don’t show many features at MIAF. But this is Phil Mulloy!!
His short films (particularly the Intolerance Trilogy) have been
some of the most unique and acerbic inclusions in our programs and
have won Best of Fest awards in years gone by. Phil was ill the
week they were doing ‘Compromise 101’ at film school
and his films are all the better for it. And, it would be fair to
say, he’s never been a slave to the notion of fine art. His
films are often (in fact, normally) a gut-punch delivered with a
paint brush. They hold up a sort of pseudo-mirror that somehow reflects
where we might be about to go (typically some version of hell).
And they are made by a man in a hurry. These images burst from the
screen in much the same way as they were probably thrown down on
the page in the first place. They can be ugly and contradictory.
For his feature, Phil has parked his brushes and plugged in a tablet.
The look has changed a bit, so has the pacing, even some of the
anger has been given a seat but that strange mirror his films put
in front of us is still in our face. The Christies feel like ‘un-people’
and they live in a world where talk is cheap, friends aren’t
really friends and nothing that anybody says seems definitive or
important. Sound familiar? To quote a certain Richard who may not
want his name splashed across MIAF’s website … “one
of the most accomplished pieces of quintessential freakery I’ve
seen in a good long while”.
Phil very kindly took
some time out to answer some questions about his
latest film, the path to making features and pompous monumentality.
You are often described as the enfant terrible of British animation.
I do it myself when I can?t come up with a more original description.
I've seen you laugh this off and I've seen you react more forcefully
to it. How are you feeling about that title these days?
To be called anything is actually quite nice. Recently I was called
'brilliant' and 'rubbish' for the same film. Perfect.
What was the motivation for moving from short films to feature-length
When times get tough and films get harder to make some people stop
making films. My films get longer. It's a matter of the will.
Your earlier short films have such a strong 'hand-painted' ethos
to them. To me, that's where part of their sheer power come from.
What was it like to move into using a computer?
I have always tried to do my drawings as quickly and in as unconsidered
way as possible. Losing control allows for the things you didn't
anticipate to happen. The computer allowed me to do things even
more quickly. Now I manage to do hardly any drawing at all. And
anyway, you can always access other people's drawings on the internet
and use those.
The first time I saw Goodbye Mister Christie was at the London
International Animation Festival. Your introduction that night,
to my mind, was one of the most honest introductions I'd seen in
a while. You spoke less about the art and content of your film and
more about your desire to work fast, to get the images out there,
to get the voices speaking. Is that a fair enough assessment?
Yes, working in the way I did with that film allowed me to work
very quickly. I shot that film, the first part of The Christie Trilogy,
in a year and am now finishing the second part. That has taken me
another year. Of course I don't just work for speed's sake. Working
quickly allows me to work through ideas and not get so precious
about everything. I can try things out, afford to make mistakes.
If things fail, so what? Move on. This may sound very cavalierish,
but of course
everything I do is intensely important to me. It's a balancing act
between caring and not caring, between being brilliant and being
The 'energy' level inherent in Goodbye Mister Christie (and in your
previous feature The Christies) seems virtually the inverse to that
in most of your short films. Is this how you see it and, if so,
is that a conscious decision; something that is fundamental to the
longer feature-film length; a progression of your filmmaking style;
all of the above; none of the above?
I have always liked the pacing of Robert Bresson's films. Bizarrely,
I was thinking of him when making The Christies. I was also thinking
of the Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow and a particular
film by him called Back and Forth, mainly for the movement of the
Both these filmmakers could be said to pace things slowly. I also
tend to have the music in my head as I am making the film. The music
(more sound than music) for The Christies was to be slow to give
the film a monumental feel. To me the contradiction between cheap,
to create an image that is pompously monumental is attractive. Needless
to say, The Christies should really be seen in an Imax theatre.
What are the similarities and differences between Goodbye Mister
Christie and its predecessor The Christies?
I began making The Christies as a series and then put all the bits
together at the end to create a feature-length film. In some respects
this was not very satisfactory. With Goodbye Mister Christie, I
set out to write a feature. However, I did not write a script. The
film was written as I was making it. Why? Because while making it,
I never knew what the next scene would be or where it would lead.
For me this was exciting. Illustrating a piece of writing with a
beginning, middle and end would have been dull. My own pleasure
creating is paramount.
The dialogue in The Christies is a vital and unusual element of
the film. How was this dialogue arrived at and what drew you towards
creating a film with these voices?
I became interested in computer-generated voices around 2000 and,
in fact, made two shorts with the animator Paul Bush using the voices.
They were really quite primitive and robotic. A couple of years
later I went back to the internet to see if the voices had progressed.
had. Now they were almost human. I began playing around writing
dialogues, made a six-minute film, became interested in the characters
and now, over five years later, I am still interested in these same
I work in this fashion - I write a scene of dialogue, then shoot
the scene, then write the next scene, then shoot the scene, etc.
After a few scenes, I go back and readjust things if I have to.
The whole process is really quite simple and of course everything
is quite literally at my fingertips.
What is the future for Phil Mulloy short films?
When I finish the trilogy, no doubt I will make some short films
again. At any rate I will be playing around with ideas and imagery
in some fashion.
There are plans for a third Christies feature?
I have two more films to make in The Christies Trilogy. Right now
I am completing the second. I will be laying the sound track in
about a month. I hope to begin part three in August.