Julian Muller, the director of the short film 'Sickboy'
(Credit: Julian Muller)

Far Out Meets: Julian Muller, the director of the short film ‘Sickboy’

At Far Out Magazine we believe in cinema’s ability to heal.

At a time when millions of people continue to adapt their daily lives amid strict social distancing measures and cinemas around the world continue to keep their doors closed, we want to shine a light on filmmakers on a personal level. Turning our attention to the work created by independent artists, we have launched our new weekly series ‘The Far Out Film Club’. The project will focus on one filmmaker during each episode and will premiere on both of Far Out Magazine’s Facebook page and YouTube channel every Wednesday.

Offering a platform for filmmakers around the world, promoting their work to millions of cinephiles while also connecting them to other creatives, our sixth edition of the series welcomes director Julian Muller and his fantastic short film Sickboy.

New York City-based filmmaker Muller, who has been making shorts for years while working on other major productions in the city, released Sickboy in collaboration with the Manchester Film Festival earlier in March this year, a world premiere which coincided with the mass global lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. To me, it feels like our industry is in a holding pattern,” Muller told Far Out in reaction to the health crisis and its effects on the film world. “I think the most frustrating part of it all is a lack of good and reliable information for how to keep people safe while still trying to accomplish the goals of your production. There is no silver bullet right now, so I think for the foreseeable future directors will have to roll with the punches and be really flexible and creative in finding ways to tell their stories,” he added.

His latest film, which tells the story of Jeff who is “finding a way to get through it” while living in New York, tackles themes of love and his desire to find a connection of some sort. “The initial seed for this film came from a desire to tell a story about homelessness in New York City,” the director explained. “There’s a statistic that 50% of all New Yorkers are just one paycheck away from being homeless, and I wanted to create something that spoke to that vulnerability. We knew of a story about a guy who survived on the streets by meeting women and getting them to take him home at night. I was interested in building on that idea to show a more personal, intimate journey of what that life might look like, without imposing judgment.”

He adds: “Sickboy was a collaboration between myself, the writer Conor Champley, and Antonio Magro, the actor who played the main character Jeff. Conor wrote the first draft of the script, and we workshopped it with Antonio extensively to make sure it felt authentic to what he wanted to bring to the character of Jeff. We also knew how important the chemistry between Jeff and Sarah was going to be to the final product, so we really took our time with the casting and rehearsal process to make sure it was right. Conor and I sort of cobbled the project together on a shoestring budget but it has far surpassed my expectations due in large part to the passion and artistry that the entire cast and crew brought to the project from day one, and I think we ended up with an incredibly moving film.”

Here, as part of the Far Out Film Club, we are premiering a screening of Muller’s short film which is available through our Facebook and YouTube channels.

You can read a full interview with Julian Muller below and, at 20:12 GMT, watch the premiere of his film.

'Sickboy' tells the story of vulnerability in New York City and explores how someone may go about seeking refuge by…

Posted by Far Out Magazine on Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Julian Muller Interview:

Far Out: Given the current circumstances, and the struggles that the film industry is facing, how difficult is it to be an independent director right now?

Muller: “To me, it feels like our industry is in a holding pattern. I think the most frustrating part of it all is a lack of good and reliable information for how to keep people safe while still trying to accomplish the goals of your production. There is no silver bullet right now, so I think for the foreseeable future directors will have to roll with the punches and be really flexible and creative in finding ways to tell their stories.”

Similarly, on a personal level as both a film viewer and creator, how important is cinema as a form of release at the moment?

“For me, cinema is especially important in times of uncertainty and confusion, because it reflects the world we experience back to us, and allows space for us to process our emotions and learn about the human condition. It can be healing and eye-opening at the same time, which I think is very needed right now.”

We’re focusing on your project Sickboy could you explain where this idea came from?

“The initial seed for this film came from a desire to tell a story about homelessness in New York City. There’s a statistic that 50% of all New Yorkers are just one paycheck away from being homeless, and I wanted to create something that spoke to that vulnerability. We knew of a story about a guy who survived on the streets by meeting women and getting them to take him home at night. I was interested in building on that idea to show a more personal, intimate journey of what that life might look like, without imposing judgment.”

Detail, if you could, how the scenario of this project was formed, how did you develop your ideas and did the end product match your initial expectations?

Sickboy was a collaboration between myself, the writer Conor Champley, and Antonio Magro, the actor who played the main character Jeff. Conor wrote the first draft of the script, and we workshopped it with Antonio extensively to make sure it felt authentic to what he wanted to bring to the character of Jeff. We also knew how important the chemistry between Jeff and Sarah was going to be to the final product, so we really took our time with the casting and rehearsal process to make sure it was right. Conor and I sort of cobbled the project together on a shoestring budget but it has far surpassed my expectations due in large part to the passion and artistry that the entire cast and crew brought to the project from day one, and I think we ended up with an incredibly moving film.”

Did your creative vision change when you began to understand more about your process?

“For me, things always change and shift a little as the process moves forward and the film forms in your mind, but I think for this project the vision was always clear to me. I wanted to create something that was very real and gritty that gave the audience a window into a particular character’s life experience, and I think the film we created stays true to that vision.”

Did you encounter any unexpected difficulties in its creation?

