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[Interview] – Mauro Mueller – ‘Dear Chickens’ – A Short Film

 

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Posted November 9, 2018 by

 
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Interview – Mauro Mueller – ‘Dear Chickens’ – A Short Film

Writer-Director Mauro Mueller’s topical film shares the story of two unlikely people who are thrown together through no choice of their own.  The film has been selected for festivals around the world including the Zurich Film Festival, Shorts Mexico and Los Angeles International Film Festival.  Dear Chickens stars Kerris Dorsey (Ray Donovan), Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia), James Eckhouse (Beverly Hills 90210) and Linda Park (Bosch).

Two mismatched patients are forced to share a hospital room, a stubborn old man and a fretful teenaged girl. Can the two overcome their differences and find a common interest, as they both battle with serious illnesses?

Swiss-Mexican filmmaker Mauro Mueller received his Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University in New York. His short film Un mundo para Raúl won a Student Academy Award, enabling him to join the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. Mauro is the co-founder of Fidelio Films, in which his co-production of Candelaria won the Giornate degli Autori at Venice Film Festival.

Producer Björn Hering has produced many successful tv formats, winning a Rose d’or for his show Joya runs and in 2012, he won the Swiss TV prize for his show Homerun. With director Mauro Mueller, he founded the Swiss company Fidelio Films and produced various films. Producer David Figueroa García holds a master’s degree in film from Columbia University. His films include Ratitas and Perfida. His credits as a screenwriter for television include  head writer on Falco (Amazon/Telemundo) and story editor on Tijuana (Univision/Netflix). After working for Paramount Studios and Fox Searchlight, Producer Tim Birkhofer co-directed and independently produced his first documentary Capital C. In 2016, Tim was selected as one of only 10 participants of the Producers Guild of America ‘The Power of Diversity’ fellowship and in 2017 he produced the award-winning short film The Impossible Joy. Mark Raso (Kodachrome) and Mauricio Leiva Cock (Distrito Salvaje) are Executive Producers and Rocio Lopez (A World for Raúl) Co-Producer.

Mauro Mueller - ‘Dear Chickens’

Interview:

To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Dear Chickens’, what is it about?

The film is about two unlikely hospital patients, an old man and a young teenage girl who have to share a hospital room. Both are weary and tired of hospitals: the fake cheerfulness and the disgusting food but they become their own best medicine. It also shows that cancer treatment is a very personal decision and while it may be the right decision for one person, it may not be for someone else.

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

The original idea came from my producer Björn Hering who wanted to team up with the Swiss Cancer League and do a slate of projects with the theme of cancer, which we did. We shot seven short films from NYC, L.A. and Bogota, to Berlin, Madrid, Zurich and Mexico City.

Everyone involved has some personal connection and stories or family members that have been affected. Looking at the numbers, about one-third of all people in the US will develop cancer during their lifetimes. The numbers are similar in other countries.

For Dear Chickens, my co-writer and I were talking a lot about the theme of cancer and our experiences showed that the way to treat life-threatening illnesses is not “one size fits all” – for my co-writer’s mom, the doctors should have recognized that it was time for her to die and helped her to do that humanely rather than pushing further treatment; for another young family member with brain cancer it has been the right thing to go after every aggressive treatment and extend her life, which is still very full… I think that’s the heart of the film.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘Dear Chickens’?

We knew that we wanted to have powerful character actors with remarkable talent. Philip Baker Hall was our top choice as I love his work and he has been an icon in the L.A. theatre scene before he did film. He shows that he has lived a life, can be grumpy but also a wiseness that I was looking for. His filmography includes the Paul Thomas Anderson film Hard Eight, Boogie Nightand Magnoliabut also in Lars von Trier’s DogvilleBruce Almighty, The Insider, etc.

Kerris Dorsey I personally feel is one of the great actresses of her age group. She’s charming and has a powerful screen presence and a beautiful voice. I also wanted to have a song for the film and produced an original song for which she wrote the lyrics and sang. It is now the end credit song of the film. Kerris made a name for herself first in the television show Brother’s and Sister and then in Moneyballplaying Brad Pitt’s daughter and not last since Ray Donovan,in which she incorporates his daughter, Bridget Donovan, she’s a household name.

We rounded out the cast with Linda Park and James Eckhouse who both are extremely talented and familiar faces. Again, both of them have extensive theatre experience and actor training. Linda studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. James studied acting at The Juilliard School and is best known to TV audiences playing Jim Walsh on the original BEVERLY HILLS 90210.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

Life itself is my biggest influence. Getting confronted everyday with people’s personal stories or observing my environment, especially as I’m moving between various cultures constantly gives me ideas. Art is of course a great source of inspiration as well including literature and especially when preparing for a film, I’m always looking at photographs. A big influence is Manuel Álvarez Bravo but also Erwin Olaf, Gregory Crewdson and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. In film I have countless directors I admire from Koreeda (influenced himself by Ozu) and Farhadi who create incredible empathy with their natural approach peeking into family life to David Fincher, Marc Foster, Tom Ford, Todd Haynes, Alfonso Cuaron, Polanski, Scorsese, Soderbergh, Ron Howard, and so forth.

When and where can we expect to see ‘Dear Chickens’?

Dear Chickens had its premiere at L.A. Shortsfest where Philip Baker Hall won best actor among more than 300 films screened. It aslo has been shown at Mexico’s biggest short film festival: Shorts Mexico. In Switzerland, we’ve shown it at the prestigious Zurich Film Festival and it will continue its festival run. Next time we’re showing the film in November in L.A. at a special screening and then early next year in Toronto at Pendance Film Festival, a young but incredibly fast growing festival that shows quality independent short films with a story-first approach. The film also has been qualified by the The Academy to run for the Oscars (among only 140 films).

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I’m currently in the final stages of financing two feature films. One in Mexico and one in Switzerland. A Few Days in the Sun with producer Doro Bachrach (Dirty Dancing) and Leslie Holleran (Chocolat, Hanna) is about an unexpected cultural collision: While a European couple is kidnapped on vacation in Mexico, a working class Mexican couple is forced to serve as their jailers due to fatal circumstances. My other film “The Good Reputation” is produced by Ivan Madeo and looks at a calcified marriage within the context of an upper class family in the Swiss watch making valley that where everything seems perfect, but the façade of their marriage starts to crumble. I’m also developing a slate of other projects with my own company Fidelio Films, some of them as director, others as producers. There is definitely an exciting time ahead.

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