OMNEYA TOLLAR, MOLD CITY (2019)
Adam: My name is Adam. Nice to meet you. This is the first time we’ve met in person.
Adam: Thoughts? [Laughter] That’s the first question.
Omneya: Thoughts? I don’t have thoughts. My brain is…empty.
Nara: If your brain’s empty, what does it do?
Omneya: It just floats around in brain juice.
Adam: Is that usually what your creative process is? You just float around in brain juice and something comes of it?
Omneya: Yes, that’s exactly it. One hundred percent.
Adam: It’s pretty impressive then that you can make movies.
Adam: So please tell us your name, your movie, and your favourite—
Omneya: My name is Omneya. I made Mold City. My favourite plant is Snails — no — Chamomile.
Nara: Chamomile? Like, the tea?
Omneya: [Laughs] Yeah.
Adam: What do you like so much about Chamomile?
Omneya: I like that I can see it in the sidewalk sometimes, but also I can see it in a store as tea. But they’re different forms of Chamomile.
Nara: That could be kind of a fun metaphor for an idea going from your brain to the actual product. It’s the same thing but in different forms. One is ‘brain juice’ and one is…not brain juice.
Omneya: Yessss! Yeah…it’s a metaphor for capitalism.
Nara: Here’s a question—how does it feel every time you get to see your movies big on a screen?
Omneya: It makes me feel nervous sometimes. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, but I can’t do anything to stop it. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I prefer film over performance art—because if I’m really nervous it still plays the same. It makes me nervous, but then after it’s nervous it’s like — ah! swag!
Adam: Yeah, I was gonna ask about afterwards—that sense of relief after—are you like, ‘Oh man, I’m still so nervous’?
Omneya: No, I think it’s just…relief.
Adam: Your film’s in the first half, so at least you’ll only be nervous for a little bit.
Omneya: Ah, yes.
Adam: So, we’d love to talk about your movie. We all loved it. We’re going to screen it at Insomniac 2019.
Nara: We all watched it before we programmed it, we didn’t just—choose it cause it has a cool name!
Adam: But that did play a huge factor, the cool name.
Nara: How did you come up with the name? Because I think the name of the film, Mold City, really builds the world that your film takes place in, and it’s a really interesting world.
Omneya: Mold is just kind of like a cool plant growing thing. It’s supposed to be something that grows after something has expired. Mold is alive, and it grows on dead things. I wanted to make Mold City…a place that’s not alive but semi-alive. It’s like life within not-life.
Nara: Why did you choose to not have any human people in your film? Why did you choose a talking car or a living taxi and a rat as your main character?
Omneya: Rats are pretty cool. I didn’t really think about it that much. I guess the taxi’s kind of—I don’t know. I’m supposed to be learning how to drive and I don’t like driving. I guess cars were on my mind. And rats are a cool creature. I’m a fan of rats.
Adam: And you have that amazing line at the end of the movie that Nara and I talk about all the time…
Nara: This might not be exact, but it’s like “How does it feel when humans look down on you?” And the rat goes, “Well I look down on humans.” How did you come up with that genius, iconic line?!
Omneya: I pulled it out of my brain juices…
Nara: We also really loved [Omneya’s film] Hair Drying the Puddle Out and Away, and in Mold City you can see similar styles… stop motion paper animation overlaid with morphing images. That’s a really cool style that I haven’t seen before. What inspired you to experiment in that way?
Omneya: At first I wanted to do animation because I can control it more than live action. But animation is very time consuming, and a bit more difficult for me, so I thought about a ‘fake stop motion’ where it’s jumpy. I care more about the story, the sound design, and what it looks like as a still rather than whether the motions are fluid or not.
Adam: There’s this cool collage-like feel to the whole thing. It made me think of youthful childlike collage but in a very sophisticated way.
Omneya: I like collage looks—like cut and paste-y.
Adam: You mentioned the sound design, too. In Mold City and Hair Drying the Puddle Out and Away there’s these different voices and different inflections of voices that interject the way the dialogue comes across as its natural form. How did you get the inspiration for that?
Omneya: There’s a song by a really great singer, Kimywa Dawson, called ‘The Library’ and also other songs that have a lot of dynamic layers to them. I like when there is a lot of sound at once, but its layered together. Also, it came from a place of—you know when you sit in the grass and you can hear people’s conversations, but you can also hear birds and cars, and there’s a lot going on—stuff like that. A lot of sounds at once make things more interesting generally.
Nara: What would you recommend some great places to go for anyone who’s thinking of traveling to Mold City?
Omneya: The bottom of the ocean…Oh! Find a submarine and go to the bottom of the sea until you find glow-in-the-dark fish and then say hello to them.
Adam: If your bones were to be buried in Mold City, where would you bury them?
Omneya: In a…cloud. No—I don’t want to be buried, I want my organs to be donated. Or I want to be dissected. I feel like it would be interesting to be dissected. Not for me—because I wouldn’t know what’s going on.
