ANOTHER SONGShort Film and Q&A by:
CHARLIE as the dog
AMANDA KRAMER as voice of the dog
Q&A With MATT D’ELIA
Conducted by: Jordan Alexander
Towing the tentative lines of close relationships can be difficult for all of us, especially during quarantine. However, navigating the companion-species dynamic can prove disastrous. This is where we find ourselves in the new short thriller, “Another Song,” from writer/director Matt D’Elia. Long time collaborator and pet, Charlie, takes on the meatier role as villain in this brief and tie-dyed genre exercise.
For those who listen to “Matt D’Elia Is Confused,” or follow his long-form comedy on instagram, this film will fall into a familiar comedy universe. The more menacing notes of this film, however, recall one of Matt’s previous works, “American Animal,” in which an iconoclastic protagonist tests the audience in a way similar to Charlie testing Matt in this most recent short.
(JA) How did you get into film?
(MD) I always knew I wanted to make movies. In my early teens I was already writing scripts and making little movies— terrible scripts and movies, but scripts and movies nonetheless. And always about very adult things, about which I knew nothing. Which I find interesting, because I am now an adult and I’m doing an interview about a short film I made starring me and a talking dog.
(JA) How was the experience of making “Another Song” different for you than films you’ve made in the past?
(MD) I was sort of ‘invited’ to make this one. Talkhouse asked me to be a part of their quarantine-inspired “Without Precedent Film Festival.” Which was very cool. But that alone made this a different experience right out of the gate. I had to come up with an idea that fit certain specific parameters, as opposed to what I usually do, which is just get excited about the best idea I have and do everything I can to get it all down as it comes to me.
(JA) I like that this short could only work with a dog as actor. No other animal (or person) could pull it off. And Charlie did a great job with his role. Do you think dogs are the animals most suited for cinema?
(MD) Dogs are BY FAR the most suited animals for cinema. Because I feel so strongly about this I’ve actually invented a kind of cinema called ‘Dog Cinema.’ All that happens in this kind of cinema is this: dogs are somewhere in each frame. But ONLY dogs. No humans. And that’s it. That’s ‘Dog Cinema.’ So technically, “Another Song” is not ‘Dog Cinema.’ But if anyone wants to see some ‘Dog Cinema’ classics, scroll back a little on my Instagram feed. They’re there. Charlie is in most of them. Perhaps they will inspire a whole new generation of ‘Dog Cinema’ innovators. I’m hopeful.
(JA) As ideas spring up and begin to resonate, it can be difficult deciding which idea fits into which structure. Feature film, short film, social media posts, etc. How do you know when an idea is the next short film, versus say a feature?
(MD) Oh this is an amazing question. I often see movies that make me think— “why is this a feature? This should be a short.” Or, “why is this a short? This needs to be a feature.” I do think features have a bit more leeway just because they have more time to work their strange magic— but every good short I’ve ever seen is more about an idea, or maybe a situation laced with a particular theme. Not a ‘story’ in the classic sense. The more you get into ‘storytelling’ with your short film, the more I am going to think— “why is this a short? This needs about 70 more minutes to work for me.” But then in reality I watch 0 more minutes because I’ve already stopped watching it. Shorts are harder, I honestly think that. A great short film is very rare— even more rare than a great feature. And those are very rare themselves.
(JA) In bigger cities, it can be easy to insulate yourself from people with opposing viewpoints, but on the “Matt D’Elia is Confused” podcast you do the opposite. What motivates you to keep an open dialogue with people who have contrary perspectives?
(MD) You’re very right. And there is nothing I like less than people who think things only because the people around them think those things. However, that doesn’t mean I prefer people who DON’T think things just because the people around them think those things. That’s just as stupid to me. There is a balance to it. The only way to keep yourself honest in this regard is to force yourself to encounter ideas you don’t usually encounter, and with an open mind. That’s more or less the guiding principle of the podcast. Also I just really love to disagree. It actually brings me joy to unpack other people’s beliefs and belief systems that I do not share.
