Former LCD Soundsystem Frontman Creates Short Movie for Canon Film Festival
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem
Disbanding alternative dance act LCD Soundsystem in 2011, right at the peak of its commercial success, was a difficult decision for frontman James Murphy. But it's one that has allowed him to embark on a number of projects he never had time for when the group was active.
His latest and most creatively rewarding endeavor is "Little Duck," a short film he wrote and directed for the Canon Project Imagint10n film festival, coordinated by Ron Howard. Murphy had to pick nine photos from a stack of about 91 submitted by from contest participants, and use those images, along with a pic Howard chose of a snail balanced on a leaf, to inspire a 12-minute-long movie. Actor, musician, and comedian Jamie Foxx; actress Eva Longoria; Twitter co-founder Biz Stone; and fashion designer/actress Georgina Chapman also created movies for the festival.
At first, Murphy was stumped by the task. "I went in with a blank mind and in the beginning I was really confused," he admitted to Yahoo Music on December 5, an hour before the New York screening of "Little Duck" at a theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "I was looking at stuff, going, 'I don't know. Nothing’s happening.'"
Over the days that followed, scenes randomly formed in Murphy's mind and a plot began to congeal. "In an obscure sort of way the pictures started giving me ideas for story, location, and place," he said. "I ended up coming up with an idea for a full two-hour film, and then I had to pare that down into a short. It's a segment of a movie, in a way."
"Little Duck" is a human-interest drama about a young man from New York who flies back to his hometown in Japan to visit his brother in jail. As important as the jail scene is, footage of the main character spending time with his brother's friend and recalling the relationship the three of them had over a decade ago is equally significant. "I'm really interested in the way people act around each other and the way people make each other insecure or confident," Murphy said. "I like to show how they behave when they’re being looked at, and who's looking at them, and how they act when they're not being looked at."
While the Project Imaginat10n photos factored into the setting and plot of "Little Duck," their relationship with the movie were more symbolic than literal. "There was a photo of a kid with a gas mask, and I had just been thinking about the  disaster at [the] Fukashima [Daiichi nuclear power plant]," Murphy said. "All of my friends are really anxious about the environment and my Japanese friends were especially freaked out. So that gas-mask image triggered that idea and made me think of Japan. And there's a picture of a snowy road. I had just been in Sapporo a few months before and seen something similar that was really beautiful. So that put the movie in Japan for me."
The idea of using brothers that had bumped heads over the years came from an even more tangential place. "There was a picture called 'Vigor Divided,' that shows two bucks on either side of a chain link fence and they're unable to reach each other," He said. "That's where I came up with the jail scene. Then there's a picture of a guy fishing. That became a subtext of the story – something the characters talk about, but you never actually see."