By Rhea Singh
For Ryerson image arts graduate Charlie Tyrell, having his 13-minute doc shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination was less than expected.
My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes, a film which Tyrell initially created for himself, is contending for an Oscar nomination, far surpassing Tyrell’s initials views on the short film.
“This was a film I thought I would be done with six months ago,” said Tyrell. “I thought its festival run would have dried up by then.”
Tyrell’s film is a journey through his father’s life, who passed away in 2008 from cancer when Tyrell was 20 years old. At first, the film seems like an ode to his late father, but there’s much more to the film than meets the eye.
The film conquers Tyrell’s relationship with his father, how his father’s childhood shaped him and the complexity of having someone leave your life forever.
Through stop motion, Tyrell uses objects that his father once owned to tell his story; from things as simple as a Costco membership card to the police uniform his father wore to work. With the limited amount of footage that Tyrell had of his late father, he said that stop motion became an integral part of the film.
“Doing this through film, a place where I’m more comfortable examining things, became the most effective way for me to make it, and making the film was my own therapy,” said Tyrell.
The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2018, where it was nominated for a Short Film Grand Jury Prize.
The name for the short film was something Tyrell said he knew from the beginning, and in its own unique way made the film stand out. Viewers are introduced to Tyrell’s father through his old collection of pornographic VHS tapes.
“The tapes just showed up one day when my mom rediscovered them in the basement and I realized I’d keep them so I could use them for something stupid,” Tyrell added. “It all combined into a project of ‘let’s look at my dad’s life through the things he owned,’ and this was kind of the most ridiculous place to start, but, why not.”
Tyrell mentioned there was immediate support from his siblings and mother, who are all featured in the film through pictures and discussions about their father.
“I thought it would be more difficult to convince them but they were willing to help,” said Tyrell. “They weren’t sure what it was or what it would become, but they were incredibly supportive all the way through.”
The surreal and bizarre experience of, as Tyrell described it, “walking through your own past” wasn’t difficult for the filmmaker.
“Going to the airfields to get some of the shots for the film, I hadn’t been back there since I was 15 years old,” said Tyrell. “It was weird to see a place where I did spend a lot of time with my dad 15 years later, and everything was still the exact same.”
Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 22, 2019.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Tyrell was 15 years old when his father passed away in 2008. The Eyeopener regrets this error.