British filmmaker Daniel Mulloy is one of our festival guests. His films are intimate studies of human relationships like the names Dad, Son, Baby and Home suggests.
Your father is a well known animator and your sister is also a filmmaker. Was it a natural choice for you to start making films or did you want to be something else and filmmaking chose you?
When I was a kid my parents were making films and it was their passion, what they lived for. They were determined to make films and experiment in the process, regardless of where there it made them an income. It was far from appealing for me as a kid and all I really understood was that my parents were obsessed by their art, I didn’t understand why.
I was introverted, neurotic and fearful as a child and couldn’t read or write until late, however I loved stories, graffiti and comics. I drew more and more and ended up going to art school and found myself growing increasingly alienated from what had pulled me there in the first place. I wanted to tell stories about the people around me and create narrative portraits. I graduated and returned to the heart of what I loved, creating moving portraits and telling stories about the lives I could see around me.
There seems to be a deeper level of intimacy in your films. You get really close to your actors and the stories seem to do the same. Is that intentional, do you put that already into your scripts or does the intimacy appear when you start shooting?
I want to connect. I am most effected, moved and changed by experiences that involve connection as it enables empathy and intimacy. For me this is true in life and film. Intimacy, vulnerability, weakness and bravery all come when walls are broken down between us. I find film the perfect medium for doing this and getting to the core of life. I write scripts with a fair amount of detail and nuance. I am very keen to make the most of the character and do all I can to enable the actors to make the characters their own.
That said, how important is finding the right actors for your films? How do you go on about casting?
Casting is key to me. It is central as I have a huge reverence for the art of acting and those who do it with all their heart. I find it takes incredible bravery and there is nothing more that I love as a director than working with actors.
To have an actor bring a character I had dreamed of to life, feels like the greatest honor. I love the actors I work with and will do everything to protect their ability to engage 100% in their art. For me casting is key and I will go to any length to collaborate with the right artists, there are no rules.
Talking about scripts, do you always write your own scripts? Do you have any tips for people who want to write scripts or make their own movies and get into filmmaking?
To date I have written everything myself. I believe in going with your gut and believing in your vision. One of the hardest things to do as a filmmaker is to keep the belief in the project and yourself, regardless of how dumb a film may seem or insignificant to others. Every project one sets out to make will be knocked back on multiple levels at many points The key is to really hold firm to your belief that you are saying something worthwhile.
You may well struggle to convince every person you collaborate with that what you are doing is worthwhile. Putting everything into a project is part of what it takes.
In your latest film Home, you portray a family’s journey from the safety of UK to a war zone, sort of a reverse refugee story. You show a somewhat absurd journey with no conclusion, as if you want the viewers to make up their own mind about what will follow. Do you think you are becoming more political in your movies and taking a stand?
I don’t want to create ‘political films’ but I like the idea of films provoking thought and debate. Bringing to life stories that enable empathy is central to what I do. Conscious or not, through the manner of its telling a political stance has been taken by the storyteller. Everything can be seen though a political vale. For me creating films with closure or to make a definitive point isn’t interesting.
I feel that the policies that the UK now has in place are inhumane. The group that assembled to make ‘Home’ wanted to respond with a simple and clear story.