Less really is 'More,' confirms Oscar short nominee
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By Andy Culpepper
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- You'd think the muscles in Mark Osborne's face would have succumbed to fatigue by now, but no -- that goofy grin still pops up at a moment's notice, no effort at all, just as it has since he got the news February 9.
That was the day the 29-year-old Osborne found out he had been nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Animated Short for his 6-minute film, "More."
Good thing, too. He had been up at home pacing the floor in the wee hours of the morning before the pre-dawn announcement hit newswires.
"I was very hopeful but I was shocked," the boyish filmmaker insists.
"It didn't sink in until yesterday at the nominee luncheon when I was kind of looking around and kind of -- 'OK, maybe I actually am nominated. Maybe this isn't all a joke.'"
Theme at work
A trip to the youthful director's studio suggests why he might have been looking around for a punchline.
You'd be hard pressed to find any semblance of showbiz at his garage of an animation studio in Eagle Rock, a hilly neighborhood about 15 minutes' drive from downtown Los Angeles.
The sound of power tools blasts through the walls from next door where laborers sand away at pieces of unfinished wood. "Baby furniture," Osborne explains with a tolerant smile.
Inside the director's noisy sanctuary, he's displayed the bits and pieces of clay, metal, and wood left over from making his mini-movie. Arranged in a row on a long table, there's a miniature merry-go-round, a pint-sized billboard which reads "Have Bliss," and a three-walled room filled with built-to-scale props. Nearby, two clay technicians sit hunched over a small work table. Clearly, there's also a theme at work here.
"More" uses stop-motion animation of these and other clay figures to tell the story of a burned-out factory worker who dreams of a better life beyond his nine-to-five existence.
Osborne was inspired by his own passion to create "outside the box" -- but he is hardly a factory worker. He teaches on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, aka Cal Arts, the prestigious Southern California arts institution from which he graduated in 1992.
So, where did the title for "More" originate? Osborne's wife, Kim, gets the credit for that.
"I couldn't think of what to name it," Osborne muses. "We were talking about it so much she said just name it 'More' because it reflects the beginning where he wants more, and it reflects the ending where he has more but realizes he didn't get the more he wanted. It's about excess in some ways so it just seemed really appropriate.'"
That bit of philosophizing aside, Osborne -- whether wittingly or not -- seems propelled toward getting more out of his own career. Already, the film has made him a winner. "More" took the Jury Award for Short Films at the Sundance Film Festival in January -- the first animated film so honored.
It's not as if Osborne is new to this award business -- or a novice at facing unlikely odds, either. Flash back to the 1995 Grammy Awards. Osborne snared a nomination for "Jurassic Park," the music video spoof starring the always slightly off-center Weird Al Yankovich.
Television audiences all over the dial have probably seen Osborne's work without realizing it. Previous clients include the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, E! Entertainment, ABC and TBS. Still, the preparation behind Osborne's latest project likely exceeds any effort he's made to date.
"I had a small crew of about five people helping me," he recalls. "I had a production designer and two model makers who were actually students of mine from Cal Arts and I had another prop maker and camera department guy -- we called him 'Camera Department' -- and a line producer. But we all sort of worked building stuff."
That "stuff" took two months to create before the cameras began rolling -- a process which continued throughout the roughly 15-week shoot. But what a process. Osborne -- win or lose the Oscar -- has already made history.
First short shot on 70mm
"More" is the first animated short shot entirely on 70-millimeter film. Think IMAX. Think gee whiz. Think hugely expensive. In fact, Osborne couldn't estimate the budget of his little movie -- a month after his nomination -- because there never was a budget: he ruled the possibility out from day one.
So how could he afford to use 70 millimeter? Much of the materials -- the camera and film included -- were donated by individuals and companies interested in determining whether a format normally reserved for longer features would work for short subjects.
Osborne holds up a section of the actual work print to illustrate the difference in scope.
"You've got a huge image ... that's about 10 times the size of what your 35-millimeter image is." He pulls the film taut, and you can actually see the negative of the factory worker, inside out, in the frames. "So you have so much more detail and grain that -- once it goes up on a huge screen -- you get to see so much more."
More of "More." Well, why not? Somehow the pun seems inescapable, especially since there's more to tell.
A rather tall short
"More" is being distributed by the same film company that distributes "Everest." Osborne's mini-movie will open for the large scale production in theaters around the country. "More" will be more than eight stories tall. Imagine.
"Right now we have five prints and we're sending it out to five cities and hopefully it will get a wider release later on because it will be just nice for people to see it in its originating format."
And after that? Osborne has a sequel in mind -- feature length, this time.
But that begs the question -- what to call it? Can another pun be far behind? Not so long as there's a cliché to be found hanging around an interview.
"Less is more," he offers, and who could contradict him? And his title for a follow-up? "More 'More,'" he says, exhaling on a laugh punctuated by that goofy grin.
When you're an Oscar nominee like Mark Osborne, you can grin from here to Sunday.
CNN Interactive Special: The 71st Annual Academy Awards
Internet Movie Database: 'More'
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