Lucy Mulloy behind the camera on the set of "Una Noche."
Lucy Mulloy originally intended to shoot Una Noche, as a short film for her thesis project at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate film program. But it became her debut feature film and landed in festival screenings in over 50 countries this past year. Una Noche received three awards at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival among other accolades. Sundance Selects/ IFC acquired Una Noche and will release it this summer.
Shot in Cuba with first-time actors sourced from the Malecon of Havana and a small and dedicated crew, Una Noche puts Lucy Mulloy on our 10 to Watch list this year. It tells the story of three young Cubans – their life and struggles in Havana and their escape to Miami. Mulloy wrote, directed, produced, and shot Una Noche, which took more than five years to make.
The Independent’s Alisa Katz interviewed Lucy Mulloy about her work.
Alisa Katz: You come from a family of award winning filmmakers. [British animator, Phil Mulloy is her father. Her mother is filmmaker and animator Vera Neubauer. Her brother, Daniel Mulloy, is a BAFTA winning director.] Why did you transition from studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford to filmmaking?
Lucy Mulloy: I always knew that I wanted to go into film, but I was really interested in [politics] because it was like looking at the psychology of society, justifying things I could never rationalize before. It was a revelation to me… and it took me on a different journey. After undergrad [at Oxford University], I went to Cuba and was inspired. The place is very alive and different from anything I’d seen before. I wanted to talk about what I was seeing and the stories that I was hearing, especially the idea of people being left behind in one of the last communist societies.
AK: You seemed to wear many hats on your project. How did you juggle it all?
Mulloy: I try to be as disciplined with myself as possible. I think it’s also important to allow yourself space to be inspired and to observe… and to evaluate what you want to convey with your work. I was very, very focused and very serious about the film and making sure that I got everything that I needed to get and all that WE needed to get to make the film work.
AK: You just stressed WE there. Tell me about how you collaborate.
Mulloy: I had really great and supportive people around me so it’s really a credit to them that the film is made because no one makes a movie on their own. It was really a hard shoot in a lot of ways and a challenge for the crew. I think people believed in the story and in what the film was conveying on a bigger level so that’s what pushed it through.
AK: You operated the camera during much of the filming. Tell me about your process on set.
Mulloy: I didn’t storyboard extensively. I knew the locations, the action, and the actors because we spent over a year rehearsing. It was kind of improvised in that way… because there were so many changing variables. Being open to [changes] was really helpful, and that’s why it was so great to have had so much time with the actors because I knew I could rely on them to deliver.
AK: Have you ever thought about making a documentary?
Mulloy: I did a short documentary when I was at film school and that experience was incredible. My way of working with actors is to try to get them to be as natural as possible and make the relationships as real as possible. Watching and observing and filming was such a great way to get ready to make a narrative film; to be observing real life you can then incorporate into your fictional world.
AK: Tell me about your mentors.
Mulloy: To see [my parents] doing their independent projects the way that they want to make them and sacrificing a lot to do that was very inspiring.
Plans for Mulloy’s next project, a sequel to Una Noche, were thwarted when, in a strange instance of life imitating art, her two main actors sought asylum in Miami on their way to the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in NYC.
Mulloy’s new, next feature is in development and is set in New York and Rio de Janeiro.