By Greg Hudson
Arts & Life Editor
Josh Raskin is a university dropout, but that won’t stop him from winning an Oscar. ‘The former new media student, whose animated short film “I Met the Walrus” is up for an Academy Award, never actually graduated from Ryerson. In 2004, he got so busy with a thesis project and his side work that he dropped all his other classes.
“It sort of became evident that the reason I was at school was to have the opportunity to learn and make work without worrying about a client, to do my own thing, and be inspired by the profs and stuff,” said Raskin, who directed the film. “But really, in the creative world, the bottom line isn’t really a piece of paper hanging on your wall.”
Raskin is only one of the many Ryerson-anointed hands that worked on the film. The design element in the frenetic work of art was done by new media grad and business partner, Alex Kurina.
The sound was captured from the original recording by Ryerson radio and television arts instructor Finley Braithwaite. Braithwaite’s brother, James, animated the film.
Despite the excitement, Raskin, like a new celebrity, is staying grounded.
“It’s insane, it’s flattering, it’s terrifying and the important thing for us is to try to keep our heads together and not get swept up by everything,” he said.
He’s quick to credit the subject matter of the film for the success. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of The Beatles, but they’re huge,” he jokes. “It’s John Lennon and the stuff he’s talking about is so relevant now, even more than it was 30 years ago.”
Almost 40 years ago, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan weaseled his way into an interview with John Lennon when the Beatle was in Toronto.
Since then, he knew he wanted to do something with the audio interview, but he didn’t know exactly what. It wasn’t until he saw Raskin’s work at Ryerson through a mutual friend that he trusted someone enough to give up his treasure.
Though Levitan, who serves as producer, originally wanted his interview and story to be made into a documentary, he said, “When I saw what Josh wanted to do, it just seemed right.” “I just wanted to literally animate the words, unfurling in the way I imagined they would appear inside the head of a baffled 14-year-old boy interviewing his idol,” Raskin said.
With the Academy Awards set to air Feb. 24, the team just got back from screening the film at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where the celebrity scene didn’t change their opinion of themselves.
“First of all, we assume we’re not going to win,” said Raskin. “And if we do somehow fall ass-backwards into this award, of course we’ll get cut off by the music because we’ll take so long to figure out what is going on that we’ll just be completely pantless and dumbfounded, scratching our heads trying to figure out what happened in the past year and a half.”
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his potential speech mapped out.
“Since I’m just going to spit some Biggie Smalls lyrics for my acceptance speech, I feel like the music will just add rhythm to the flow.”
It’s clear that everyone involved got to know each other pretty intimately. So much so that when Kurina calls the film a labour of love, it seems as though he’s not just referring to their love for the project or the iconic subject matter, but love for each other.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy called Raskin himself to congratulate the director. And Steve Daniels, the director of the new media program said that this is beyond exciting for the school.
As the big show looms, where the filmmakers came from seems somehow less important than where they’re going.
And they’re going their fast. “Right now, we’re running around like squirrels on fire,” says James Braithwaite.