Big things really do come in small packages — at least on YouTube.
Ryerson grads Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg can surely attest to that after their short film Noah won YouTube’s award for Best Canadian Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
“We were both shocked to hear we had won,” said Cederberg in a Facebook message Monday. “We figured there was no way we could take top honours. When they announced it, we just kind of sat there. The other filmmakers at our table were patting us on the back, and some lady had to run over and tell us to get up on stage.”
Co-director Woodman shared Cederberg’s humble reaction.
“It felt ridiculous to win. They probably just pulled our names out of a hat,” joked Woodman. “We felt like crying. And jumping around. We felt like we finally did it.”
Their film Noah tells the simple story of a teenager’s deteriorating relationship, but communicates much more through its innovative film-making. The short film unfolded entirely on a computer screen.
Woodman and Cederberg used a webcam to film the story that zips across Facebook, Google, iMessage and ChatRoulette (the latter in its most NSFW scenes). Existing entirely on a screen, Noah is a kind of commentary on the digital age. The Ryerson grads’ innovative take on contemporary relationships has been garnering rave reviews, most of which are fittingly online.
Peter Sciretta of SlashFilm.com said the film “could be this generation’s John Hughes movie.” Michael Bolen of the Huffington Post Canada said the film is “guaranteed to make you sad, but also prompt questions about what life online is doing to young people today.” A post about the film on the popular gossip site Gawker has had close to 160,000 hits.
The duo were even interviewed by the New Yorker‘s Betsy Morais last week, who called watching Noah “entrancing and poisonous.”
Since its release on TIFF’s YouTube channel Sept. 9, Noah has gone viral, and the filmmakers owe much of the success to a poster named “snitch11” who put the video on Reddit.
“When we went to bed it was at like 700 views, and then by the end of the next day we were up to 100,000 views, which is insane,” said Woodman last Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Ryersonian.
It only picked up from there. “We keep refreshing the YouTube video and looking at the views like ‘What!’ I couldn’t even imagine 100,000 people in a room.”
What about 700,000 people in a room? At time of writing, that’s how many views the video had, and Sunday’s win will certainly add to the count.
“It’s so cherry-on-top-of-the-cake,” said Woodman. “It’s just been amazing.”
The on-screen setting of Noah was about saving money, too, as much as it was about commenting on the YouTube generation.
“That was just on beer and pizza too,” said Woodman of their micro-budget. “When we were coming up with the idea, we said ‘We are broke, so we don’t want to spend too much money.’ “
Woodman and Cederberg are in good company with their Sunday TIFF win. Previous short-film award recipients include two-time winner Deco Dawson and New York University film grad Ian Harnarine. Woodman and Cederberg were among ten winners announced on the final day of the festival yesterday.
The duo is keeping their sights set on their next project and trying not to let the big win go to their Hollywood-bound heads.
“All the exposure is a little daunting,” said Cederberg. “A lot of really cool and talented people have been reaching out to us, but there is a lot to sort through and figure out — especially when it comes to what direction we want to go next.”
For now, that means staying true to who they are as filmmakers despite all the attention.
“Nothing has changed. We certainly have a lot more opportunities but we are still just going to do what we think is best for us,” says Woodman. “We’re pretty easy-going guys.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on September 18, 2013.