I think it’s relatable to modern audiences, yeah. The reason I set it in the 50’s is because I thought it would fit with the grainy, black and white style of the film—the eraser marks and scratches would sort of parallel imperfections in the film– and also because from the conception, I wanted the film to be a reflection from an older narrator to emphasize the main character’s sense of regret. But you know, people are obviously still doing stupid things to fuck up relationships because they get jealous, and really that’s what it’s about, so the time period is secondary.
RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else do you do?
KO: I’m trying to be. I was a teacher as well, and I enjoyed it, but I’ve given that up to focus on filmmaking and illustration.
RF: Tell us about what else you are currently working on.
KO: I’m doing a few different things. I’ve started working on a series of mock grammar tutorials called “Animated Grammar,” which teach Grammar lessons with sentences about taboo subjects like Nazis and STD’s. Nazis less because it’s taboo, actually. Because that’s almost too obvious of a joke—you know, a Nazi joke. It’s more because the word Nazi sounds funny and I thought it would be funny if Nazis were doing totally normal things like camping and buying baseball cards.
I’m also working on another three to four minute animated film for the Brooklyn Filmshop’s screening at Public Assembly on August 19th, and I’m doing animation for a documentary called “American Meat” produced by Graham Meriwether and his organization “Leaveitbetter.” And I’m trying to figure out how to publish a graphic novel I finished.
RF: What excites you about screening your film at Rooftop Films?
KO: The atmosphere. It just seems like Rooftop aims its screenings and events toward making sure the audience actually enjoys themselves.
I guess that should be the case with any screening, but it’s not. I think Rooftop gets it right in that they know that film screenings can show really good films without being these hyper-serious networking events and that they’re actually supposed to be… well, fun for people to go to. I just want to make movies that are fun for people to see. So I’m happy to be a part of that.