When playing a mysterious vinyl single, Pia is suddenly able to travel through her life.
It’s pretty incredible where 2 minutes can bring you. For Pia, it brings her through her entire life, for the Netherlands animation studio Job, Joris & Marieke, it brought them straight to the Oscars! A Single Life started off as and was originally intended to be shown in Dutch cinemas before the blockbuster films. It wasn’t until someone proposed them to submit the film as the Dutch representative for the Oscars, that they even started thinking about the possibility. Each step of selection came as a giant surprise, from Dutch selection to short listing, but none was more flabbergasting than actually being nominated for an Academy Award. Unfortunately that year Disney took home they Oscar with Feast.
It was a real challenge to show a whole lifespan in such a short time. We were constantly scraping away frames.
We wanted to show different parts of our main characters life. But we had little time to show these parts. So we wanted them to be as specific and accurate as possible to make sure it would come across exactly right. So we spend a lot of time on the sets. We paid attention to every little detail, from the right wallpaper to the most characteristic chair to the most meaningful painting. We created little backstories for it. So when the main character is pregnant she’s a real career woman, she has a good job, she’s wealthy and she has a luxurious apartment. And when she is middle aged she has calmed down and is really into hiking an travelling around the world. These stories helped us to dress her living rooms, to choose the right furniture and the paintings and the knick knacks. The knick knacks are behind her on a little shelf on the wall and it’s fun to watch how one knick knack turns into another. There’s also antoher fun anecdote to that. One of the things on the shelf is a book called ‘Time is on my side’ by Marty McFly. A little homage to Back to the Future. When A Single life became Oscar nominated we were suddenly worried. Maybe we were not allowed to use the name Marty McFly and someone in Hollywood might just see it. So you can imagine how terrified we were when we found an email in our inbox from Bob Gale, the writer and producer from Back to the Future. With trembling hands we opened it. And we were very relieved to read that Bob Gale had seen our short and wanted to thank us for our homage and to wish us luck at the Oscars.
Cramming in so much in a tiny two minutes timescape might possibly be the reasons for the film’s brilliant success. The animation is soft and soothing with a great sense of motion and timing, but the real star of the film is its timeless premise within the familiar time travelling theme – seen in a very unfamiliar way. And then there is the song, which perfectly inherits the spirit of the film:
A very important part of the film is the song on the vinyl single. It was especially composed and written by Job. Job is our composer and musician and he works under the name Happy Camper. When we wrote the script we had in mind Job would only have to compose some short fragments, because we skip through the record. But when he started to work on this he just felt he had to write the whole song, or else it wouldn’t feel like it was one song. But that provided a challenge. We tested the idea with a stand-in song and we noticed that skipping through a regular song didn’t always work so well. Sometimes it wasn’t even clear we skipped through it, because we ended up in the second verse or chorus. A regular song just didn’t have enough contrast. So Job’s challenge was to make a song which had enough contrast. And then there was a second challenge to it; each part of the song had to fit with a life stage in the film. So for instance Job used a toy piano in the part of the song where the main character travels to her youth. And the third challenge was the song text. We wanted the message of the film to be in the lyrics as well. And because the music was already bound to so many rules, there was not much leeway for the text. But it worked out great, and on its own the song is even doing well on Spotify. We also made a vinyl single of the song, so people can test if they can travel through time themselves. For the online release of A Single Life Job made a special remix of the song, which can also be found on Spotify.