The idea for the Fun Guy came to me one summer evening in 2004. Magic mushrooms were freely available for sale from a stall on Portobello Road and my friend Tim and I had the most incredible trip. Major insights, Elvis as a shaman, total inability to do anything, and we laughed like chimps on nitrous oxide.
It was a very good night. And two major things occurred to me: that I had to find a way to document this experience on screen and that sooner or later the powers that be would find a way to stamp this out. Because it was simply too much fun.
I've done several Straight 8 films before - straight8.net - and knew that The Fun Guy would be my entry for the Cannes competition that coming May. I knew I wanted to combine animation and live action, a mushroom costume and outlandish make-up, and still tell it all in 3 minutes 20 seconds while editing in camera.
I love a challenge.
I let the ideas just kick around my head, then started storyboarding around Christmas 2004. I wanted to set it by the sea, and so began scouring the net for holiday cottages, eventually finding one in Somerset. Alex, the lead, and I went up for a preliminary week, recceed the locations and shot some digital footage which I then manipulated in After Effects - one of these scenes ended up being cut due to the constraints of time. The other ended up being Alex chased by the disembodied head.
Dave Cox, formerly 0898 Dave and now in AutoKratz, came on board to play the mushroom and record the soundtrack. I asked Dave to do the music because his style fit the madness perfectly, and he also understood the Tex Avery quality that I was after. His (then) wife Chika came on board, contributing some additional animation: the PacMan sequence, and the rhapsodic clocks, flowers, and guitars that rise from the beach are her work, and the film is all the richer for it.
Pre-production was an ongoing process, and a lot of co-ordination was required to make sure that the costume was ready (awesome job from Moira Chapman), and that we had all the props and animation ready to go. I didn't want to film the animation off a screen, as it leads to wavy lines (as can be seen when Alex watches himself on the TV), and so I went through the laborious process of printing out each individual frame, which I would then mount, light, and shoot a single frame of each in turn. Painstaking, but worth it. I've still got all the frames printed out - send me an email with your address and I'll send you a frame from the film. Go on, you know you want to.
The shoot began on the Friday with the scene at the mushroom stall, then Alex, Dave and I crammed everything into a woefully tiny hire car, and set off for Somerset. The shoot continued on the Saturday night with the mushroom eating scene, with the rest of the evening admittedly taking a very odd turn. Dave didn't manage to get out of bed for all of Sunday.
Shooting in sequence meant that there was a strict timetable to adhere to, and we were lucky in that we managed to keep to it. Hannah George, the make-up artist, came up by train mid week, and the caveman sequence took a mammoth 16 hours to shoot what ended up being just over three seconds of film. But it looks great. While we were shooting that the most incredible rainbow appeared over the harbour, which we took to ve a very good omen.
I had already shot some of the image sequence as a test on another reel of Super 8, and that was projected onto Alex's face prior to the image sequence which closes the film. We dropped in to Stonehenge on the way back to London to shoot the closing seconds with Alex in the mushroom suit - it was a complete tourist trap though, and so we shot it on a little hill nearby.
The film wrapped, Dave took away the timings and tweaked the soundtrack, and then we handed the film in to Ed and Ben, and waited.
I screamed like a little girl when I found out that 'The Fun Guy' was going to get a premiere in Cannes, especially as it was one of only six films winning a place from over a hundred entries. There's nothing like the buzz of having a film premiere at Cannes - I've been fortunate to be a Cannes winner twice now - see The Operation.
And I was right about the powers that be. The film was screened in the Kodak Pavilion on Wednesday May 18th this year. Reading the paper on the flight out that morning, there was an article announcing that the laws were to be changed regarding the sale of fresh magic mushrooms, and that the loophole that enabled their sale was to be closed.
I'm pleased that 'The Fun Guy' acts as a record of a time when it was possible to buy mushrooms openly on the market. I had an incredible experience with them.
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