‘Phil: A Tribute to a Man’ dir. Jim Archer
An affectionate parody of many of the documentary shorts seen online today.
Director & Editor: Jim Archer
Producers: Jason Underhill & Paul McCloone
Cinematographer: Marcus Autelli
Key Cast: Joseph Morpurgo
C8: What was the inspiration behind the film?
JA: The idea was to parody a lot of these documentary ‘profile’ shorts that I seem to see all the time online. I was watching a series on Dazed Digital called Tribute and just thought it would be funny if the subject of the video absolutely didn’t deserve to have a film made about him. I didn’t want to do it because I particularly disliked these films, some of them are great, but there’s a real formula to them that makes them ripe for parody.
C8: How did you collaborate with Joseph Morpurgo on the dialogue?
JA: Originally I had I written a very loose script that we would improvise around but the more I thought about it the more I realized that we didn’t need a script at all. The dialogue needed to sound as natural as possible and the best way to do this was to actually make it natural. Joe is one of the best improvisers I know, so I knew with him on board we could come up with the best and funniest stuff.
We sat down a few days before shooting and came up with a character, then from there we did a mock interview. I would ask Joe a question and he would make something up, once he said something funny or interesting or weird I would press him on it and that would lead us to discovering more and more strange and funny facets of his character. It was a collaboration but lets be clear: Joe was doing 95% of the work.
C8: What was the biggest obstacle you faced and how did you overcome it?
JA: The biggest obstacle was cutting down four hours of dialogue into four minutes. That was tough.
C8: How did you work with Marcus Autelli to create the aesthetic of the film?
JA: I showed Marcus a few references, specified that it needed to be handheld/high frame rate. But really from there I let him do his thing. Marcus is a great DOP and I knew he could deliver that art doc/reportage aesthetic that we needed so we weren’t sitting down and painstakingly storyboarding our shots. We just treated it like a documentary and went to the locations and just started shooting – making most of it up as we went along.
C8: Were there any specific references from film or photography that influenced the look of the film?
JA: Well obviously the films we were parodying were the main influence but nothing specifically. Seaside, sunsets, long roads and a guy whimsically sipping on a tea, that’s all we needed.
C8: You also worked as an editor on the film. How did you clearly delineate your two roles?
JA: I don’t think those two roles are particularly separate. I think most if not all directors will be thinking about the edit as they shoot anything. So once I got into the edit I already had the order of the shots I wanted in my mind, but then it came to editing the dialogue and all hell broke loose.
C8: Were there any scenes that you found difficult to cut or anything you didn’t include?
JA: About 174. There were so many great shots and great pieces of dialogue that I wanted to keep in but just didn’t have the space for. I knew the film needed to be short, five minutes at most, otherwise it would drag but honestly it could’ve been 30 or 40 minutes long. Though once you have that time scale in mind it makes things easier to cut, I didn’t feel bad about ignoring large swathes of dialogue because they were just too long to be interesting. They were funny to me and the crew at the time but would’ve been boring to everyone else.
C8: If you had the opportunity to complete the whole process again what would you do differently?
JA: I’d learn to be quicker at editing, I’m very slow.
C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?
JA: Getting each other. If everyone ‘gets’ what you are all trying to create then it makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable and fun. Especially in comedy.
C8: What does the future hold for you?
JA: I’ve got one more short that I want to make this year and I’m writing a feature film that I want to get into production soon. I really want to make a feature before I’m 30, I’m 28 now so I need to get cracking. Hopefully some commercials and music videos in the mean time though.