Interview with Filmmaker Jack Muldoon (SMUDGED)

SMUDGED was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the August 2021 SCI-FI/FANTASY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Of course one of my greatest motivations to make this film was my innate love for science fiction and to do something special like that for my thesis film. There’s also my family and friends who really helped with keeping me motivated on the project and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank them here. However, I would be lying if I said spite didn’t play just into my passion for Smudged just a little bit. I had this script writing professor in my junior year (I had them for a couple other classes in the past as well, and no I won’t be naming names). I wrote the original draft for Smudged in this class and they did not seem to enjoy it, like a lot of my other scripts I had written for them in the past, we just never really saw eye to eye. However, they really didn’t seem to like Smudged at all. They kept asking me, but how will you make the robots work? How will you pull off this? How does any of this make sense? In very derogatory ways and would not give me any time to answer (to be fair as if I even had the answers since this was something I wrote the night before), it was very embarrassing to happen in front of the class. I still really liked the script even after this “conversation” and knew that it had been one of the best scripts I’ve written. Anyways knowing that this professor is on the board for which scripts get chosen as the thesis I decided to keep pursuing it and have it hopefully get voted into production anyways, just to show them I could do it. I’m very grateful I did so, because I’m very proud of Smudged.

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

I would have to say 2 years. I started writing the script for a completely separate project/class at the beginning of my junior year, but it didn’t go anywhere despite being well received by my peers. After that I got really interested in it and decided to turn the script into my thesis film for my senior year. I would spend hours reworking parts of the script or doing character designs and worldbuilding. A large part of my process was also spent on thinking about how the robot would work and hashing out the design on that.

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

Dystopian Comedy.

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

I think the biggest obstacle that myself and my crew faced during production was the pandemic. We were severely limited on our crew size by our school policies. There were only about six crew members allowed on set at a time and only two actors allowed at a time. Luckily the actor thing was not that big of a deal for us as Smudged largely stars just one main cast member throughout the film. However, the smaller crew size on a set where you’re dealing with a lot of practical effects with the robot and other various things and the amount of set dressing that was required at some points in filming was definitely very difficult to work around. The pandemic also limited our ability to not only meet in person to discuss production, but also closed off a lot of potential shooting locations in general due to the increasing fear of the virus. A lot of issues we faced were very difficult, but thanks to my crew who were extremely dedicated to this project and were willing to put in that extra work to get it done.

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

I’m not going to lie, it was a little scary at first. This is the first film I’ve made that I’ve actually submitted to festivals, which means my films are normally just seen by my close friends and family and other students at school. So it’s kind of scary when someone without any previous knowledge of the film or the process that went into it sees the final product. However, it was actually really nice to hear what everyone thought of it. I noticed a lot of people used the word “fun” when describing what happened, which is great because when I first set out to make Smudged my main goal was to just make something entertaining. It was also nice to hear what people got out of this film, which in my opinion as a filmmaker is something that you have much less control over. Once you put something out into the world you can’t control what people think of it or what they learn from it and it was interesting to hear what people had to say about Smudged.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I’ve been making films ever since I was a little kid. I remember making lego stop motion videos when I was a little kid on Windows Movie Maker. I would also make these really horribly cheesy horror movies about a killer stuffed teddy bear with my friends on our block in my Maryland hometown.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

This is a really tough call for me to make. It’s probably a tie between three movies now, The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, or the 1998 Disney Channel original movie Brink!.

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

I feel like it’s a very good and cohesive platform to use as a filmmaker even if you don’t use it to submit to festivals. To have the trailer and film and all the extras together on a professional web page is a huge plus.

9. What is your favorite meal?

My mother’s Italian pork meatball recipe is absolutely divine! Almost once a year we’ll make them as a family while we watch Goodfellas.

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

So right now I’m focusing a lot on comedy writing and sketches and I’m looking to get back into some live performances as well. I just completed a summer semester in Chicago studying at The Second City. I’m also in the conceptualization phase of a couple of other science fiction projects, and maybe a short documentary I’ve been planning for a while. I always want to make it a goal of mine to really push myself creatively and keep pushing the boundary of what I can do. A Jack of All trades is a master of none, but better than a master of one.

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