Gísli Darri Halldórsson on Oscar-nominated Yes-People

(Director Gísli Darri Halldórsson)

Gísli Darri Halldórsson’s 2021 Academy Award-nominated Animated Short Film Yes-People explores the monotonous daily life of humans stuck in behavioral loops.

Yes-People is a story about an eclectic mix of people finding a way to cope with life’s daily struggles.  Icelandic Animator and storyteller Gísli Darri Halldórsson, who wrote and directed the film, graduated with a BA from the Irish School of Animation (Dublin) and has been a professional animator since 2007.

The filmmaker was able to both use and express his own past cyclical loops through the film, and in turn, evolve through this personal work into a new chapter, a chapter that could involve winning an Oscar.

This isn’t the young animator’s first rodeo at the Oscars.  Other films he worked on include the Oscar-nominated shorts Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, The Room on the Broom and BAFTA-winning TV-series The Amazing World of Gumball. But, this is the first time his own passion project is an Oscar contender.

It’s no surprise as Gísli always knew his path would always be animation. He has worked on live-action doing storyboards for Nordic noir series Trapped (Season 1) and Icelandic feature films such as Vultures and I Remember You.

His narrative music videos such as Whatever by Leaves, received a nomination for best music video at the EDDA Awards (The Icelandic Film & TV Academy) and The Great Unrest by Mugison received best music video of the year at the Icelandic Music Awards.

The aesthetic of Halldórsson’s work is reminiscent of the Tim Burton produced film Coraline, which  serves as one of his biggest influences. There’s also a tone of eccentricity in the mundane that is in the same realm as the world of David Lynch, another one of his monumental influences.

As a dedicated artist with a genuine obsession for his craft,  Gísli explains that exists within his process, “Inspiration is just the spark, it’s not the oil that you need to keep going. You need dedication, so when obsession for the work and inspiration come together it’s very powerful.”

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In animation obsession is required. The animation process of  filming that moves at the microcosm pace of capturing a mere 3- 13 seconds of screen time a week, is one that demands patience and  meticulousness as a prerequisite. This tedious process the filmmaker calls “ pushing polygons in virtual space” where one has to “always keep their eyes on the big picture while working second to second” is a heavy labor of love.

Yes-People’s subject matter of the sometimes boring and dull routine of every day life, can actually serve as  “a reflection of the animation process itself.”

Gísli wanted to explore that daily habits, patterns, and routines that seem minuscule in  every day life that actually make up who a person is in the big picture- just like every tiny microsecond of animation that made up this entire 8 minute film.

This idea of exploring  the all too human nature of living life in a repetitive loop, was a personal fear of the filmmaker. “I definitely feared living my life in a loop, which is why I found this subject interesting ” explains Gísli. The ability to explore the mundane habits of life armed with the obsession of working on this film, helped the filmmaker release this inner fear of going in circles in his own life.

This year has been anything but a repetitive loop for Gísli. In fact, he describes this year as “a year of pleasant surprises.” With just some of the accolades Yes-People has received the Best European Short Film at the Wierd International Animation Film Festival in Spain, the Children’s Choice Award Nordic Youth Category at Nordisk Panorama in Sweden, the Best Nordic-Baltic Short Film at the Frederikstad Animation Festival in Norway, the Audience Award at Uppsala Short Film Festival in Sweden- Gísli is getting a lot more yes than no with his passion project.

With his current journey as an Oscar-contending filmmaker, the future looks anything but cyclical and everything like a lot of  “Yes” for Gísli Darri Halldórsson.

Watch the trailer for Yes-People here:

The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and international locations via satellite.

Oscars: Into the Spotlight will air live on Sunday, April 25, on ABC at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.  The show will be televised live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. and in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.  Oscars: After Dark will immediately follow the show.

Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.