SYNOPSIS: Muriel is just a little koi fish in a big pond… little does she know she’s someone’s idea of fine dining.
GENRES: Dark comedy, silent film, animation, fantasy
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
Director: Lily Dot Paris
Supervisors: Sandra Eber, Catherine Slilaty
Technical supervision: Jean Théberge, Herl Lara
Sound Mix: Tim Horlor
Produced at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
I’m Lily Dot Paris, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker at Concordia’s film animation program in the Mel Hoppenheim School of cinema in Montreal, Quebec. “The Life and Times of Muriel the Fish” is my first film and I’m so pleased by people’s interest in it. Because this was for school, we had to adhere to a strict 13-week schedule and on top of that, it was to be animated at home, on my sloth-paced MacBook that was too old even to be repaired, and supervised remotely over zoom in quarantine.
For me, the film is just a fun project and an opportunity to explore a dark comedy narrative while subverting aesthetic conventions through an unexpected point of view. I wanted to work with something easy and simple, so I didn’t set out to give the film any kind of political message, though I’m sure some people interpret it that way. If that’s the case, I don’t mind because it means they really empathise with my protagonist. What really interested me, though, was alienating the audience from a familiar setting by changing the perspective. I love zooming in on ordinary things until they’re unrecognisable. (There’s a word for that, but I can’t remember. I think David Lynch talked about it.) With Muriel, you get kind of a “Charlie Brown” effect where all the humans blur together into shadowy giants. The only human in colour is the chef whose hands Muriel would’ve seen many times before she herself was chosen.
I am really proud of the design and the drawn camera move. The pan when the waiter sets down Muriel’s plate on the table, that took a lot out of me, but it was so worth it. It was a little idea I added last minute after the animatic was supposed to be finalised so they made me tweak the timing a lot to make up for it, but now I’m kind of obsessed with drawn camera moves.
In terms of design, you can probably tell I’m passionate about colour. In the proposal, there was going to be a lot more cold/warm, red v blue, symbolism which I sort of scrapped but colour remained an integral part of this film. From the earliest storyboards, I did the first few panels in full colour which I find myself doing often because it helps me piece everything together in my head but it’s baffling and sometimes frustrating for other people to comprehend. Colour is just something I can’t be without honestly.
All in all, there are a couple fatal mistakes I might’ve changed if I had the chance to do it over and I did develop a pretty bad cramp in my index knuckle during production, but I’m proud of ‘The Life and Times of Muriel the Fish’. I’m really excited to do it all over again with my upcoming projects! (-: