The BAFTA-nominated director Ben Mallaby (Island Queen, Battlecock!, Milk!) brought his latest short film offering to the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in November. Working between the short, feature and commercial genres, Mallaby has an extensive array of experience. His film, Mosquito (2016), screened in the festival’s Official Selection comedy category, alongside a host of energetic humorous pieces. Starring and written by Michael Spicer and featuring Alice Lowe, the short centres around the unique concept of a mosquito bite transferring memories between people rather than disease. We speak to Mallaby about this intriguing and unsettling dark comedy, and his plans to expand its script into a full feature.
ASFF: Mosquito’s tagline states: There’s a mosquito that takes more than just your blood. Can you tell us a little bit more about the story behind the film?
BM: Mosquito was one of those 2am ideas in which the concept appeared fully formed. I contacted writer/actor Michael Spicer who I was keen to work with and he fleshed it out into the script we filmed. We wanted an offbeat slow paced film with minimal exposition. We were also keen to flesh it out into a feature and this is the first 10 minutes of the first draft of that script.
ASFF: The piece is both intriguing and unsettling. How do you envisage viewers engaging with the film’s characters?
BM: The film was a real change of pace for me and I really enjoyed working in this kind of world. It’s not something that can be watched passively, and I find that some people who watch it online don’t get the significance of the title for example. The best kind of audience is one in a cinema who are focused. Hopefully the relative lack of exposition draws people in, and as these characters say these absurd things hopefully it’s enjoyable in it’s confusion and as it comes together.
ASFF: How was the collaborative process working with writer Michael Spicer and actress Alice Lowe?
BM: Everyone on the film understood the tone straight away. We didn’t get any time to rehearse, and we just had to plough on through, but it was a lot of fun watching what everyone brought to the scenes. Richard Herring hadn’t done a great deal of acting at the time and enjoyed the experience enough to work with me on some other projects. Alice was busy preparing Prevenge when we shot with her, but she came in and nailed her scenes with very little time. Everyone else too, Rachel, Michael and a cut scene featuring Fran Fowler, were a lot of fun to shoot and everyone pitched their performances just right.
ASFF: As a BAFTA nominated short comedy and commercial director, why is the short film genre so important to you?
BM: Short films are a great way to experiment and work on projects which are personal and creatively fulfilling. But they are also good for building up your profile and meeting new talented people. A lot of my commercial clients came from meetings due to the shorts. You just have to somehow find a way to get them made knowing you won’t earn a penny from them.
ASFF: How does your creative process differ when making short comedies and working with big brands for commercial pieces?
BM: The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that often times brands want to see the finished product in your portfolio, so shorts are a good way of demonstrating your style or styles. Then, you can include those films in the treatments when pitching. So in that sense, I guess shorts are a way to produce the kind of work you wish you were being paid to produce.
Entries for ASFF 2017 are open until 31 May. For full submission guidelines, visit: www.asff.co.uk/submit
1. Still, Mosquito (2016) by Ben Mallaby.