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Interview: Mikey Please
Having worked commercially as a director whilst completing his Maters Degree at the Royal College of Art, with clients such as Virgin, Rough Trade, Ninja Tune and Universal Records, Mikey Please has been described by Dazed and Confused as ‘the hottest name in animation’.
Since it’s international premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Mikey’s 2011 BAFTA Award winning short film ‘The Eagleman Stag', selected for the Future Shorts Winter Season programme, has gone on to receive numerous accolades and awards. From the South by Southwest Wholphin Award, Grand prizes at Seattle, LA and Chicago International Film Festivals, a Royal Television Society Award and many others including most recently the Grand Jury awards at AFI and the New York Science Film Festival.
Mikey is currently undertaking a fellowship in Tokyo, awarded by the Japanese Centre for Cultural Affairs as well as developing his first animated feature with Warp Films and Film Four.
Curious to learn more about the man behind his art, we asked Mikey few questions:
I make animated films because until there's some sort of cable that you can pull out the side of your head and pop into the brain of a stranger, letting you control what they see, hear, and in some cases think and feel, I'd say that animated films are the most amazing form of artistic communication ever devised. And if we bring back Smell-O-Vision, even the brain-to-brain cable won't beat it. They're short because animation takes a stupidly long time. Give me time and I'll make you a longer one.
Who or what influences your film-making / writing?
You wouldn't believe me, but every now and again, when I go to sleep I'm visited by little people. We sit in a circle around a fire and I say 'please, help me, I'm scared, what shall I do?' They fix me with their beady blue eyes and say 'Mikey, make another animated film.' 'Please no!' I say. 'It's so horrible, it's torture, you don't understand'. 'We need to be appeased' they say, and produce a small cat. 'What are you going to do with that cat?', I ask nervously. They stroke the cat and say 'Make the film and you'll never have to find out'. They hand me a script and then I wake up. So, for better or worse, these guys influence me. In a way, I'm terrified that one day they'll leave and stop telling me what to do.
What do you fear and what excites you about the short-filmmaking process?
I fear I will never make anything really good. I'm excited that one day I might make something really good.
Tell us a bit more about your film, the creative process behind it, how long it took to create and what it is about.
It started as factual writing, drawing graphs about how time changes as a percentage of your overall life the older you get. I then wrote two diary entries on the subject; one from the perspective of an old man and the other from a young boy's point of view. I figured that the only relief for the old man was for him to find a way to return to that childlike state. I spent a good couple of years mulling over this basic story premise before adapting it into a script, then an animatic. Production: building sets, puppets, animation, sound and post was relatively short at five months. The longest five months of my life. Ha!
What would be your dream location to have your film screened at?
Mikey's notes when making The Eagleman Stag:
2 years of thinking on my bike
. 3 months of writing, planning, designing & storyboarding
6 months of long weeks and longer days shooting, building, editing and polishing in post
115 separate shot set ups A gazillion hand sculpted blades of stupid grass
A fine bunch of buddies to help me make stuff
1 David Cann
1 Benedict Please
9 minutes of your undivided attention please.
The face of the moon. Hmm, I would actually love the film to be shown in some sort of science context.
I'm not sure where or how, I just love it when stories and science come together. It would be cool to help the popularising of science somehow.
Name a short film you've seen recently that has made an impact (and why).
It's hard to pin that rosette on just one pony, but a film I remember having an impact on my work was Krzysztof Kieślowsk's Talking Heads. Its a series of interviews with people ranging in age from 1 to 100 asking simply: who are you and what do you wish for. There's something beautiful in the pattern of the answers, how they start simple then get all complicated until they become simple again.