A common movie trope is the pairing of two adversaries who suddenly find shared ground against a larger enemy. Thor and Loki uniting against the Dark Elves (Thor: The Dark World). Rocky and Apollo partnering to defeat Clubber Lang (Rocky III). Professor X and Magneto setting aside their differences to combat William Stryker (X2: X-Men). Maverick and Iceman channeling their testosterone to fight the Russians (Top Gun).
The list goes on and on. But one entry unlikely to be on your radar are the two pool players who star in the entertaining two-minute animated film Dirty Pool. Created in 2016 by Canadian animator Brent Forrest, the film was a finalist at the 2016 Los Angeles Cinefest and was a winner at the 2016 MindField Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Set in a pool hall with a cool jazz background track, Dirty Pool pits two men against one another in a game of pool. The film begins with all the standard pre-game rituals of billiards, including cue assembly, chalking, and racking. One of the men exudes confidence, the other is nervous Nellie. When one opponent sinks the 8-ball on the break, a minor tussle occurs, setting off a Rube Goldbergian set of escalating events. Bulbs break, cue sticks clatter, a fire extinguisher goes off, and a lone 8-ball hurls across the pool hall breaking the beer steins of a trio of (much) larger men. And, thus, a new shared enemy is born. The film, which Mr. Forrest worked for a year after hours and on weekends, is available to watch here.
I only learned about the film two months ago when Mr. Forrest contacted me about it. He kindly responded to my questions via email. Excerpts of that exchange follow.
Why did you create Dirty Pool?
When I was very young and people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was always a Disney Animator. In my last year of high school, I got an internship at a small studio in Toronto. In time, I started assisting with shots and gradually learned the ins and outs of production and watched as the studio shifted from 2D to 3D. Instead of going to college I stayed there for six years.
In the years since then I have been working “in animation” but mostly doing special effects, compositing, rigging, modelling, editing, basically everything but character work. I still want to animate, but my demo reel doesn’t have much character animation on it, and no one is going to hire an animator without a strong reel. So, I decided to make my own film – focusing strictly on animation. That’s why I used the free Malcolm rig – this wasn’t about rigging or modelling or being a “generalist” (I hate that term), this was all about animation. It’s a passion project, but with a set goal.
You said it’s largely based on a true story. Can you elaborate?
We spent so much time at the pool hall next door, the boss eventually bought a table for the studio. We had our own team on the league, and the relationship between the two players is how I saw my own relationship to my old mentors. This was an idea that was born in the early days of my career, playing pool with other animators from that studio.
Why is the film dedicated to the Charlotte Room?
The Charlotte Room is the pool hall where we used to play. It [closed in 2015], another casualty of the unending condo development in Toronto. I tried to recreate the environment from photos and memory.
You indicated you improved the ending. What changes to the ending did you make?
Originally, the ball just went flying then we cut to the pint glasses being knocked over. My wife suggested I add a series of escalating events with the ball crashing around. Since it didn’t require any more character animation I set up a series of effects shots – a little bit of everything, shattering glass, soft-body dynamics, sparks, fluids, flashing red lights. It took about three weeks to add.
Why do you describe Dirty Pool as a “timeless tale of good vs not so good”?
I see a lot of animated films described as ‘deep testament’ to this that or the other. Mine is just a cartoon. A pratfall, gag upon gag. I wanted to take the piss out of the more serious short animated films. Mine wasn’t about the “duality of man” or the “perseverance of the human spirit,” it was just about fun.
What is your personal experience with pool?
Always make sure everyone is watching when you attempt that huge cross table bank shot. No one will care if you don’t make it but everyone will remember if you do. Oh, and have a little dance prepared for when you sink it.
To learn more about Mr. Forrest or to contact him directly, visit his website.