Filmmaker Q&A Paddy Murphy
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Dark Comedy Prods
So let's start from the beginning - When did your love for cinema beginning/what was it that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I've been obsessed with "Stories" for as long as I can remember. Having grandparents tell me about their lives, reading books and comics and eventually an obsession with visual storytelling both passive (film) and interactive (videogames), I decided right after school I'd love to get into film. However, I worked in a bunch of retail stores while doing a part time video production and manipulation course in Limerick. Upon completion of the course, I never thought I would actually get into film. Some friends and I set up a videogame production company in December 2009 called Open Emotion Studios. From 2009 through 2012 we released over a dozen games on a variety of platforms including the PS3, PSP and PS Vita. When Open Emotion shut it's doors in 2012 I went abroad for a bit to a beautiful little gem in the middle of the Mediterranean called Malta. After a year there, I came home and began writing again. Off the back of several award winning short stories, including Ensnared which would become my first short film, a magician I was working with (Steve Spade) coaxed me into trying my hand at writing/directing and set me up with a slew of amazing people who I still work with to this day including Aaron Walsh, Kevin Kiely Jr. Sean Mercier and Adam Moylan. Since then, I haven't really taken a break, crafting 10 shorts since June 2014 through to now; and 1 feature, which is currently in post production.
You've directed quite a collection of different short films over time, which I love all the one's I've seen! Can you talk about each of those films and what inspired the ideas for each of the films you've directed?
Thanks Phillip. I really appreciate that. There are quite a few so I'll try to be as brief as possible. Ensnared was the first film I wrote/directed. It was produced by Steve Spade (Owner/CEO of Spade Lion Productions) who was trying to establish his production company at the time. Ensnared was the first in a trilogy of horrors based on psychoses. Ensnared was based on my own experience of depression and the guilt/depression loop you can easily find yourself caught in. The second part of The Psychosis Trilogy (also made with Spade Lion Productions) was Devil on my Back; a twisted tale of a psychiatrist who interviews a patient. At first he suspects she is suffering from bipolar disorder, but comes to realise its something much darker. I loved making DOMB and the cast gave it their all. Due to some issues with the sound however, it will likely never see the light of day, unless Spade Lion Productions decide to release it at some stage, which would be amazing, because warts and all I still love that piece.
My third short was Ground Floor, the final film I made in conjunction with Spade Lion Productions and also the final portion of The Psychosis Trilogy. For this film, we got Tristan Risk involved which was absolutely amazing. We built a set in the facility that would become Limericks first movie studio, Troy Studios in December of 2014. The concept came from Steve when he and I were in Dublin for one of his performances. Following on from his initial concept I drafted up the script; which centers itself on a woman trapped in an elevator with a magician who claims to be the devil. It was an amazing experience. Tristan is incomparable and we've vowed to work together again.
After The Psychosis Trilogy I departed Spade Lion and was going to give up writing as I just wasn't feeling the same passion for it. Around then I met a guy named Brian Clancy, who pitched a film concept to me. It was for a black comedy called The Three Don'ts. I loved the idea so much I ran home and drafted a 27 page screenplay overnight. On that shoot I met Barry Fahy, the DOP I have worked with on almost ever project since. The Don'ts concerns two naieve lads who enter into a deal with a trio of criminals. They can make it through the night if they follow The Three Don'ts. The film has since been expanded to a feature as we received a huge reception when we screened it in the Odeon cinema in Castletroy, Limerick in September of 2015. We had a record attendance of over 350 people, which blew both myself and the owner/operator of the cinema away. We are almost finished the feature now, with about 20% more footage to shoot at the end of the month and then it's into post. The second act was penned by the hugely talented Eric Clancy (Brians brother) and he also put together the story arc for the third part of the feature. I'm super excited for this one. Hopefully, distributors feel the same ;)
In June of 2015 I helped a local theatre company, Nightingale Productions, create their first short film; a psychological thriller/horror starring Jamie Walters, Courtney McKeon and Brian Clancy. That was a great project and has received huge support from the online community. In September, I co-directed a film called I.R.I.S with Barry Fahy as part of the 48 hour film competition. The film is a goofy little comedy with some hilarious set pieces. It can be viewed online. The concept came from the theme, prop, characters occupation and line of dialogue we were given (buddy movie, apple, optician, your mother never approved of your hobbies). We scored two awards for IRIS from the 48 hour film competition; Best actor for Brian Clancy and best use of prop for our use of the apple.
