Responses by Darcy Prendergast, film director, Oh Yeah Wow
Background: For me, “Tomorrow’s On Fire” started as a way of processing the Australian bushfires. There was a malaise of helplessness for many of us, and after watching a particularly heart-wrenching story about an important koala population being decimated; I realized I had to make something. I couldn’t sit by and watch it all burn without at least attempting to influence public discourse on it.
Reasoning: I created a graphic and simple one-minute forty-five second piece, using bold shapes and a color palette that’s becoming synonymous with our summers. I wanted editing and match cutting to be the driving force to what was otherwise a simple approach. I was the only one animating, so I didn’t have the liberty of going too grandiose.
Challenges: Outside of it being my first time animating in a few years, the tone was the hardest to get right. While entirely localized, I wanted to preserve a universality to the prose, without being overly saccharine. It needed to resonate more broadly—to tap into a growing sense of helplessness, and give that a flag to rally around as if to say, “It’s okay to be knocked down, but let’s not forget what we stand to lose if we stay on the canvas.”
Favorite details: I’ve been focused on my screenwriting these last few years, so I’m most proud of the poem itself. Funnily enough, I read it to my mum, who’s normally quite frugal with her praise, and she just said, “Make it. It’s too important not to” and that validation—even as a grown ass 34-year-old man—spurred me into action. I started storyboarding that night and didn’t take a day off until it was finished seven weeks later.
Time constraints: I gave myself two months off, knowing I had a confirmed shoot in Bulgaria at the start of January, so I had this eight-week window to make something. I had to backwards engineer my project around that, ensuring I wasn’t biting off more than I could chew, which I invariably ended up doing by a country mile. You’ve got to be a special kind of pissed off to use the medium of animation to protest.
Anything new: Picasso once said, “Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war,” which resonates with me more now than ever. This project served as a reminder of that for me: that art, at its best is fierce, unapologetic and necessary. It’s the most important weapon we have. No one can take the ability to create away from you. No one can silence it, yet a single image can change the trajectory of the world. No artist should underestimate their potential, nor should they second-guess it.
Alternative approach: If I’m completely honest, it’s the most important short film I’ve made that I wish I never had to.