October 2, 2018
Vimeo Staff Pick Awards

Watch: 'My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes' is One of the Best Documentary Shorts of the Year

Director Charlie Tyrell dug deeper than many of us ever would.

We first caught wind of director Charlie Tyrell earlier this year at SXSW, where he participated in a roundtable discussion for the No Film School Podcast on making documentary short films. His film, which features a title that will stick out to just about any festivalgoer, later went on to win the Grand Jury Prize. 

My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes is an emotionally charged exploration of what caused a man to be the way he was. After his father lost a battle with cancer, Tyrell tries to piece together clues through the random objects he inherited, including a pile of VHS dirty movies. While many such journeys prove to end in vain, through a combination of animation, archival footage, family interviews, and narration from David Wain, Tyrell truly is able to find an answer.

After screenings at various festivals over the past year, Tyrell was honored with the latest Vimeo Staff Pick Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Vimeo's curation team describes the short as "a perfectly arranged menagerie of old film footage, audio recordings, and meticulously crafted stop-motion animation. It is a beautiful tribute to a complicated but loving and devoted father and son relationship."

As a part of the prize package, Charlie Tyrell also received a premiere on Vimeo’s Staff Picks. No Film School spoke briefly with the director after his win at the Ottawa International Animation Festival as part of our ongoing series exploring the benefits of having a simultaneous online and festival release. 

No Film School: What was your inspiration for creating this film?

Charlie Tyrell: Well, obviously I had unresolved father issues. But initially, my inspiration was in this pile of my dad's stuff that I'd been collecting over the years since he had died. I talk about this in the film, but after a person dies, they leave behind so many things that the family has to sort through and throw away, or keep, or find new homes for. I started collecting his things when I'd go back to my mom's house and there'd be a box she'd set aside for the trash or the Salvation Army or something.

The things were generally pretty inconsequential, non-important objects, like the VHS porno tapes, and I didn't really understand why I was collecting them beyond some vague idea that I might use them in a project at some point. But looking back, I think that what really drove me to the idea for this film was based on a fear of forgetting him, because he died almost 10 years ago, when I was 20. I didn't realize it at the time, but my making of this film was my own way to preserve his memory. 

NFS: Did you face any challenges when making this film?

Tyrell: Absolutely. Examining my entire family's history of abuse wasn't exactly my idea of a fun-time production. But in a weird way, approaching it all as work allowed me to look at everything a bit more objectively and better articulate my thoughts and feelings towards my dad. Beyond that, I had a great team of filmmakers to work with and together we focused on the project in a way that helped prevent me from being sucked into an emotional black hole. 

NFS: What is your best piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers?

Tyrell: That one is tricky because I still consider myself an aspiring filmmaker. For me, it's a matter of knowing how to live off of very little income while making sure I still enjoy the craft so that I don't become bitter towards it I do have a backup career planned just in case things don't work out (hot dog cart owner/operator). 

NFS: What’s the value of displaying your film at a festival versus releasing online?

Tyrell: The interaction with audiences and other filmmakers and people who might support your future work that you get at festivals is pretty hard to beat. But submitting and traveling to them can be expensive. Releasing online can generally allow for a larger audience to see your work—including a lot of viewers that might not normally go to a film festival, or even see shorts at a film festival.

Publishing your work online sort of lowers a barrier for people, and makes films more accessible. Since we released online, I've received a lot of personal emails from people who talk about how seeing the film make them reflect on their own families, losses, and history with abuse. We even had a men's prison therapy group reach out to ask if they could screen the film in order to talk about fatherhood. For me, there's huge value in allowing those conversations exist more widely than on the festival circuit.

NFS: What does the Staff Pick Award mean to you?

Tyrell: They're a pretty darn nice thing to have. I've always looked up to a lot of the work I've seen on Staff Picks and used it as a motivator to attempt to be more innovative in my own films. 

NFS: What’s next? Any upcoming projects?

Tyrell: I'm putting the finishing touches on a narrative short, beginning production on another documentary short, and in the earliest stages of my first feature film!     

Your Comment

1 Comment

name promising =)

October 4, 2018 at 11:34AM

7
Reply
avatar
Kate Kater
physic paper writing
147