FOCUS ON: Jack Dunphy
Love, death and icecream for breakfast: small talk with the Brooklyn-based filmmaker
Jack Dunphy mixes love and humour, cutout paper characters and death. Serenity is a profound story made of simple elements. Serenity was part of 2015 Sundance selction, as his latest short Chekhov (2016), yet to be released online. Jack, Chicago-born currently living in New York, also animated Bob Dylan Hates Me by Caveh Zahedi, who was his teacher at the New School.
CC: Please, describe yourself. Yes, 3rdperson.
Right now, Jack is…
Jack Dunphy: Staring at the paper cutouts on his desk that he needs to animate, thinking about the footage he needs to edit, and wishing he hadn’t eaten ice cream for breakfast.
CC: What was your first paid job?
JD: I was a busboy for a catering company. I screwed everything up. I was fired in a day.
CC: Generally, what kind of human beings you prefer?
CC: What did your mum say when you told her you wanted to be a filmmaker?
JD: I was making films since before I can remember. My mom was a filmmaker too, so she understands the illness. She taught me a lot about filmmaking, especially editing. I would be ten years old and show her an hour long cut of a movie I had made and she would tell me to cut it down to five minutes. I would say, “but then the whole thing’s good!” she would say, “Jack, always remember, you can’t smell your own farts.” She was, and still is very supportive.
CC: First thing that comes to your mind if I say ABSURD?
JD: How seriously I’m taking this interview.
CC: If I say IRONIC?
CC: If I say TRAGIC?
JD: Again, Trump.
CC: Is Caveh Zahedi a great filmmaker?
JD: I assume you’re asking me this because one of the few public videos I have on Vimeo is an ad for Caveh Zahedi’s box set in which Caveh asks people if they think he’s a great filmmaker. Caveh accidentally uploaded that onto my Vimeo account and I never took it down. Yes, Caveh’s a great filmmaker. Possibly the best personal documentarian ever. Hopefully once he’s dead he’ll start making some money.
CC: Can you name a great filmmaker (without Googling)?
JD: Mike Leigh.
CC: Have you ever asked yourself why you wanted to be a filmmaker? If yes, what did you answer?
JD: There’s this joke, “An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth.” Movies are my blade of grass. I’m grateful to have a blade of grass. I’ve asked myself more specific questions, like, “does this story really need to be told?” or, “is this truthful enough?” and when I find myself asking those questions I scrap the project. With the good ones, you don’t ask those questions. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked myself, “why do I make films,” but I did go a year in college without making a single movie. That was a miserable year. I was drunk, I was insane and I was lost. So I know why I make movies – because I have to.
CC: What was the most beautiful thing about your ex-girlfriend Serenity?
JD: We would wait for hours in this one McDonald’s parking lot for her dealer to arrive. She was on lookout, so I was in charge of music. Whenever I played Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart, she would scream the lyrics at the top of her lungs along with the song. It was a pretty stupid thing to do, considering the first rule of purchasing illegal substances in public is to remain inconspicuous. We would never even buy a shake or anything – I’m surprised McDonalds never gave us shit. When I played that song, though, it was like the little girl inside of her was yelling to be let out of this troubled woman she had found herself trapped inside. I guess there was something beautiful about that.
CC: Do you like dark stuff? Why?
JD: Ten seconds after my dad told my family that he was dying of cancer, the mentally challenged man that was sharing a hospital room with him started yelling about how he wanted green jello, not red. We were all crying, and here was this guy that just wouldn’t shut up about jello. When this fellow threw his red jello at the wall my dad burst into hysterics, as did my family. You find humor and humanity in tough situations. You don’t find humor and humanity on the tea cups ride at Disney World, unless it breaks Goofy has to come scoop up some kid’s teeth.
CC: What makes you feel melancholic in daily life?
JD: My vices. I cram so much bullshit into my mouth and brain, I’m surprised I can even function sometimes.
CC: Why are you based in Brooklyn?
JD: Certain parts of it are still really great.
CC: Are you always alone when you work on your films?
JD: When I make these little films, or when I animate, I’m alone. I go into a deep state of aloneness. I’m co-directing a feature film called The Pervert with Nathan Silver soon, so I have to work with other people, and I’m looking forward to that. You go a little, “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY” after staring at cutout characters all day.
CC: Why did you put trashcans in the background of Serenity?
JD: I was trying to make it look like an alley.
CC: Do you know Yuriy Norshteyn?
Jack Dumphy on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jack.dunphy.796
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