Oscar-Nominated ‘My Year of Dicks’ Writer Pamela Ribon Sent Her Animated Short to Dick’s Sporting Goods

“I slid into their DM’s,” says Ribon, who, alongside director Sara Gunnarsdóttir, chatted with TheWrap about their short and the thank you gift they tried to send Riz Ahmed

my year of dicks
"MY Year of Dicks" (FX)

Depending on your definition of “vulgar,” “My Year of Dicks” could be the first film with that type of word in its title to be nominated for an Oscar. (Up for debate: “Sausage Party” and “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.”) It’s a badge of honor, but Sara Gunnarsdóttir, the Icelandic filmmaker who directed the animated short about a teenage girl’s quest to lose her virginity in 1990, doesn’t understand why it’s such a big deal.

“This is such a weird word for me,” Gunnarsdóttir said during a recent interview with TheWrap. “I have the same feelings about the word ‘s—‘ because I’m like, it’s poop. We can say ‘poop.’ Why can’t we say ‘s—‘? ‘Dicks’ — like, why is this a bad word? There’s Dick’s Sporting Goods. I don’t get it.”

At the mention of the sports equipment company, Pamela Ribon, who adapted her own memoir for the 26-minute film and was also on the call, offered this tidbit: “I sent a link to Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s not a lie. I slid into their DM’s and was like, ‘Hey. Hey. I’ve got a film for you.’ I have not heard from their social, there’s been no response. They left me unread.”

Director Sara Gunnarsdóttir & Writer Pamela Ribon, “My Year of Dicks”
Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon (Photographed by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap)

Dick’s has some catching up to do. Since premiering at SXSW last year (where Ribon won a special jury prize), the funny and poignant coming-of-age tale racked up praise and awards on the festival circuit before landing an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short last month. You might recall that while announcing this particular film on Oscar nominations morning, Riz Ahmed could not help but giggle.

Originally created for FX, “My Year of Dicks” came together during Covid. Gunnarsdóttir, Ribon and a small group of actors and collaborators (including producer Jeanette Jeanenne) shot reference videos over Zoom and smartphone during lockdown, which were then sent to a team of animators who lent their style to the film’s five chapters, each of which captures a different mood or persona that 15-year-old Pam tries on for size. The flurry of attention that “My Year of Dicks” has received is new to both Gunnarsdóttir, who is best known for her animation work in Marielle Heller’s 2015 indie “Diary of a Teenage Girl” and HBO’s 2019 mini-series “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” and Ribon, a writer whose credits include “Moana” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

When we spoke, they were still giddy from the Oscar Nominees Luncheon — or “movie prom,” as Ribon calls it — that they’d attended earlier that week. “This is already so wild and beyond what we could have dreamed when we were sitting right here two years ago,” Ribon said.

Though Gunnarsdóttir was jet-lagged after returning to Iceland from Los Angeles and Ribon had stayed up late the night before posting photos of the Oscar luncheon on her Instagram, the pair was lively and engaged during their morning chat with TheWrap, which ranged from ’90s Camcorder memories to the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik.

Congratulations on your nomination. Have you sent Riz Ahmed a link to the movie so he could experience the magic behind his giggle?
Ribon: Well, he can watch it on the Academy portal. It’s also at myyearofdicks.com. We did our best to send him thank yous and it did come his way. I really wanted to send him a bouquet of eggplants in some way. It’s harder than you think.

Edible Arrangements doesn’t have an eggplant option? 
Ribon: And in London, I think it means something different, quite honestly.

“My Year of Dicks” (FX)

Your film is based on your memoir, Pam. How did you decide to adapt it into an animated short?
Ribon: Yes. [She pulls a copy of “Notes to Boys (And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public)” into the frame.] Well, it was an invitation to make some animation with FX, and my favorite thing about animation is it really goes right to your inner child and talks to you in a way that can often be very healing. And so when I started with animation, you always ask, like, Why are we animating this? We would do it to really be a teenage person, go through this again, just drop you right back in time — and play around with the genres that would immerse yourself in, with literature and film [as a teenager]. They weren’t even masks. You’re just like, “Well, this is who I am now.” And animation lets you play with that and be taken seriously when done in the way that Sara does her art.

Sara, what interested you to come on as director? 
Gunnarsdóttir: What intrigued me most is the personal aspects. I have gotten to do this a couple of times, with Phoebe Gloeckner’s work [in “Diary of a Teenage Girl”] and a diary of a girl who is not even with us anymore, Hae Min Lee [from the Adnan Syed murder case]. Because it’s so personal, there are details in it and it feels so real. But then I was also just so flattered that Pamela trusts me to do this with her because this was a first for me a little bit. I’ve been doing so much animation under other directors within the live-action space.

