Turn down the lights and pop some corn: James Murphy has made his directorial debut, Little Duck, available online. The 16-minute short film is part of Canon’s Project Imaginat10n project, a campaign spearheaded by director Ron Howard to create five short films based on ten photos chosen from a pool of 91 contest winners. Little Duck debuted last week at the Canon Project Imaginat10n Film Festival alongside efforts from Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, designer Georgina Chapman, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.
Starring Japanese actor Kaneko Nobuaki, Murphy described Little Duck as about “a young man pulled from his life in Manhattan back to his home in rural Japan when his estranged brother runs into trouble.” Despite Murphy’s musical background, the song features little in the way of a traditional soundtrack, instead utilizing snippets of unnamed tracks recorded with friends that are then interspersed in various scenes. “There was no sweeping soundtrack,” Murphy told CoS recently. “Ironically, I am not that crazy about soundtracks in movies.”
Rather, the film relies primarily on the interplay of characters, with awkward family drama and complex interpersonal relationships played out with Murphy’s trademark blend of unassuming joie de vivre and introverted awkwardness. Much like his plentiful back catalog, it’s an intriguing concoction of humor that’ not always so immediate (or even traditionally funny), emotional insights on the human condition, a healthy dose of cynicism, and even a little dash of heart.
Murphy also spoke with us about the film’s process and the creative opportunities it afforded him:
I had an opportunity to learn how to make a film. What could be better? I’ve never done it before, and I don’t have to come up with an idea, because the idea is supposed to come from the pictures, so I don’t have to have an existential crisis about “What should my movie be about?” I can literally just relax and see what happens from the pictures and do my best to interpret them. And learn from good people, learn how to build a team, get a good cinematographer, and all that kind of stuff.
I think, with film, it’s never an adventure on your own, unless you’re a lone guy with a camera. The beauty of it is is that people ask you questions. You have producers. I wrote a script by myself in the extra time I had while away from home, working. From then on, it was, “How do we get the script down to the right amount of minutes?” And then, “How do we want to do it?” I get asked questions. At first they were like, “Do you want to do it in LA?” and I was, “No, it’s in Japan. It has to be in Japan.” So, that was a bit of a battle. And, once we did it, everyone was really happy we did it in Japan, because it’s a big part of the character of it.
Watch it below.