(JA) When was the last time you had your view changed?
(MD) Just this week! I didn’t want to eat vegan croissants ever at any point in my life. I was adamantly against the idea of eating them. But a vegan croissant was put in front of me — and though I didn’t know it was a vegan croissant at the time, I ate it and loved it. So when the truth was revealed, I changed my mind. Now I love vegan croissants. But in general, I like changing my mind. Or, having my mind changed. I’ve actually always had trepidation about using that term’s usual phrasing… Did I really ‘change my mind’ about vegan croissants? Or were my feelings about vegan croissants changed by external forces? Probably the latter, right? But we still say “I changed my mind.” We are hopelessly self-obsessed. Anyway, now I love vegan croissants.
(JA) Your film, “American Animal,” feels incredibly relevant right now. The main character (Jimmy) is in this giant pre-grief stage and his bullshit detector is on 100 at all times. It’s amazing. In our current moment, at least in my own circle, everyone is grieving one form of loss or another, and each feels hyper-aware of the failures of late capitalism. How was the character of Jimmy initially received, and do you feel he's the hero we all deserve today?
(MD) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and you are the first person who has publicly asked me about it. So I’m very happy right now. I really want to stress that. But to answer your question— in the time since the film was released I think the questions it asks have only grown louder, at least to my ear. What are the consequences of the failures of late capitalism, what is the insidious appeal of this post-truth era we’ve found ourselves living in, as well as the more universal but finer grain stuff— like how exactly do we live in a world that no longer requires us to leave our homes? I actually see many of these themes playing out in the world more vividly today than I did then. So it does feel weirdly timely right now.
When the movie came out, almost everyone had one of three reactions to Jimmy: they either hated him, empathized with him, or felt like they knew someone just like him. The first two I expected but the latter surprised me. I don’t think I realized how many of these kinds of people actually existed in the real world. Because to me he was always more of a symbol than a person. An abstraction. Not a real human but a dramatic creation that embodied the rot and decay of late capitalism, specifically the American strain of it. As if that, whatever it should be called, had an id of its own. An animal side personified. Hence, the title.
(JA) Are there any films or albums inspiring you lately?
(MD) Yes! Aphex Twin’s most recent albums — “Cheetah” and “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments” in particular.
(JA) Which movie are you most embarrassed to admit you’ve never seen?
(MD) I don’t know if it’s embarrassing per se, but I’ve never seen a single STAR WARS film. Though I do take some pride in that. So as far as actually embarrassing- the other day I was looking at Tarkovsky’s filmography and wow I have only seen SOLARIS, ANDREI RUBLEV, and STALKER! Shame on me. Truly.
(JA) What’s next for you, or what was next for you before this all started?
(MD) I was set to shoot another feature this summer, starring my brother Chris and Suki Waterhouse and Heath Freeman. It’s this cursed project called “Powder Keg” that I’ve gotten set up many times just to see it fall apart again. It’s almost comical at this point. Right now, I have some writing assignments to keep me busy and sane, which is nice. But one thing is for sure— when this is all over, I’m making another movie. ASAP. Even if I have no money. Even if it’s just me and Charlie again. In fact, maybe I’ll adapt “Another Song” into a full length feature film and finally give Charlie the breakout role she has always deserved. She’s a really good actor, isn’t she?
Follow Matt:Instagram: @mattdelia
Matt’s Podcast: Matt D’Elia is Confused
Watch American Animal: American Animal
Matt D’Elia is an LA-based writer and director. His directorial debut, AMERICAN ANIMAL, which he also wrote and produced and starred in, premiered in competition at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival and was theatrically released in 2013. His follow up directorial effort, POWDER KEG, starring Chris D’Elia & Suki Waterhouse, was set for production this summer— but now, who the hell knows when he’ll be shooting it. In the meantime he continues to work as a writer for hire for various film and tv projects.