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91st Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

SPEECH BY: Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb


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Q. Hi.  First of all, congratulations.  You are breaking ground here. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Oh, thank you. 

Q. So my question would be:  From up there with those Oscars, what does the road look like for women in animation? 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Oh, the future is bright.
A. (Domee Shi)  Looking up.
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Yeah. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Hopefully, yeah.  We are just so happy that BAO was just so embraced by the world and by the Academy, but I'm also happy to say, like, I'm now not the only female short director at Pixar.  There's two amazing shorts that came out of Pixar over the last couple weeks.  PURL and KITBULL, directed by the very talented Kristen Lester and Rosana Sullivan.  Check them out.  These ladies are super talented.  Wow    BAO blazed a trail, but, you know, we are just happy to be one of many, many female directors to come. 

Q. Congratulations. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Thank you. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Thank you. 

Q. My question is:  How do you think your mom will feel about this win?
A. (Domee Shi)  We just FaceTime'd her. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  We just called our moms. 
A. (Domee Shi)  We just called her, and she was like, Oh, my God.  I'm just so happy.  I'm crying.  But I couldn't see, because like classic parent, like, technology like thing happened where I couldn't see their camera; but she was, like, make sure you thank your bosses, and thank Becky, and thank everybody.  So she's excited.  And I have to take her word on it for crying.  I've never seen her cry before, so it's a big deal.
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Yeah.  It's a big deal.
A. (Domee Shi)  It's a big deal, yeah.  They are super excited for me.  And they're like, I want this; and I'm all like, I'll mail it to you. 

Q. Congratulations, ladies.  So, Domee, through this experience, what did you learn about yourself and your Chinese heritage?  And, Becky, what did you learn about Chinese culture?
A. (Domee Shi)  So much.  I think one of the great things about being able to make BAO is I got to do a lot more research and really dive into my heritage, you know.  I kind of took it for granted.  Like I took my mom making dumplings for granted when I was growing up.  She would just pop them out so quickly.  But, you know, after having to film her and study her technique, you are like, oh, my gosh, so much work and effort, and love, and sweat, and tears goes into making it.  I went and visited Chinatown a lot more.  It was just    and then I also got to, like, learn what it was like for my mom, like, from her point of view.  You know, I was always that super overprotected little dumpling, but I was always so frustrated and wondering, like, why is she smothering me?  Stop it.  But through making this short, I think I understand her a little bit better. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Yeah.  For me I learned that Domee's mom is the best cook ever; and I also learned just how universal the theme of food bringing families together is.  You know, that could be my family, too.  So, yeah.  Thank you for    thank you. 

Q. Stan says, congratulations. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Oh, thanks. 

Q. Can you talk a bit about your mom, and your family, and how that related to this movie?
A. (Domee Shi)  Yeah.  Well, it was the inspiration behind BAO, you know.  Every since I was little, she's always treated me like her precious little    little dumpling, her little BAO, and I just   
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Tell them what she would tell you.
A. (Domee Shi)  Oh, right.  She'd always be, like    even now she'd be, like, Oh, Domee, I wish I could put you back in my stomach so I could keep you with me forever.

Q. And, Becky, what about your family?
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Oh, yeah.  My family is    I don't    I think they are in a state of shock right now.  I mean, I grew up watching this show, and, you know, it was like a national holiday in our house.  It's the one TV show, award show, any show that we could watch during dinner; so it was like a national holiday.  I don't think we've ever missed one.  So I think the fact that I'm here, we're here is blowing all of our minds.  Truly, it's beyond our wildest dreams.  Thank you so much. 

Q. I interviewed you before, Domee. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Oh, yes.  I remember.  I remember your voice. 

Q. Nice to speak to you again.  So I'm very curious if you would be    if you would be interested in working in China in the future; and, also, what you think, both of you, of the state of Chinese cinema. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Oh, I can't    I can't close the door to that.  I would love to    again, like just to have an excuse to, like, just explore China more, because I immigrated to Canada when I was two years old.  So I was born there, but I never really got to, like, really learn the language or the culture as much.  So that would be awesome to be able to do that.  And in terms of Chinese cinema, you know, like, we were super inspired by a lot of Chinese filmmakers.  Ang Lee, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN was a big inspiration for us; Wong Kar wai as well.  I am just a huge fan of Chinese and Asian cinema in general, and I just think it's some of the best in the world.  Zhang Yimou, yeah, it's just gorgeous palettes and cinematography.  I'm    I'm a fangirl of all that stuff. 

Q. Congratulations on your award tonight. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Thank you.
Q. As female animators and with Pixar can you say what impact John Lasseter had on your careers?  You talked about Pete Docter giving you a voice. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Yeah.

Q. And can you comment on Lasseter returning to the industry so quick, what you think about that?
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  We actually can't comment on that, but we can talk for days about Pete Docter.  He was our executive producer; but not only that.  Just a true mentor to us, so inspirational, so caring, so kind.  Taught us how to do this thing and believed in us.  I feel like he is among many mentors that we have at Pixar, and we just feel so fortunate that we got to work under their guidance.
A. (Domee Shi)  Yeah.  He was like    Pete was kind of the main, main executive producer that we worked with.  We didn't work as much with John.  But, yeah, Pete's kind of been our guardian angel throughout the whole thing.  He was the first director I worked with when I first started Pixar as a storyboard artist on INSIDE OUT.  And just watching him and seeing how, like, kind he is and how, like, thoughtful he is when he leads his team, it really just taught me how to be a director.  So, that's all. 

Q. We actually write about female filmmakers. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Yeah. 

Q. So, congratulations.  And I saw BAO, and I cried as a mother, so it's very emotional.  So my question to you:  As women and female filmmakers, did you use any of your personal experiences and emotions to put into the film and come out as this emotional masterpiece?
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Oh, thank you so much. 
A. (Domee Shi)  Yeah, definitely.  Like I said before, like, from my own childhood, from my own relationship with my mom as an only child, and from my mom, you know, like hugging me and being, like, I wish I could put you back in my stomach.  I think those were the elements that really inspired the short.  But, also, in all the little details of the short as well, if you watch the short again, you can see the mom character making these really specific Chinese dishes for the bao.  And they are like very specific Sichuan dishes that my parents would make for me growing up, like boiled spicy fish, Ma Po Tofu, dry fried green beans, and I just wanted to kind of use the short as a love letter to all of the dishes that I grew up with, you know. 
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Yeah.  And I talked a little bit about this, but I became a mom during the making of this short, so I had the real thing at home.  I had a real baby at home to kind of crosscheck our work.  So, like baby sounds and baby giggles and baby cheeks, and, you know that kind of helped in my    you know, kind of make sure that what we were doing was really as accurate as possible.  So, it was just, yeah, sort of wonderful kismet that my career and my home life collided for this, for this project.  Yeah. 

Q. Thank you.  Congratulations to both of you.
A. (Becky Neiman Cobb)  Thank you.
A. (Domee Shi)  Thank you so much.



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