We spoke to Richard Squires about his movie influences, Hana-Barbera villains and the UK tour of his debut feature film, Doozy.
Shooting pick-ups for 'Doozy' in LA
What’s your connection to the British Council? Any possible future collaborations in the pipeline?
I’ve always used the information on the Film website as a way to research festivals for past film projects. And British Council Film have been really great advising on festival strategy – both in terms of which festivals to consider and offering tips on what to do if you get into those festivals – for my debut feature Doozy.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on arrangements for the UK tour of my debut feature Doozy. It’s a creative documentary that uses an original animated character ‘Clovis’ to explore the voice casting of actor Paul Lynde as a series of 1960s Hanna-Barbera villains. Skinny, acerbic cartoon baddies like the Hooded Claw, Mildew Wolf and Claude Pertwee. Doozy looks at why, in 1960s Hollywood, an actor in Lynde’s position, who struggled with alcohol, celebrity and his sexuality might have been cast as the cartoon villain. He had this wonderful, snidey voice and sniggering laugh that really brought the characters to life for me, but also ‘placed them’ in a very specific way, so the film looks at voice and how it’s used as a signifier of ‘otherness’ too.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
I studied Fine Art and abandoning sculpture, started working with video the first year of my undergraduate course. In terms of who, I think originally it was filmmakers like Fassbinder, Pasolini, Anger, Akerman, Rosa von Praunheim; animators like Winsor McCay, Suzan Pitt, Ryan Larkin and artists working with film/video like Mike Kelley, Valie Export, David Wojnarowicz. I spent my undergraduate years at cinemas like the Scala and the Everyman, with their brilliant programmes.
What has been your career high so far?
Probably the world premiere of Doozy at BFI London Film Festival last October. The film looked and sounded great on screen and the Q&A afterwards with Helen de Witt and the crew was really good fun. And there was plenty of rosé consumed too.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I worked at a post-production facility house called West-One TV just after finishing at the Slade. I was a VT Op, making endless copies of Britney Spears promos and quietly cutting my own short films in the edit suites whilst on night shift.
If I knew then what I know now… (a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking)
Stick to your vision and don’t give up. And watch more films.
What is your favourite British film? Why?
I don’t know it’s my favourite but I love Peter Robinson’s 1972 documentary Asylum. It’s about the Archway community set up by ‘radical psychiatrist’ R.D. Laing, in which doctors and schizophrenics lived together. I love it because of the characters in the film, it shows them in all their anarchic craziness but it feels very humane.
If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? Why?
Runner on the Maysles documentary Grey Gardens – just to have experienced Little Edie in real-life.
What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
Probably the 1968 musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was terrified and obsessed with the Child Catcher – he figured in the first dream I remember having as a child, along with a pair of childrens knitted orange mittens secured on a long piece of string. Incidentally, the Child Catcher was played by an out gay man, the Australian dancer Robert Helpmann. Another instance of incredible casting.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film? Why?
Probably ‘Reference Please!’ which is repeated several times by David, one of the ‘patients’ in Peter Robinson’s Asylum. Because it cuts through the situation being filmed and the filming process and somehow speaks directly to me!
Favourite screen kiss? Why?
I don’t know. The two boys on the couch from Andy Warhol’s Kiss? Because it looks like fun.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain? Why?
I prefer the villains. For live action, maybe Dirk Bogarde as Barrett in Joseph Losey’s The Servant. He’s good at snidey ambiguity. I also like – probably for all the wrong reasons – Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from Diamonds are Forever (1971), they were burned into my psyche from a young age. For an animated villain, I think it would have to be The Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop voiced by Paul Lynde, because of his incredible voice work and Hanna-Barbera’s ‘limited animation’ technique in rendering the characters.
Who would play you in the film about your life? Why?
Lance Kerwin (as a child), Brady Corbet (as a young adult) and Malcolm McDowell (middle age). Because they’re some of my favourite actors and everyone looks better in the movies.