Ninety-Five Senses – 5 Questions for Film Co-Director Jerusha Hess

Ninety-Five Senses - Oscar Nominated Short Film
Nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2024 Academy Awards.
Ninety-Five Senses is a short film that is an ode to the body's five senses by a man who doesn't have much time left to enjoy them.

This is your first Oscar nomination after years of working in the industry. How does it feel to be recognized by the Academy after years of hard work?

Well, it feels absolutely amazing. We weren’t expecting this to happen, I doubt anyone ever is. When we watched the announcement there were many tears from our entire team.

Did you always have animation in mind when conceiving of this short film? What do you think this medium adds to the story?

The entire project began with a nonprofit accelerator here in Salt Lake City called MAST. The program’s mission is to take up-and-coming animators and pair them with established directors and writers. We came on board early, as working with young talent is always really invigorating. Animation allows so much freedom when telling a story, and it shows in the whimsical and folksy story of Coy’s life.

Which films/directors have influenced you as a filmmaker as well as your short, Ninety-Five Senses?

We love all things by the Coen brothers. Raising Arizona was a comedy that definitely was a repeat rental in our early days in film school. We love Wes Anderson’s gorgeous body of animated work, both long and short formats. But as for most children of the 80s and 90s, Saturday morning cartoons were the mainstay of our creative fodder. It is so fun to work in this medium.

What was it like working with Tim Blake Nelson?

He is who we all had in mind when we began this project. And then he read it and said yes— that's the dream. We’ve been a fan for forever (remember him in Heavyweights, he’s brilliant). The moments he reveals, in that perfect Texas drawl, the heartbreak of the character, you’re cracked wide open. The entire film hangs on his perfectly delivered performance.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

The cool thing about this film is that everyone takes something different from it. Some people watch it fresh from experiencing their own grief from losing a loved one. Others are moved by the physical presence of sitting with your senses. And others go into it thinking one way about incarcerated individuals and come out thinking a different way. For us Ninety-Five Senses is all of it— it’s a story of humanity, grace, and above all, hope.