Last week our Film of the Week was the oscar-nominated animated short Madame Tutli-Putli, by Montreal filmmakers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowsk, otherwise known as Clyde Henry Productions. 5 years in the making, Madame Tutli-Putli follows the eponymous main character as she travels alone on the night train, weighed down with all her earthly possessions and the ghosts of her past. It’s a pretty astonishing film, and one of the best shorts I’ve ever seen – live-action or animation. You can watch the film below.
This week we have an exclusive interview with the filmmakers, granted especially to kinolondon.com
Part 1 : Background and inspiration
KL: What are your backgrounds? Did you go to film school or you took a more DIY route into filmmaking?
CH: We did not go to film school, but it’s fair to say that we’ve been making art, at first individually, then much later as a duo, for as long as we can remember. At some point drawing and sculpting and making movies went from childhood play to school assignments, and then thankfully back to playful experimentation. We formed a partnership around the spirit of the artists we liked, and the art we wanted to see, and that somehow morphed into paying gigs and a company that’s able to file it’s tax returns on time.
KL: It’s great to see that the National Film Board [of Canada] is still producing really important animation work. That’s one of the things they were famous for in the 70s and 80s if I recall. Was the NFB’s output an inspiration to you as you were growing up?
CH: Not in any obvious way. The more abstract NFB work, Arthur Lipsett, Norman Mclaren, we discovered late, when we already making Tutli Putli. Though it was influential and has inspired our work since, it made no mark on our childhoods. The NFB was ubiquitous growing up in Canada, but the sight of an NFB logo before a movie was no guarantee of brilliance. Often it was more compelling to watch them backwards as your teacher rewound the film reel.
KL: The scope of the film is amazing. Did you realize what an enormous task it would be from the outset or did it just seem to grow before your eyes?!
CH: The scope and ambition was there from the start. We’d been working together for years and had been building a reservoir of theories and craft: Stop motion, film, sculpture; these were the subjects that occupied long days and boozy, argumentative nights. We were like the football team that nobody had ever heard of, South Korea maybe, who were chomping at the bit to show off our skills on a larger stage. That said, we never dreamed it would take five years. “When will the movie be done?” was the most common, dreaded question at any party or family occasion.
KL: I read that you researched the film by spending two weeks on the The Canadian transcontinental train. Did you take inspiration from the stories of fellow travelers?
CH: There were many hilarious, odd stories that we couldn’t put in the film on account of them having no connection to the plot: Death, ghosts, robberies. On second thought that is our plot. We would stay up late talking to the staff, while the other passengers were asleep. We would drink what we called the “Via Rail Martini”, which was gin, tonic, and olives smuggled from the 1st class kitchen, mixed in a plastic cup. On one of these nights a porter told us that the thing that spooked him most about working on the train was the empty dining car at three in the morning. It’s eerie. The tables are already set for breakfast and the cutlery clinks together with a sound like tiny bells. We stole this for Tutli Putli’s climax.
Part 2 (Making the film) to follow on Thursday.