In mid 2015 I met up with Kevin Kiely Jr. and we began to talk about working together again. I had a vision for a heavy drama piece featuring Kevin and a box. Kevin was awestruck; he told me to meet him for a coffee and as per usual I did. He recounted a story about his grandfather which basically was the synopsis I had given him. Together, with me writing and Kevin producing we set about making The Cheese Box a 1950's period drama based on a true story. We shot that in October of 2015 over a 3 day period and it was amazing. A very heavy shoot, but insanely powerful. Hugely thankful to all involved and since then The Cheese Box has been selected to premiere at the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
In January of 2016 we shot a submission for the ScreamVention in just 6 hours for a J-Horror inspired piece called Framed. We were hugely enthused for the film which starred Stephen Tubridy & Courtney McKeon. We have several short film distributors talking to us about releasing Framed via their services which is pretty damn amazing.
We will be talking a bit more about Retribution and Cuppa later in this so I will refrain from spilling too much about those projects here.
What were some of the more fun/easier things about making those films?
For me the fun of these projects is always in the people. I love working with the group that frequent these shoots. Aaron Walsh, Adam Moylan, Sean Mercier, Brian Clancy, Nathan Wong, Courtney McKeon, Stephen Tubridy, Bekki Tubridy and of course the love of my life, Barry Fahy are some of the people that make these shoots so spectacular. One of the most fun shoots to date has probably been Cuppa just because it wasn't a high pressure shoot so everyone was just having a load of fun. Although, there were amazing moments on The Three Don'ts & Retribution too. When you get blood pipes to do what you want, that's a pretty amazing feeling.
What were some of the challenges you faced making the films?
The challenge almost always lies in the fact that we're doing this with no backing, no funding... So I mean, we're doing everything as minimal as possible. However, there is also a degree of fun to that challenge. I try to write within my means or if I'm helping someone else with a script, I compel them to do the same. We had some issues with special effects in places, just because we don't have the budget to go crazy on them, but I think when people see Cuppa and Retribution they will be pretty damn impressed at what we've achieved with limited (meaning no) budget.
What were some lessons you learned during and after the making of the films?
The biggest lessons I learned while working on Andy Stewarts Remnant. The importance of a strong assistant director, the advantage of a top class SFX artist, the usefulness of a good costumer or even a script supervisor. I've put a lot more effort into pre-production having worked with Andy as I hope is evident with Retribution and even Cuppa. Another lesson learned is to take breaks. Don't burn yourself out on too many projects. If you are doing loads of projects, make sure their inexpensive and non time consuming.
Can you talk about your most recent films Cuppa and Retribution, What were the seeds of inspiration for those films?
Retribution is my love letter to the revenge/exploitation films of the 70's and 80's. The concept was always very stylistically driven; neon lighting, synth score, high octane bike sequences. I wrote Retribution in May of 2015 when I was heading to Scotland to visit Andy Stewart. On the set of The Three Don'ts I told Barry Fahy about the concept and he hopped aboard as a producer, as did my wife Kathy Murphy who loved and supported the concept since Day 1. Retribution is the story of a man who has warped the words of the bible to fit his own needs. It's very much so a story of morality. There is no black and white in Retribution but a grey line the audience must tread. I am hugely proud of what we accomplished with Retribution on a budget of only 2k.
Cuppa was made for about a tenth of that, ha ha ha. Cuppa is the brain child of Aaron Walsh and Brian Clancy so I can take no credit for that story. The influence I guess came from an on set joke during the filming of The Three Don'ts where we used to say Brian and Aarons characters were madly in love. So basically, Cuppa is about a gay window washer named Doyle played by Aaron Walsh who lives with a serial killer named Bawnie, played by Brian Clancy. Doyle has no ideas of Bawnie's secret past time and thinks he's an artist. The only reason Doyle has escape Bawnie's wrath is due to the fact that he makes an amazing cuppa. Anyone who insults Doyle's cuppa meets Bawnie's hammer. However, Bawnie searches for the recipe for Doyles tea in a desperate bid to get rid of him once and for all. It's a ridiculous concept and as soon as I read the script I was 100% on board to direct. I really must thank Aaron and Brian for trusting me with their baby.
