Interview with Filmmaker Derek Elliott Bagley (MEMENTO MORI)

MEMENTO MORI was the winner of BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN at the January 2021 LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I was extremely frustrated during a semester in film school, where I was told that my plot structures and characters were too complicated for the medium of short film. My professors continuously insisted that I simplify, and make my themes and subjects more universal. I thought, what is a more universal subject than death? Therefore, I began to craft the script to create a unusual telling of the archetypal deathbed scene, where the tropes were flipped on their heads.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

It took, strangely, a year to the day (which was unplanned). I took it as an auspicious sign.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Satirical Melodrama

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

It was the sound design. Our initial recordings were in rough shape due to filming on location in an apartment building. There was an unavoidable amount of sound interference due to neighbors going about their day in the adjoining apartments (by no fault of their own). Therefore, there was an incredible amount of interference in our final recording, and it took 7 months to clean up, and creatively mask. In the end, these imperfections forced us to create a unique and stylized sound track that we had not anticipated before going into the editing studio. I am so proud of the work we did here specifically.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I cried. It is so nice as a director to hear people not only give constructive and well informed feedback, but also get the point of what you were trying to accomplish. It felt so nice that my vision as a director translated to the screen and was interpreted as I intended. It means we did our jobs successfully as filmmakers.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I have seen and experienced a lot of death since I was a child, due to having a large amount of elderly relatives. Therefore, as a young person, I spent many times next to the “deathbed”. These experiences were never what is depicted in cinema – they were less sentimental, less focused on the death itself, and more focused on the people and their reaction to the dying person. I thought, I want to make a film that is stylized yet honest – to show that sometimes, you’re in the bathroom when the person dies, doing drugs in the other room, or simply arguing with a relative in the kitchen.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

“Fanny and Alexander”, Ingmar Bergman (1982)

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Fast and easy.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Next will be a very complex fantasy serial – think Dante’s “Inferno” but set in a bathhouse. It will comprise 5 short episodes.

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