Exclusive Interview: Josh Funk (The Fuzzies)
What made you want to get involved in the film industry?
I never wanted to get involved in the film industry exactly, I just wanted to create art of any kind. This first started with music but as the years went by, I found more joy composing and recording than I did performing live. The first time I thought that I could become a filmmaker was after watching the music videos of Michele Gondry. He was creating magic through sets, props, camera tricks, and stop-motion animation but he also seemed so approachable and honest in his delivery. What sealed it for me was when he directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I had such an emotional connection to that film that I instantly wanted to make something of my own. I didn’t know where to start so I created stop-motion animations. I learned how to use a camera, edit, control lighting, and taught myself how to animate. I eventually moved into working with live actors and larger sets but kept coming back to stop-motion animation as an effect because of its unsettling qualities.
From script–to–screen, how close did THE FUZZIES come to its original vision?
The Fuzzies is very similar to the original script except in the third act. My original ending was kind of lacking and vague. It also used much less puppetry. I was editing through the entire process and the film seemed to be building up to something that never delivered. I would watch it over and over on my phone and then think, “where would people not expect this to go.” That’s how I made my decisions for Dustin Vaught’s character transformation in those final shots.
What was your favorite day on set and why?
My favorite day on set was when we were filming the toilet monster puppet and we decided to zoom in on Dustin and the puppet’s face as they saw each other. We were thinking of ways to make it funnier and funnier and Dustin volunteered to have a bucket of water splashed on his face as the puppet came out of the toilet. In my first take I was watching the monitor while I threw the water and it only hit half of his face, so I had to do another take. The second and final take made it in the film, and it was hard to hold back our laughter.
What scene did you enjoy directing the most?
I kind of enjoyed the more subtle and suspenseful moments. The bigger stuff is easier in a way but finding the right pacing as someone approaches a sound behind a door or as they discover something unusual in a sink is a bigger challenge. The smallest movements make the biggest difference in those shots. I also loved animating but most of that was me alone with puppets, props, and materials.
What is the biggest obstacle you faced while making THE FUZZIES?
The hardest part was animating Dustin and the towel puppet at the same time. I sewed wire in the towel so it would hold its form and Dustin had to hold completely still as I repositioned the towel and his arm frame by frame. I tried to limit these shots to 24-36 photos but after a while it becomes painful for an actor to hold their arm in the air. I felt an obligation to move as quickly as possible but also to make the best animation that I could.
What was your proudest moment during production?
My proudest moment during production was seeing how all of the pre production preparation made filming somewhat seamless. There were so many days spent storyboarding, creating animatics, and exploring the possibilities of the set that when it came to filming, things moved relatively smoothly, and we had extra time to experiment with performances and dynamics in a scene.
How do you get a film to stand out in the crowd in today’s landscape?
It is easy to get caught up in creating films or moments in a film that echo what is popular. I think this makes a lot of sense financially but artistically I like to make work that I would want to see regardless of its success. There were many times while making The Fuzzies that I thought, “this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever made, and I might be the only one who loves it.” I had to ignore that internal resistance and just go for it. After seeing our film with audiences at film festivals I am so glad I stuck to my instincts.
What other filmmakers inspire you to do what you do?
I’m inspired most by filmmakers who blend puppetry and stop-motion animation with live actors and can play with fun and scary moments within the same scene. Filmmakers such as Jim Henson, Sam Raimi, and Jan Svankmajer were my biggest influences on The Fuzzies.
What is your favorite horror decade and why?
The 1980’s is definitely my favorite horror decade because of the advances in practical effects and animatronics. Some standouts for me are An American Werewolf in London, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Child’s Play. All of those astonished and terrified me as a kid but also fueled my imagination. I still have nightmares about Chucky to this day! Sometimes he’s trying to kill me, sometimes we’re hanging out. I have no idea what that means but it left an impact.
What is the next step in your filmmaking career?
We just finished the feature film script based on The Fuzzies. It is a much more complex story than the short film but what we started here is a nice taste of what’s to come.