Earlier this year we announced the winners for the 2018 Booooooom TV Awards. Brooklyn-based director Graham Mason’s “Phone Story” was one of our top picks for Best Short Film. Told entirely through monologue-style reenactments of 218 text messages and 4 phone calls, “Phone Story” followed a desperate man, attempting to recover from a drunken encounter with his ex.

Clever writing and pitch-perfect performances made this one of the most memorable and original shorts we’d seen in a long time. Mason has just released the first episode of a new video series, “Astronauts,” and we caught up with him to find out a little bit more about it.

Watch above and check out our full interview with Graham Mason below!

 

 

Starring Colin Burgess & Tynan DeLong
Directed by Graham Mason
Written by Colin Burgess, Tynan DeLong & Graham Mason
Director of Photography: Ian McAlpin
Original Music: Bennett Young
Production Sound: Ryan McGlade
Edit: Graham Mason
Production Assistant: Jeremy Falson

 

 

Jeff Hamada: Let’s start with the question I usually like to start with, what were you like as a kid?

Graham Mason: I was a pretty quiet and observant kid. I was always drawing comics and making little narrative videos with a VHS camera that my dad would bring home from his job. In middle school, I would start writing extremely ambitious novels and then move on after the first chapter. In high school I taught myself Photoshop and iMovie and took video production classes.

I also remember in high school I would see my best friends every weekend and we would hang out in this very kid-like way, where we would kind of perform movies for each other; it was like a weekly creative workshop.

JH: How are you different now?

GM: I’m more confident and I’m better at getting out of my own head. I’m less hard on myself. I am also considerably taller and have a lot less to work with in the hair department.

JH: In what ways are you the same?

GM: I’m still pretty low-key and my favorite thing is still hanging out with friends and making things.

JH: If we made a timeline of your life where each milestone was a film that made an impact on you, what films would be on there, and at what ages?

GM: The only way for me to do this is to cheat and do multiple movies and some key filmmakers and TV shows.

Childhood: Jurassic Park, Wayne’s World, Adventures of Pete and Pete (TV show), Time Bandits

Age 15: Rushmore

High School: Pulp Fiction, Being John Malkovich, Beastie Boys Criterion DVD, Fishing with John (TV show)

College: Loves of a Blonde, The Apartment, Dazed and Confused, Mulholland Drive, After Hours, BBC The Office, Jan Svankmajer (I wrote a thesis on Svankmaker)

Mid-Late 20’s: The Taste of Tea, Happy Go Lucky, The Last Detail, Inland Empire, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (TV show), Aki Kaurismaki

Early-Mid 30’s: Tampopo, Toni Erdmann

 

 

JH: How would you describe your filmmaking style?

GM: It’s very simple and straightforward, and I don’t shoot a lot of coverage (Phone Story is this taken to the extreme).

The tone of my videos is often a little tense or unsettling, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen. I recently realized that several of my projects have this growing sensation that the story is being driven by a crazy person — Monkey and Man, The Photos of Ana, Walking Your Dog in the Park, and Words with Ike all have that to varying degrees.

Phone Story is more grounded, but I think there’s also a kind of slow-burn strangeness to it that bumps up against the emotional stuff in a satisfying way.

JH: Tell me about this new web series, The Astronauts. What was the initial seed of the idea?

GM: I was a big fan of Colin and Tynan’s videos and wanted to come up with a collaboration we could do together.

We started out with a more ambitious sci-fi story that had more plot stuff going on, and eventually landed on this very stripped-down premise of two characters stuck floating in space, which I knew I could pull off with no-budget.

Paring it down to this super-simple setup turned the whole thing into a kind of absurdist play that felt cool, and it put the focus on the jokes and performances instead of the production values.

JH: Is any of it improvised or is the conversation pretty much exactly how it was written?

GM: We had a script that covered all the story beats and had some specific expositional dialog we needed to get, but the actors are both great improvisers and they re-did like 90% of the lines and made it so much funnier.

JH: Without giving too much away, what can you say about where the series goes?

GM: It’s a story about how these two characters pass 637 days stuck in space, and I think thematically it becomes about friendship and creativity, while also retaining its weird tone throughout. The series has a big ending that I won’t spoil.

JH: Are you constantly writing down things you overhear?

GM: I keep a notebook and make a lot of notes, but I’m not necessarily using it in that way. I try to listen to the world and sometimes a weird snippet I overhear will stick out, but most of my writing is more free-associative, like I’m mentally improvising a conversation with the characters and transcribing that.

 

 

JH: Who are some other emerging filmmakers that people should be on the lookout for?

Doron Max Hagay, Tynan Delong, Lorelei Ramirez, and Albert Birney’s Tux and Fanny Instagram.

JH: Do you feel like what you’re doing now is what you were born to do?

GM: I hope so. It’s basically the only thing I’ve done so far, so if I were to give up now I would be pretty useless.

JH: What’s one piece of advice that has stuck with you? And who gave it to you?

GM: My partner Nicole passed along this really helpful advice that I think about all the time: When you’re feeling stressed-out or frustrated, think of yourself as a pendulum that’s swinging back and forth. And try to think of a discouraging time period in your life as something that will build up momentum to take you back into a positive place. And as life goes on, you try to keep in mind that you’re never going to stop swinging.

 

 

Graham Mason’s Website

Graham Mason on Vimeo

Graham Mason on Instagram

 

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