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Done in 60 Seconds: An Interview with Andrew Norton

We might not be the best team in the world at soccer, we might not be the favourites to take home a record-shattering amount of gold medals in London, but the Irish have always had a bit of a cultural charm. This year, we were lucky enough to be represented at the final of the Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition, with Andrew Norton’s condensed spoof of the iconic District 9 landing a place among 29 international contenders on a shortlist including entries from Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Israel, Sweden and the Ukraine, among others. I had the pleasure of chatting very briefly about putting the sixty-second clip together, breaking into short-film making and the perils of looking like a security guard on the red carpet.

“It was a huge honour to be on the shortlist,” he begins, very modestly. “Just go on to YouTube and check out some of the competitors. Type “Done in Sixty Seconds” and “Russia”, for example. There’s some fantastically bizarre stuff.” Andrew Norton (along with team mates Darren Norton, Darragh O’Connell, David Chandler, Joe McEvoy and Michael Laptrop) were selected from the UK leg of the competition to take place in the grand prix at 2012 Jameson Empire Awards.

Describing his inspiration for casting the aliens as District 9 as rogue clowns and mimes, he discussed where the idea came from. “What I really liked about the film was that aliens were’s really invading,” he explains. “People were just sort of annoyed with them. And I thought of street performers!” The fact that he didn’t have Neil Blomkamp’s $30m budget probable contributed as well.

“You can’t spend too much money on it,” he concedes. “After all, it’s a joke that may or may not work. We went into a shop of Grafton Street and found a clown wig. We asked how much it cost and he said €20. We got a bit of usage out of that! We spray-painted it all different colours and cut around it.” That wasn’t the only budget-saving decision the production made. “It was just after Halloween,” Andrew confesses. “And I’d been keeping an eye on what my mates were wearing. If I saw something really good, I’d say let’s use that!”

Still, though he politely jokes about how uncertain he might have been about how the short would be received, there’s no denying that Andrew’s short film went down a treat. “They sort of grouped us together into different genres,” he outlines the procedure on the night. “So we were were with the sci-fi shorts.” The reaction was, as you might expect based on the clip above, hugely positive. “You kinda worry when you’re making it if anybody else is going to find it funny. It was very strange to look around and see Tim Burton and Ron Howard laughing at our stuff. If you can make a lot of people laugh, you know you’re on to something good.”

It was a star-studded night on the red carpet. “Yeah,” he muses, still sounding a little bit overwhelmed from the experience. “You see Danny DeVito on the red carpet and it’s just something. You don’t want to bother them, but I did get to shake hands with a couple. I must have looked like security – I guess it was the suit – because they kept asking me if everything was all right here, and I’d just say, “I just wanna shake your hand…”” Confirming that Tim Burton was “just a really nice guy”, Andrew admits to still being a little awed by the ceremony. “To be in that room, at the Jameson Empire Awards… it didn’t seem real until the next morning.”

Andrew was a little coy when asked what the future had in store, although he is very thankful for the experience. “I think it’s great that this is an amateur thing,” he observes of the competition. “I think it’s great that Jameson and Empire organise this competition. It’s very hard to get experience in making films. The only way to do that is through unpaid internships, and there’s a line to put your name on a list to be considered to work for free, you know?”

Reflecting on the current climate, he states, “It’s very tough at the moment. The only way to learn to things right is by having the opportunity to do things wrong.” He chuckles modestly, as I wonder: if this award-winning spoof is Andrew “doing things wrong”, what might the future might hold for the director? Still, Andrew is keen to extol the virtues of the competition and the opportunity it afford him. “You have to start somewhere, and I think it’s great to have that chance.”

So, when pressed, what does the future hold for this talented young man? “Well, the main guy in the video, he’s a friend of mine and he’s a musician,” Andrew explains. “I’ve done a few music videos for him, so I hope to get a bit better at that.” Also, in his spare time, Andrew and his brother Darren are working on an animated film about Dublin. “This is not a plug,” he insists, polite as ever. When I, equally as politely, inquire further, he promises to see if he can send on some information. “My brother will love that! He loves showing it to people!”

I look forward to hearing a bit more from Andrew Norton in the future. If his work here is any indication, he’s certainly one to watch.

True to his word, Andrew sent on the link to the Irish animation h’s working on with his brother. You can check it out here. If you’re looking for more of a sampling of Andrew’s work, you can find his portfolio here.

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