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My Interview with Tribeca Film Festival ‘Whoopi’s Shorts’ Filmmaker Joe D’Arcy


Whoopi Goldberg with Director Joe D’Arcy (l) and Artist animator Carol D’Arcy at Tribeca Film Festival

At the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, I had the pleasure to speak with Australian filmmaker Joe D’Arcy, whose 6-minute short film  Je Suis un Crayon (I am a Pencil) was included in the animated shorts program Whoopi’s Shorts curated by Whoopi Goldberg.  This program is described as ‘showcasing imaginative storytelling and captivating craft.’

D’Arcy and I began our interview, walking through lower Manhattan, the setting of the Tribeca Film Festival. It was as if we stepped onto a movie set; the rain had stopped, the gray skies lifted, and the sun shone on this dramatically windy day. After screening D’Arcy’s film several times, I had more questions and thus our interview concluded via email once he had returned home to Australia.

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About Joe D’Arcy

In 2004, D’Arcy studied screenplay writing with Simon Hunter, Head of Film School at Bond University. In 2006, Joe formed Bodhifilms, which later became joedarcyFILMS. Joe wrote, directed and produced the award-winning film, Beauty. Later that year, he was a finalist in the Project Greenlight TV series, where he wrote, produced and directed from his feature film the dramatic comedy, Follow the Tao.  Joe has successfully integrated dual careers of filmmaking and Clinically Accredited Psychotherapy. Along with his Clinical practice in psychotherapy, Joe has worked professionally as an actor, writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor.

Inspiration and the Writing ProcessPENCIL IMAGE

Kouguell: You mentioned that Je suis un Crayon (I am a Pencil) is “dedicated to the expression that exists within all of us.” The message you present in the film is poignant and powerful without ever being heavy-handed.  How did I am a Pencil evolve and how did you approach such a difficult subject matter?

D’Arcy: The original Charlie Hebdo crew dedicated their lives to free expression and after they were murdered, 3 million people marched through France, in support of this expression, standing alongside the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, stating ‘Je Suis Charlie’ i.e. we are (all) Charlie; just as Charlie expresses, so do we.  When watching this unfold, on the other side of the world, this passion and sentiment of the people resonated deeply within me, and the script emerged. In terms of the script, the Charlie Hebdo murders did not need to be spelt out to the audience when making the film.

The focus of the story is that of a regular person/artist/ cartoonist going through their life, on a day-to-day basis. The pencil represents the ordinary person and like every ordinary person, it must express in order to live. Without expression there is no life. Expression, especially for the artist or the satirist, is expressed ‘as it is-as I see it’ and so this became the common theme for the film. My desire was to create a hand-drawn ‘styled’ film in honour of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who dedicated their lives to the hand-drawn image.

Kouguell: This short film is a family affair. The drawings were penciled by your wife Carol D’Arcy, your 16-year old son, Byron, did CGI and color grading, and the original soundtrack and theme song was composed by your 20-year old daughter, Jazz.

Kouguell Interviews Tribeca Film Festival 'Whoopi's Shorts' Filmmaker Joe D’Arcy | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Joe and Jazz D’Arcy

D’Arcy: As my birthday approached, my family asked what I would like for my birthday and I said, “I would like you to work on this film with me.” Each of them are very talented, award- winning creatives: Carol is an accomplished oil painter, Jazz is a singer songwriter and composer and Byron is a filmmaker and cinematographer. They all agreed to work on the film although Byron initially asked, ‘Can’t we just buy you a shirt, Dad?’ 

Kouguell: What was it like to work together and collaborate in this way?

D’Arcy: As a husband and a dad, it was a joyful and fulfilling experience to work on the project together with my family. My family members will often support each other in their individual creative pursuits, i.e. everyone will support one person — but with this project, we were all able to participate on equal footing in our own respective areas. Our home was rich with creativity over the next three months and although we worked very hard, it was a joy to experience.

Director Joe D’Arcy and Gold Award Winner Director DP Byron D’Arcy

Kouguell: What came first, the images, the script, or the music? Did they happen simultaneously or did one feed off the other?

D’Arcy: The story came first. In essence, the story is about an ordinary person/pencil that goes through life doing this and that, like anyone else, expressing what is-as it sees it. That’s it! That’s what the pencil does! That is what it has always done and what it always will do. The fact that people may be offended is somewhat irrelevant. Because as a pencil/an artist — it is compelled to express what it experiences. This need to express is innate and as a human being/pencil/artist I must express what is innate.

As I wrote the story, the images appeared and were written into the ‘action’ of the original script. After rewriting the final scene (after Jazz’s feedback), tears began rolling down my cheeks and so I knew that the script was working (because I don’t have tears easily).

The Screenplay Writing Process(1) I am a Pencil-(Joe D'Arcy)

D’Arcy: The majority of the script turned up the first night that I watched 3 million people march through France. We were in the middle of another film project at the time and so I resisted writing the script for ‘Je suis un Crayon.‘ However, the script continued to push itself to the surface from deep within me. After a few days of resisting, I finally decided I would ‘just write the script, but not make the film.’