I know Parker Mott as a fellow writer and a friend. We met on the set of Eric Marchen’s television show Cinema Seen years ago (when it was originally titled The Film Slate), and we’ve kept in contact ever since.
Parker continues to write, but he’s ventured off into writing films – even directing them. I’ve now seen another side of Parker, a unique and challenging filmmaker.
Upon meeting Parker (and Mayfly’s lead Stephen Chambers) at TIFF BELL Lightbox’s sophisticated LUMA restaurant to talk about an upcoming screening of short films Mayfly and What Floor (two films directed/written by Parker Mott, the former which he co-directed with Sebastian Diaz), I’m quick to ask about how the filmmaker challenges the audience.
“When you’re making movies, do you start off wanting to challenge the viewer, or do you decide while making the film, or in post-production,” I cautiously ask. “I think it comes naturally,” Parker replies. “There are so many questions that can conclude whether a film is challenging or not. And, it depends on the viewer. In ways, Terminator 2 could be challenging to some people.” Touché, sir.
“I don’t want to give people a hard time. Inevitably, my films come off as challenging to people because I think in a very dream-like way when I make films. Things are very episodic sometimes, or very fragmented. I get rid of information, and then some information comes back later, or I repeat certain imagery. I really play around with the structure. It’s very free-flowing.”
Parker transitions into audience reception, “I’ve had a lot of interesting responses. People love it, hate it, some don’t understand it, and some totally get it – who knows.”
It’s easy to understand that reaction when reflecting on Mayfly, a thesis project inspired by the life of German writer Franz Kafka. It’s very professional but, indeed, very choppy in terms of the narrative. However, by the end, questions are answered and loose ends are tied up. When asked for my opinion on Mayfly, I described the film as falling down a flight of stairs – as soon as you know what way is up, you topple some more until you wind up at the bottom and realize where you initially tripped. Both Parker and Stephen Chambers liked that analogy.
I was interested in Chambers’ perspective as an actor interpreting the film. “Do you look at this material and find yourself out of your element?” I asked. “The project came at a perfect time,” Stephen explains. “I had just come off of shooting something really talky and very funny, which was fun. But, when I read Mayfly, it was more of an internal job. As an actor, you can be more still, which I really like.”
The conversation then spun off on a tangent about characterization and using methods like “sense memory” to transport yourself into another headspace. Chambers elaborates, “my memory is terrible, but those feelings were ingrained in me – it was breathing in me. A big help (for me) is when we aren’t shooting in my hometown. Just by virtue of travelling somewhere (in Mayfly’s case, Kingston, Ontario), I’ve already left “myself” and stepped into another world.” The winter weather that almost gave Chambers frostbite may have also acted as a push into the mind of troubled writer Gregory Thompson.
Regarding if there’s more to be told about Mayfly’s story, Parker is confident and gung-ho. “Oh yeah. You can say that about any short film, but with his character (Chambers), there’s a long way to go with his issues. There’s also a little bit of hope at the end.”
An upcoming project of Parker’s fascinated me: a disillusioned Canadian voice actor finding inspiration and purpose in an eccentric co-star. Parker hinted at the possibilities of casting the charismatic Dan Abramovici (Ben’s at Home). Parker explains, “I want to take a comedic actor and reveal the tension and anger under his comedy. It’s my stab at Punch-Drunk Love. I’ve been trying to rip that movie off since Mayfly, but I keep taking detours through Hitchcock.”
Parker’s What Floor, while cut from the same unconventional cloth, is easier to grasp on the first swing. The film establishes paranoia in a big city while playing with dreamy qualities that make movie goers question what exactly is real. The film excels when it’s set within a condo that echos creepiness through its chrome corridors. What Floor gets under your skin, and it’s exciting.
Mayfly and What Floor screen at Toronto’s CineCycle on Thursday, May 23 at 7:30 pm. Tickets cost $20 online, and $25 at the door.
The screening is sponsored by Steam Whistle, Toronto Film Scene’s Andrew Parker will be moderating the Q&A, and never-before-seen 16mm footage shot by Parker Mott’s great-grandfather (a filmmaker and WW1 pilot) will be screened as well.
Click here for more details!