“A big complication we encountered was that a few weeks before filming our DP had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. So we were sort of wondering if we should push the production so he could remain on the project or until we could find a suitable replacement, or just keep it moving forward and hope for the best since everything else was in place. Luckily, my extremely talented friend John Kopec swooped in to save the day and ultimately he was the perfect collaborator for this film because he brought such a positive energy and can-do attitude to the set that everyone rallied around, and the end result is beautiful and exactly what I had envisioned.”

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality in a film director?

“I think as a director you have to build trust with people, and there are a lot of qualities that people look for before they are willing to trust you enough to give you their time, their labor, or their creative energy. I think the most important qualities a director should have are infectious passion, clarity of vision, and originality.”

We’ve reached a point in cinema, much like that of the music industry, when the phrase “we’ve seen it all before” becomes a topical debate. How do you stay original? How do you find ways to produce something unique in a market that has so many creatives? Or is being unique even that important?

“I think it’s difficult to come up with ideas that are completely “new” or “original,” because we are all influenced on some level by the images, sounds, and stories we see in the world every day. My philosophy on this is that there’s only one of me, so how I would tell a story is different than how someone else would tell the same story. Everyone brings their own experiences, perspective, and history to bear which makes their voice unique and worthy.”

What/who are some of your major cinematic influences?

“For Sickboy I was definitely influenced by the Safdie Brothers’ films like Heaven Knows What, Good Time, and The Pleasure of Being Robbed (I think you can definitely hear a little Good Time in our soundtrack). I love the raw emotion and grittiness of their films and wanted to emulate that, especially in portraying darker subject matter and characters who are lost or struggling with addiction and depression. I was also influenced by filmmakers who embrace realism like John Cassavetes, Frederick Wiseman, Sean Baker, and Josh Mond.”

Given your inspiration, could you run us through your process? What distinctive themes are you looking to create, if any?

“My process involves watching a lot of films, and trying to pick apart how different filmmakers approach different styles and ideas. I find it immensely helpful to use strong references that help form my own vision. I think I strive to create a feeling of realism above all else. I want the characters and circumstances I put on the screen to feel believable, yet complicated, much like in real life. I like the idea of presenting people and situations that are not as they seem at first glance, but are motivated by complex and often conflicting values and emotions. I want to uncover the larger forces at play that shape our lives and actions on a micro level.”

How have you developed your own distinct aesthetic within your work? Is it a conscious decision?

“To be totally honest, I think I’m still developing my aesthetic and it changes from project to project. Sometimes it’s hard to separate what’s influence and what’s distinct, but over time my style has changed and grown with me and that’s what makes it mine.”

Generally, speaking, what attracts you to a certain subject or field?

“I think what draws me to a subject or a world is its humanity. I’m interested in telling stories about the human condition and the strength it takes to survive our messy world. I’m also interested in the complicated nature of people who do things against their own self-interest or are blind to how destructive they can be to others.”

Moving on to the subject of independent cinema, I’m keen to know your thoughts on its current standing. How important is independent film today, what does it mean to you?

“I think independent film is incredibly important because it’s usually how filmmakers like myself get their start. As long as people are in Hollywood making big-budget movies, there will be emerging voices out there making films outside of it, and that’s where the experimentation happens that push the trends and norms of the entire industry.”

Short films are often closely affiliated with independent film and filmmakers, do you think the landscape of this medium has changed over time?

“I’m not that educated about the business of short films, and I’m not really sure there is one. For that reason, I think the majority of short films will continue to be funded by filmmakers themselves and their angel investors.”

I look at streaming services and the impact companies such as Netflix are enjoying in the world of mainstream cinema, do you think this platform could provide an alternative route for independent filmmakers and shorts?

“I definitely think that streaming platforms have created new avenues for emerging and independent filmmakers to have their work viewed by larger audiences, but I’m not sure this will translate to short films. I think festivals and certain online resources are still the best ways to have your short seen by a larger audience, while providing networking opportunities that can jumpstart a young filmmaker’s career.”

Finally, do you have any ideas in terms of which sphere of cinema you may be exploring next?

“I am very focused on putting together my first feature, and I have some ideas and areas of exploration that I am currently pursuing. I am continuing to work with Conor on some of these projects and hopefully you will see more work from us very soon.”

Thanks, Julian!

View this post on Instagram

Excited to fi-na-lly announce the World Premiere of “Sickboy” – a short film I directed last year! It’s been a long journey, but I’m so grateful to the incredible cast and crew and humbled to have been selected to screen at @maniffofficial this weekend in 🇬🇧. . . . Starring: @antoniomagro @s_wisser @rachelhaleactor Director: 🙋‍♂️ Writer: @conorchampley DP: @johnkopec Casting: @richardjordancreative Line Producer: @andrewjpearl AD: @jon_dery AC: Leo Decristoforo @ahmdnaz Gaffer: @seangradwell Grip: @chaseshamliandp @_henrytrue_ Sound: @theofficialhotyoungman Boom: @piercayy Score: @jhoodxo PD: @nikitastakeeta Wardrobe: @gcherner HMU: @therapeutic.artistry Post Sound: @pomannsound Color: @color_nest VFX: @seanfergdontmakeplans Artwork: @looksdiscount PA: @bradleycreditdp @alexandradorschner @ev_well

A post shared by Julian Muller (@julianopia) on

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