How did you decide to incorporate different animation styles for each chapter? We go from vampire skater to art house to anime to horror…
Gunnarsdóttir: It really came from the script because Pam had played with the genres. And I immediately paired artists to genre and they all said yes to me, which is so great. So I had my dream team. And it was so fun to go into this. I was a little bit intimidated at first by the whole thing and it felt so good to go to these artists that I already knew — most of them I’d worked with before — and say, “Hey, do you want to do this with me?”

“My Year of Dicks” (FX)

The film is animated, but there is archival footage of you as a teenager, Pam. I was about the same age in 1990 and people just didn’t film their every waking moment like they do now, which makes its presence even more poignant in the film. Did you always envision that footage as something you could work into a project? Or was it a rediscovery for you?
Ribon: Well, I moved around a lot growing up and even since high school, I’ve moved around a bit. All I wanted from, like, whenever that Fisher Price cassette tape existed for skaters, I always wanted a Camcorder. I eventually got it for Christmas and I filmed everything. And I still have all those tapes. I converted some of them to DVDs. That was all the proof I had of all the people that I’ve known and the people who made me laugh, so it wasn’t like a discovery of, “Oh, I have all this?” [Laughs] I joke now that I’m a digital magpie, but I’m just an emotional magpie and I didn’t want to lose anything that was part of my growing up. What was surprising to me is how much Sara wanted it.

It struck me how vulnerable a young woman at that age and that time was. Did you feel your younger self’s vulnerability when you were making the film? Or since you’d done the memoir, had you already gone through that revisiting of the past?
Ribon: I felt it very differently. The memoir is in such a tone that was appropriate 10 years ago, of: [Speaking flippantly] “I was clueless!” Like, “Let’s all remember that that sucked. And I’ll never go back there again.” Making this during lockdown, we were grounded. We were grounded and everything was over and you weren’t going to see that boy or that friend or go to that place because that closed down. I was really very back into that feeling already, so to at least have friends — you know, be grounded with friends. Grounded with sisters, really, who are like, “Let’s talk about that boy. Let’s make him look like this.” So I stayed vulnerable and I was probably more vulnerable than I’d been in a very long time. It was pretty raw while we were making this.

Looking at Sara’s past work, especially with “Diary of a Teenage Girl” and “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” she seems like the perfect director for your film. Did you feel that way when her name came up?  
Ribon: Yeah. I hadn’t seen her work in “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” so I was just like, Wow, look at that. Then the first thought I had was, Gosh, I hope she can be funny. It’s so beautiful. But I was like, will this work with a dick joke? I sure hope so. And then she was like, “What if it’s not so many dicks?” [Laughs]

This is random, but it just occurred to me because I went there a zillion years ago, isn’t there a…um, dick museum in Reykjavik? [The Icelandic Phallological Museum]
Ribon: Yes!
Gunnarsdóttir: It’s awful.
Ribon: That’s where we had our international premiere party. We went from narwhal to troll. We saw it all. So many dicks.
Gunnarsdóttir: To me that museum is traumatic. I’m never going there again. It’s awful. [Whispering] Oh my god.
Ribon: Well, I signed the guest book for you. So you don’t have to go back there.

My Year of Dicks (FX)

Sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up a bad memory. 
Ribon: I do have a picture of you underneath a troll penis and we are just as horrified as the moment calls for. I took pictures of everybody there. It’s just people going, [looking shocked] “Oh, my…!”
Gunnarsdóttir: My favorite part about that museum is that as you exit after all that horror, there’s just a photo of the man who started this museum talking on a penis phone. [Laughs]
Ribon: Some people collect bears, some enjoy flip flops. He just knew what he liked. His son inherited it. How about that? “Sorry, I have to run my dad’s dick museum for the rest of my life.” [Laughs hard for several seconds]. Anyway, you were saying…

Maybe he can sell Daddy’s museum? But back to your movie, can you talk about plans to adapt “My Year of Dicks” into a series?
Ribon: That’s our plan. We’ll see who’s on board. It’s in early discussions. But yeah, the idea always was to get to lengthen this. [From] the book, that’s just one chapter. And you know, everybody has a year a dicks. [Laughs]
GunnarsdóttirI’m starting to feel confident that we’re gonna, hopefully, be able to do this. We willed somehow an Oscar nomination into existence, so we can do it!