Sunday Shorts #3: Morgue

Morgue is a short film directed by Jake Shannon that follows a middle-aged businessman, Steve (Mario Piccoli), who affter waking up dead in a morgue, is confronted with a somewhat cheeky old man (Phillip MacKenzie). The two discuss life, death and everything between.

Staring Mario Piccoli, Phillip MacKenzie
Written and directed by Jake Shannon
Produced by Lewis Rodan
Cinematographer Naveed Farro
Production Designer Katelyn Collins
Sound Designer Robbie Stevenson
Editor El Hussein Taha

Jake Shannon (Director):
Morgue has played a very important part in my life. Before getting the project green-lit I had been writing the script for three years on-and-off. Through that time there had been tremendous transformations, yet I still feel the essence from the initial idea is ever present. I was inspired by the Jean-Paul Sartre play ‘No Exit’ where three characters are stuck together in hell. What I wanted to create is something that touches on the themes in existentialism while being light-hearted and entertaining.

This story is something that is very personal and comes from the search for absolutes deep inside myself. Until we individually experience death, there is absolutely no knowing what happens in the afterlife. This ambiguity is something I ponder; it’s something that I feel needs to be acknowledged. The ambiguity of death also liberated me to explore a different version of death that is original.

cinematographer - naveed farro & 1st AC - Jordan Eden

Cinematographer Naveed Farro & 1st AC Jordan Eden

Lewis Rodan (Producer):
I remember when Jake approached me about working on the film. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of these two people trapped in limbo with no form of activity but their thoughts and each other. What also struck me is that they still somewhat remain in the life-world. Though their actions have no effect in reality, the characters’ minds are still bound by their in-active bodies. As the two lay dormant in the operating room of a morgue, this situation allows for some great irony and wit to seep through and support the narrative.

Jake and I both agreed from the get go that we could not compromise the location for the morgue. As the key locale for our film, it had to possess an authenticity for realism purposes, and at the same time bear a strong visual imprint to aid in the films surreal qualities.

Being a heavily performance based narrative, the casting process was both a fun and difficult time. With the help of our casting agent Amy Murray, we had a number of great auditions for the roles. There were numerous people who could have played the characters well, but the crux of it was who would have the right chemistry alongside each other, supporting that classic odd couple kind of kinship. We ended up with Mario Piccoli as Steve and Phillip MacKenzie as the unnamed Old Man. They were fantastic to work with and showed a great willingness to the project. Funnily enough, we actually had stumbled upon Phillip’s face before auditions began – In the process of scouting locations we saw him featured in an advertisement on a webpage for a certain cremators located in Perth; can’t get much more of a direct sign than that.

Entering Morgue

Jake Shannon (Director):
Writing and directing I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted from the project, and due to having brilliant crew I really think we accomplished my vision. The whole shoot went incredibly smoothly and I was ecstatic to see the words I had taken three years to write come to life before my eyes. At the wrap call on the last day of set, I felt as if we had all created a stronger bond together.

The performances from my leads were impeccable. The script called for an older cast so I was initially intimidated to give direction to actors more experienced than I am. Mario and Phil were both incredible to work with and I could only hope that they had leant half of what I had leant off them. The film is very performance dependent, I knew this going into the casting room and came out satisfied that I had a very capable cast. Mario’s on set demeanor is enigmatic while Phil completely understood what I was looking for and nailed every delivery with humor and emotional depth.

Naveed Farro (Cinematographer):
The initial visual ideas I had in mind for Morgue were influenced by the cinematography from Enter The Void (Directed by Gaspar Noe) and the point-of-view shots from Breaking Bad. Jake (director) agreed with this style beforehand, however we ended up covering the scenes mainly through a birds-eye perspective with slight dynamic movements and tilted angles to convey a sense of tension and unnaturalness about the characters situation, that being death.

The colour pallet for the living and non-living scenes were contrasted through the use of green’s to display life and were juxtaposed with the grim blues captured throughout the morgue scene. Overall capturing Morgue was an interesting experience, it was as if we created an original limbo.

Director - Jake Shannon & Actor - Phillip MacKenzie

Director Jake Shannon & Actor Phillip MacKenzie

Lewis Rodan (Producer):
Having been made at Murdoch University under the Advanced Screen program, Morgue was the final piece of assessment most of the key crew would be faced with in their degrees. Fortunately, we had a group of devoted members in our group who went beyond the call of duty for assessment and treated the project as professionals who have a strong passion for cinema and its design.

Jake Shannon (Director):
The thing about filmmaking is that I feel as if the product has to be a part of yourself that you are presenting yourself to the world. You just have to hope that people will understand that part of you and like your film. I owe everyone who has dedicated themselves to this project so much, and I think everyone should be bursting with pride with what we’ve all created together.

actor Mario Piccoli - Steve heart attack

The film’s status currently resides at a lockdown for picture with a completed sound-mix; the final element that remains is music. Morgue is now in the hands of a musician who is working on a score and upon its completion our festival circuit shall begin.



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