Adam: What's your favourite sweet treat?
Omneya: Chocolate is a classic...
Nara: What do you think is a good snack to eat while watching short films made by youth?
Omneya: Popcorn is a classic...
Adam: No, we're not selling popcorn there. Can't be popcorn.
Nara: In Mold City, the song that the rat plays with the band that knocks the bird out of the sky is also the anthem for Mold City...does that mean the rat wrote the anthem for Mold City? Or is the rat just stealing music?
Omneya: It's all plagiarism. Everything is chaos.
Adam: Do you support this plagiarism?
Omneya: Yes. Unconditionally. Everyone should plagiarize everything they do. All of your essays should be plagiarized.
Adam: I mean, you can't argue with that. That's a good point. So, the rat loves rock music, as they make very clear. But their rock music also kills a bird... That’s an interesting duality: This is an awesome thing that took the rat out of the monotony of their life, but it also caused danger.
Omneya: I was thinking about how it was an inevitable thing for the bird to die in the film because I wanted someone to be buried in Mold City...and that seemed like a natural way for the bird to die. I didn't want it to be a violent death.
Adam: It's almost a joyous death. The bird got to die while listening to awesome music.
Omneya: Yeah. And the bird wasn't too angry about it.
Nara: The bird was happy.
Adam: That's a beautiful to approach death.
Nara: Die by rocking too hard. And the song that you chose, 'Baby Town' by Walmart, is about a movie that is made with babies. Was that conscious? Did you want to have a song about a movie in your movie?
Omneya: At first I thought it just sounded good and would blend well enough, so I used it. But then I thought about that after I'd already put it in.
Nara: Just a happy coincidence.
Adam: Very happy indeed.
Omneya: Joyous coincidence.
Adam: Thoughts on coincidences. Are they really coincidences? Or is everything predetermined?
Omneya: I think it depends on the coincidence. I feel like eighty percent of the time it's just a coincidence, but twenty percent of the time it's all a scheme.
Adam: Who's controlling the scheme?
Omneya: Me >:D I'm God.
Nara: Is that why you like to do animation and be in control? Because you can be God?
[Everyone laughs. Adam laughs the most uncontrollably.]
Adam: Are you going to do more films within the realm of Mold City?
Omneya: Originally, I wanted to make Mold City twenty minutes long. But then I realized I couldn't do that, so then I thought I'll make it a web series...do one for my culminating and then I'll do three more episodes and I'll make them during the summer. But now I don't know if I'll have time to do that. So I think it'll be as is. I want to make something in the summer...just not Mold City.
Nara: All of your films that I've seen start out with a character who's in a hopeless place, or they seem kind of sad, but then at the end they find a lot of hope, or a lot of friendship. Is it conscious to you that it always ends in friendship, or is it something that naturally comes out in the way you write stories?
Omneya: It's kind of something that happens. I don't think about it too much. I think about the mood I want to end and start with. And then I let it go from there.
Adam: It's nice to see, and really refreshing. I feel that a lot of films we make as young people can be cynical about the world, understandably, but yours that I've watched are optimistic and hopeful. The bird dies, for example, and they're just like "Yeah! I'm dead, but bring my bones to Mold City and we'll be all good."
Omneya: When I make films or do stuff in general, I want it to be happy and I want it to perpetuate positivity in some way. But I also don't want it to be cheesy. I try to make it have a dichotomy, usually.
Adam: So what do you want to make this summer? What can we expect for Insomniac 2020?
Omneya: I want to make a film about soup.
Nara: Soup? Is it going to be a cooking movie?!
Omneya: No... [Laughter].
Nara: Are you going to release a cookbook with it?
Omneya: I'll consider it. I'll release the cook book just for you. It'll be dedicated to Nara.
Nara: Wow that's really nice.
Omneya: Sometimes I feel like people should dance at movies. Cause sometimes, I'll be watching a movie, and there'll be an upbeat song in the movie, and I'll want to dance in the middle of the movie but I don't because it's weird in a seated theatre. But, I feel like it should be a thing.
Adam: If we get everyone to stand up and dance during Mold City...
Omneya: Oh, not my movie!
Adam: I liked your speech at TIFF Next Wave when you won an award. You ran up and said 'Thanks' and then ran away.
Nara: How does it feel to be a superstar?
Adam: How does it feel to be famous?
Omneya: What can I say? It's a hard life being famous. I own too many Gucci belts. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and then I fall over because of all the Gucci belts on my floor...
Adam: You ever think of getting any Versace belts?
Omneya: No, I'm a dedicated customer.
Adam: Are you excited for Insomniac?
Omneya: Yeah! Excited to see some epic films made by youth. Genius.
Adam: They're pretty genius films. Well, we're really happy to have your film in the festival and we're excited to screen it in front of people and see what they think!
Nara: Hopefully their minds will be blown, but not so blown that they die and have to be buried.
Omneya: Oh no...