Filmmaker Interview: “The Surprise Demise of Francis Cooper’s Mother”

This Friday, Rooftop Films will screen a program of “Dark Toons“: short animated films that enter into realms of the unconscious often left untapped.  One of these is The Surprise Demise of Francis Cooper’s Mother, a morbidly witty film directed by Felix Massie. The film follows three people suddenly confronted by the unavoidable fact that death awaits us all.

Rooftop Films spoke to Felix about why being self-centered around death sometimes makes sense.

Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of the film for those who haven’t seen it.

Felix Massie: It’s about three people who all have a death, in some form or another, interfere with their lives and how they all think it’s a pretty big and life changing thing to happen to them by default – because death is a pretty big deal. So the rest of the film is about them following on from that death and hitting upon a contrived epiphany that is supposed to change their lives for the good.

RF: Your film deals with death from three different angles. Is it something you think about often?

FM: Not really.

RF: At one point or another, each of your main characters reacts to death in a fairly self-centered way. Do you think that’s a pretty common human response?

FM: This is a difficult question to answer! When someone dies it’s always supposed to be hardest on the people left behind but I wouldn’t say there’s an all encompassing answer to that for all the characters in the film. With Francis everyone knows everyone is going to die but it’s still upsetting – particularly if it’s a “surprise demise”. I think in that case you couldn’t help but think “wow, it really can happen to anyone” and reassess something in your life in case you die soon. I think it’s just a reminder; if I was reminded I might die tomorrow and I should live every day like it’s my last I would probably not be here at work answering questions but running around a meadow in the sun – but you can’t do that every day because you probably wont die tomorrow, so Francis wants to know exactly how long he’s got so he can do it on his last day (so to speak). I think Emily’s is slightly different in that she just doesn’t want the stigma of being the person who killed someone and bottles it up. To her it was like being burdened with a dark secret, through no fault of her own, by someone she has no emotional connection too and she reacts in a self-centered way because she thinks it’s unfair on her, rather than unfair that the man who died (because he doesn’t care about him – he’s just some man). Craig’s is a bit sillier but he realizes he’s useless and needs looking after more than he thought. I haven’t really answered the question there! I’m trying to say yes these people did react in self centered ways, and yes sometimes real people do, but there’s explanations why and it’s not always bad.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else are you up to?

FM: Nope, I also direct and animate on commercials at Arthur Cox and Aardman while trying to work on my personal projects in between.

RF: Tell us about your next project.

FM: I’m working on a webseries that I was hoping to put online at the beginning of the year. I’ve done two episodes but feel like I should have at least three done or it’s not really a series. Hoping to finish the third and so put up the first soon. Am also working on a couple of short film and series ideas too.

RF: We’re pleased that this is your second film now at Rooftop. What keeps you coming back?

FM: Because I’m hoping that one day I will have my film in and both enough money and time to go to New York and watch it there. Maybe third time lucky.

See The Surprise Demise of Francis Cooper’s Mother and other “Dark Toons” this Friday, May 28th on the roof of the New Design High School in the Lower East Side.

Tickets and more information here.