An interview with Tim Cantt, by Laura Kebby / by Laura Kebby

I‘ve always been a fan of anything and everything creative, and will always have so much respect for anyone embarking on any such adventures. But… I’ll have to admit: I’ve always reserved a special little pocket of admiration (and jealousy) for those who can draw. Because, just like Wil Wagner, I cannot. So when I got the opportunity to interview local animator, filmmaker and all-round nice guy Tim Cantt, I was slightly relentless in my approach. But one wonderful Wednesday at the Grand Hotel, I sat with Tim to talk his award winning animation ‘Good Dog’.

‘I don’t think I remember a point where I didn’t draw,’ says Tim. He’s a soft-spoken, down-to-earth and incredibly humble guy, and sips his beer as he modestly starts to tell me his story. ‘Mum always said that there was something there. I think I could draw stories before I could actually tell them.’ I’m so fascinated by this concept. From someone who remembers planning out stories in my mind long before I could properly articulate what was happening, I related to his sentiment 100%. ‘My love for drawing has always been there,’ Tim continues, recounting the influence it’s had on his life over an extended period of time.

But it wasn’t until after high school that Tim really began to focus on honing his talent and turning it into something so much more than a hobby. ‘I work in a graphic design firm, working in animation and video editing and illustration, but mostly motion graphics… I’ve never gone to a school that taught me how to do any of this stuff. It’s either self-taught or learnt on the job, and I appreciate that a lot. I love my job and the fact that it’s something that I love to do as well. I don’t really ever feel like I’m working, most days,’ says Tim through snippets of anecdotes and illustration techniques. Personally, I think that this is such a great comment on the facets of creativity. It’s something that’s so incredibly innate, and whatever the outlet, every single creative person I’ve had the pleasure of coming into contact with really reiterates that the passion and drive was almost chosen for them. Talking with Tim just reaffirmed this fact for me.

I can never help but ask, ‘What was the last thing to inspire you?’ ‘For me, inspiration comes from, not necessarily the mundane, but the everyday stuff. Finding the cool in the normal. Almost like the Spielberg effect: extraordinary in an ordinary world.’ This sentiment is actually what Tim did with his award-winning short animation, ‘Good Dog’. ‘I started Good Dog in 2015; I just had a sick day off work, but I felt like I still wanted to be animating, because that’s what I love to do. I just started to draw a dog – I honestly didn’t think anything of it… But the more I drew and animated, the more I thought, “Hey, this is pretty cute”, and I just kept going with it.’

OK, I’m going to level with you here: I watched the short, and felt an entire wave of emotion punch me in the stomach in the most serene way. For someone who’s used to relying on dialogue to tell a story, I was blown away by the narrative and the implied intricacies behind the story. For something that was meant as a simple distraction from a high fever, ‘Good Dog’ transformed into an intricate, emotive, and extremely successful full-blown animated short. Without giving too much away, ‘Good Dog’ focuses on the actions of a puppy during a high-speed chase. It completely juxtaposes the original views of that particular situation, and seeing and feeling the story through the dog’s eyes invokes an immediate sense of attachment. It’s so much more than a simple animation, and that is the real beauty of storytelling.

Delving into the crux of the creative process, Tim begins to elaborate on exactly what it took to bring ‘Good Dog’ to life. ‘It’s a weird process, because I worked almost backwards. It definitely wasn’t a traditional process of making a film. I already had my subject and what I was doing; I had to kind of figure out what was happening along the way.’ This sense of organics flows so effectively through not only characters, but the storyline itself. As Tim elaborates on this slightly left-of-centre approach: ‘It was weird, but I almost shot an animated documentary – something would happen and I would follow that path and see where it would lead next.’

Despite taking up the majority of his passionate hours, Tim still managed to hold down a full-time job. ‘I basically just worked another part time job on this project. I’d come home and animate on the equipment that I have at home. I would work nine-to-five, come home, and then work until well after 11.’ But all this hard work paid off. ‘I submitted it to a number of film festivals; so far, seven festivals have accepted the project.’ An absolute highlight on the festival circuit was the Omaha Film Festival in Nebraska, which anyone in the film industry knows is a massive deal – particularly for the style of animation Tim chooses to use. In the digital age, most creatives are moving towards what could possibly be identified as the ‘Pixar model’, but Tim sticks with a much more traditional style of animation, paying homage to the nostalgia of the original Disney age. ‘It’s been incredibly humbling, and seeing what I’ve seen to be incredibly decent short films selected alongside mine was a really surreal experience. It’s one thing to have someone who knows you tell you that your work is good, but it’s a whole different experience getting that sort of official feedback.’

So there you have it. I may not be able to draw, but Tim Cantt certainly can. He’s a creative with a passion for seeing the extraordinary in the mundane; a local guy with a lot of heart and a keen eye for a very good dog. I cannot wait to see more of Tim’s work.