You managed to cast the great Nicholas Burman-Vince for your film Retribution - What was the story there in casting the likes of him, and what was it like directing him in the film?
Casting Nick was an absolute dream come true. I actually burned my Hellraiser VHS out growing up, I watched it so much. I had already had the privilege of working with the incredible Tristan Risk on Ground Floor, so I wasn't hugely intimidated about working with Nick, but still I knew I was dealing with a real talent here. I contacted Nick after we worked together on Andy Stewart's Remnant and once he read the script he was more than accommodating. He came to Ireland for 3 days in November for the shoot and was hugely impressed with the crew. It was a phenomenal feeling.
As for directing Nick, it was a breeze. He has such a unique and innate talent for diving into character. I remember a car journey from the airport to the set where Nick asked me about his character and together we delved right into the depths of things. What amazed me was how on point his fellow lead Adam Moylan was. Nick couldn't believe the intensity Adam brought to the role and said it grounded him even more. Watching the two play out their key scene together was an absolute joy. It was like witnessing a stage play, more than a film shoot. They nailed their lines and brought a huge amount of chemistry onto the screen. It was an honor and a joy, and I hope to work with Nicholas again very soon.
What are some of your all time favorite films that you carry with you to this day and still inspire you and your work?
I'm a huge fan of old school horror. I grew up with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Pinhead and they all hold a huge place in my heart and nightmares. As stated above I watched Hellraiser so much it wore the VHS out. I am obsessed with all of Clive Barkers works with Candyman being another huge favorite of mine. I also love Clive's books, paintings and photography. He's just a genius.
I've been a fan of Kevin Smith for as long as I can remember, which is ironic as Tristan Risk calls me the Irish Kevin Smith, ha ha. That is a huge compliment to me. I love Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy but also have a soft spot for almost everything else Smith has done, even his derided attempts at horror like Red State and Tusk.
New wave horror is a big love of mine too. The works of Ti West and Adam Wingard have really reinvigorated my love for the scene. The Guest is one of my all time favorite films and I have a huge soft spot for House of the Devil. I also love the work of the Soskas, especially American Mary which reinvented the body horror scene. On top of that Astron 6, Fredrik Hana and Andy Stewart rank as some of my all time favourite directors.
Who or what inspires you and your work as a filmmaker/artist on a day-to-day basis?
The biggest influence or inspiration for me is my wife/producer/AD Kathy Murphy and two daughters, Piper and Phoebe. Everything I do, I do for them. Piper actually had a role in The Cheese Box which is amazing as it means that she will be on the big screen at Cannes in May. Also, I'm inspired by the amazing team I work with. I love working with them so my goal is to keep finding work for all of us and to ensure that we have the opportunity to make more amazing stuff together. The other influence is my own life experiences, my own battles with depression, my struggle with nightmares and night terrors and my perceptions of the injustices in the world. Collectively I use all these things to try and continuously write and direct to the best of my abilities.
Can you talk about any upcoming projects you have lined up for the future?
Well, I can't share too much but what the hell. I'm currently looking into creating 4 micro shorts in conjunction with Crypt TV. These range from comedy horror to hyper-visual character pieces. I love the work Crypt are doing and welcome the opportunity to work together. I am also as stated finishing up post production on The Three Don'ts, which will then go out into the world seeking distribution. Already at this early stage we've had interest from several distributors who have seen the 30 minute short. I have a few more short concepts lined up for upcoming competitions but my most exciting project is my second feature. I have already started on the pre-production and all I can say is that it is influenced by Audition, Misery, Hard Candy and Single White Female ;)
Hoping to get some funding towards that from the Irish Film Board later in the year and also going to run a crowdfunder for it when the time is right.