In a place where filmmakers are a dime a dozen, it was refreshing for me to come across one up and coming director who does it just a bit differently. Brendan Gabriel Murphy is a natural when it comes to the craft: his style is cool, innovative, and enticing. As a jack of all trades, Murphy’s work intrigues while the stories he creates pull you in and propel your senses. The visuals are often surreal-like; the writing is designed to test your logic while the musical ambiance takes you on a fantastic trip. His cinematic senses continue to flourish with each project he takes on. In the short time that Murphy decided to give directing a go, he’s managed to capture audiences through out the indie circuit, win some great awards, and most importantly develop his team. [gallery]
A New Yorker by heart and a Los Angeles transplant by trade Brendan began his venture into the industry from the ground up. He says, “we were literally finding people on craigslist and working with a buddy of mine who just moved out here. We did little films here and there, and we started getting into more and more film festivals with each project.”
The first? A physiological drama about suicide titled “Numb”. The budget? A mere 600 bucks. After a few projects ignited the flame, the sweet smell of success began to form. “Swerve,” a story about love, fate, and chance encounters paved the way. It stars his friends, Shiloh Fernandez and Juno Temple, who were recently named two of Hollywood’s rising stars. Murphy continues to thrill audiences with his latest short film release “Perceptio,” in which the storytelling techniques take a complete turn from his past work. The film has no dialogue. Instead, it marries the narrative with vivid, dream like visuals and a beautifully composed score.
I sat down with Brendan to speak about his journey as a film director…
BTH: You have a diverse background, what drew your focus towards directing?
Brendan Gabriel Murphy: I actually started out acting as a kid, I did a lot of theatre. It was a nice outlet for me creatively. It helped me overcome a lot of things. As I grew up I didn’t know if I wanted to go into filmmaking or if I wanted to go into acting. I decided to go to film school (at Hofstra University). I am able to do several things: I’m a writer, director, I edit, and produce as well. I wasn't doing a lot of film stuff in New York, I was doing more TV and I really wanted to go to LA, because this is the epicenter of film. While I was in New York, I experienced 9/11 from a block away, the craziest thing I have ever seen- chaos. After working in the city for a while and living there my whole life I decided it was time for change. So I came out here and just started getting people together to make short films. That’s the only way you can really come up these days.
Let’s talk about "Swerve", that film really allowed you to share your work with a larger audience.
Yeah, that helped put me on the map, for people to start taking me seriously. It won 5 awards, played 9 countries, and I signed 4 different distribution deals for it. It has opened up a ton of doors for me, with managers and agents, meetings with studio executives. With "Swerve", I sunk a bunch of my money into that one as well. It was a crazy time for me.
Was that a turning point for you?
Yeah, I had just sunk all my savings into a project and had a falling out with the company I was working with for years; it was like my whole world came crashing down. I didn't know if anyone was going to like the movie, or what I was doing. I just wrote it for Shiloh and his girlfriend at the time (Juno Temple). I wanted to do, sort of a surreal, Hitchcockian thriller, on a short film level, but with a studio like quality. I didn't want to do something quirky, I wanted to do something awesome.
What are some things you've learned as a filmmaker so far?
This is not a one man show, you have to build your army, and every director has his producers, his team. It took time to build my team.
He goes on to explain how the team began to form with the film “Wasted.”
I had my little brother shoot it (Kieran Murphy) while he was still in college. I had him come out for the summer and shoot this short film. I spent five grand of my own money on it. We lived in Venice Beach, on the boardwalk. I shot it in my apartment. I just stole all the shots, no permits, no insurance. That (film) actually helped launch Kieran’s director of photography career and he’s killing it right now! Also, it was the first thing Shiloh Fernandez ever did, he never did anything before that. “Wasted” was his first film. We won the award for "Best Short Film" at the Venice Beach Film Festival, so that was cool.
You and Shiloh continued to collaborate on projects after that, do you guys have a special artistic relationship?
I saw something in Shiloh way before anybody else did. I just knew the kid was gonna be a star, he had it in him. He and I have two more projects (features) we want to do together- that we would shoot in New York. We want that Johnny Depp/Tim Burton relationship. I know that I can bring stuff out of him, I think, even better than other filmmakers could, because I know him so well. He’s doing great on his own. I’m super proud of him.
Reoccurring themes in your films: death, accidents, drugs, supernatural states, and a lot of smoke. Are these obsessions or fascinations of yours?
Yeah, you basically summed up my life in 20 seconds. We laugh..
Kidding aside... I have a fear of dying in car accidents, car accidents are a theme in both films “Swerve” and “Perceptio.” Smoke- I just like smoke. Death- my fear of death, but also just embracing it and trying not to be afraid of it. That’s kind of what I did with "Perceptio." I created a love story with the angel of death-I wanted to take the audience on a journey. That’s what it’s supposed to be, you’re supposed to escape your world for a while. I immerse myself in my art and my projects- I put myself out there and it’s fun. That’s why I think we go to the movies, that’s why during a tough economy the movie business doesn’t do bad, because more people will need this escape for an hour in a half. Leave the bullshit of real life for a while...
What do you hope people take from your most recent release, “Perceptio”?
When I wrote the script, my team saw there was no dialogue and everyone looked at me like I was crazy… but I wanted to do this surreal art piece. I knew half the audience was gonna take the ride and enjoy the experience and the other half was gonna be like, “I don’t get it” and that’s fine. Because that’s what art is.
I hope that they enjoy the journey. Perceptio is Latin for perception, it's an experience of the senses, the stuff that dreams are made of. I've been looking at film more like a canvas, instead of it just being a screen. That's the biggest difference for me with “Swerve” and “Perceptio”.
Lastly, what would you say separates you from other directors?
I hope I bring a uniqueness to my films. There’s a lot of great directors out there, it’s really hard to re-invent the wheel. Every great director has borrowed from the people they admire and I am borrowing from people I admire.What I’m trying to do is not just borrow from other filmmakers but borrow from other artists. From Alexander McQueen, to Shakespeare, and one of my biggest influences- Salvador Dali. I kinda want to be the misfit love child from all these great artists. I want to have that art quality in my films, but on a bigger level. You have to break the formula or what's the point?
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