A self-financed animated short by Toronto-based Robin Joseph, which takes inspiration from the landscape of Salt Spring Island, B.C., is one step closer to an Oscar nomination.
Joseph's Fox and the Whale is among 10 short animated films that have advanced in the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards.
Joseph says he directed and produced the independent film in his home studio, spending more than $40,000 from personal savings.
Animator Kim Leow, his girlfriend, did the character animation for the story about a fox crossing vast terrain in search of an elusive whale.
"A lot of (the film) had to do with the pursuit for curiosity and where I personally was in the industry at that time,'' Joseph said Monday in a phone interview, after the Oscar contenders were revealed.
"Then another portion of it was the technical side of it, if it was possible to do something of a high visual quality with a tiny budget and a very tiny crew, which is mainly just myself and my girlfriend. So it was kind of an experiment in many ways.''
Joseph said the visuals in the film — of land, water and starry skies — reflect his interest in space and a visit to Salt Spring Island in 2008.
"The specific environment in the film doesn't follow exact geography of the place, but definitely, that was the inspiration,'' he said.
The film's theme of exploration also reflects Joseph's own journey, in a way.
Joseph was born and raised Kerala, India and moved to Toronto in 2002 to study classical animation at Sheridan College.
"You're going out on a limb and a lot of times you don't even know what exactly you're looking for, but that's when you discover new things, and I think that kernel of the idea is very personal to me,'' he said.
"When I left (India), I didn't quite know what I was getting into. There's a hope that you'll end up somewhere very specific, but the reality is, it's always going to be much stranger.''
The five nominees for the best animated short film Oscar will be revealed on Jan. 23, 2018, along with the contenders in all the other categories.
Joseph's competition includes Lou by Pixar Animation Studios, Cradle by the University of Southern California, and Life Smartphone from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts.
The other films in contention are: Dear Basketball (Glen Keane Productions); Garden Party (MOPA); In a Heartbeat (Ringling College of Art and Design); Lost Property Office (8th in Line); Negative Space (Ikki Films); and Revolting Rhymes (Magic Light Pictures).
The 90th Oscars will be held on March 4.