Oscar Winner Adam Elliot ‘Strives for Imperfection’ as Sarah Snook-Voiced ‘Memoir of a Snail’ Debuts Teaser (EXCLUSIVE)

“Memoir of a Snail,” directed by Oscar winner Adam Elliot – and voiced by “Succession” star Sarah Snook – has debuted a teaser ahead of its premiere at Annecy.

The film is set as the opening title of the Melbourne International Film Festival in August and will have its Australian commercial release, via Madman, from Oct. 17.

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In the film, little Grace Puddle is separated from her twin brother Gilbert following their parents’ deaths. Things only get worse from there, she later admits to a garden snail named Sylvia – the only creature interested in her tragic story.

“I gravitate towards the underdog. People who are perceived as different, marginalized. I am not interested in heroes. It’s probably because I am ultimately making films about myself. I really empathize and identify with my characters,” the director told Variety.

“The truth is, they are all based on real people: they just happen to be my family and friends. In [previous film] ‘Mary and Max,’ Max was based on my pen pal, who is still alive. ‘Memoir of a Snail’ has a lot of my mother. We call her a ‘reformed hoarder,’ but she still collects.”

Despite his characters’ “imperfections” and numerous hardships they go through, Elliot – who won Academy Award for 2003 short “Harvie Krumpet” – continues to root for them.

“Someone said to me recently: ‘You really drag your characters through the mud.’ But they’ve had so much bad luck that by the end of each film, when they finally triumph, you are on their side,” he pointed out.

Grace, hiding behind objects cluttering her house, keeps experiencing loss, rejection, sadness and solitude. And yet “Memoir of a Snail” is full of warmth.

“I’ve always loved that quote that without darkness, light has no meaning. There is a bit of this Australian, self-deprecating humor in there as well. I want the audience to laugh, but if I can get them to shed a tear, I really feel like I’ve achieved something. My father was an acrobatic clown and he used to say: ‘Adam, you are not an ‘auteur,’ you are an entertainer. Make them laugh and make them cry’.”

Despite his affection for Ken Loach or Mike Leigh, Elliot is sticking to stop-motion.

“I get asked why I don’t make live-action and it’s really simple: in stop-motion, you have creative control and you can push the boundaries of the art form. You can have a dark moment and a light moment almost simultaneously. In ‘Cousin’ [made in 1998] you find out our character’s parents were killed in a car accident while he is wearing a T-shirt that says: ‘I yodel for Jesus.’ Also, I just can’t help myself: I love peculiar deaths.”

Or older mentors. In the film, Grace finally finds a friend other than her beloved snails: it’s an eccentric lady called Pinky, who encourages her to come out of her shell.

“There is wisdom that can come with age. Now, there is a bigger gap between generations, so what could bring us together? Simple pleasures. Pinky teaches Grace how to be brave, because yes, she is like one of these snails. She’s constantly recoiling from all this trauma.”

Adam Elliot
Adam Elliot

“Originally, it was supposed to be a ‘Memoir of a Ladybird,’ but it felt a little bit twee. I love drawing snails and I collected them as a child. When I write my screenplays, I don’t think about all the practicalities. After the 10th draft or so, I went: ‘Oh gee, now I will have to make thousands of these things.’ I never want to see another snail ever again!”

He will continue making films he believes in, however.

“I’ve had offers [from bigger studios] and financially, I should have said yes. But I am a megalomaniac: I prefer to write and direct my own films, and I have my niche. Still, with my next project, I want to be even more ambitious. All my budgets are very low, so there’s always compromise – in ‘Memoir,’ there is very little walking. Or talking, which is why I use voiceover.”

Once again, his film is narrated by a starry cast, from Sarah Snook to Jacki Weaver, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Eric Bana. Previously, he has collaborated with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Geoffrey Rush or Toni Collette.

“Everyone says: ‘Adam, why do you always go for these Academy Award-winning actors?’ Because they are good! Sarah, in many ways, directed me. I am not necessarily striving to have globally recognizable names – I am striving for authenticity. I told Sarah: ‘I just want you to be yourself.’ The investors love stars, but I don’t mention them at the beginning of my films, for example. I don’t want the audience to think about the actors until the end credits.”

Instead, he wants them to look into his characters’ eyes. Literally.

“Even though these are blobs of clay, they break the fourth wall and look straight at you. They are asymmetrical and deformed-looking, but they also have this endearing quality.”

Born with a physiological tremor, Elliot has incorporated it into his work.

“When I draw, my lines are wobbly, so my 3D characters are versions of my 2D drawings. A lot of stop-motion has become very slick, but my characters’ psyches are fractured. I always tell my collaborators: ‘Put in the fingerprint, put in the lump. Pretend you’ve had a glass of wine and you are a little bit tipsy.’ It’s all about striving for imperfection.”

An Arenamedia production, “Memoir of a Snail” was produced by Elliot and Liz Kearney, and executive produced by Robert Connolly and Robert Patterson. Anton & Charades handle international sales; the film is distributed by IFC for North America and Wild Bunch for France.

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