M&M’S® Short Film Festival: Anders The Dogman Trailer Has A Billionaire Seeking Human Connection

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

by Empire |
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Created by Empire for M&M’S Chocolate.

They do say that dogs are man’s best friend – but what if they were more than that? What if canines were the key to finding a human friend?

Introducing the M&M’S Short Film Festival, an exciting new way to find the filmmakers of tomorrow. Bringing together diverse voices from across the UK and shining a light on the next generation of talent, the M&M’S Short Film Festival is a competition which gives up and coming directors the chance to receive £25,000 in funding to bring their short film idea to life. The best part? You get to be involved too, and vote for who takes the top prize.

M&M'S Short Film Festival

The challenge for these budding movie-makers was to come up with a compelling cinematic concept that fits the theme of ‘belonging’. After receiving many incredible applications, a panel of judges selected three finalists, each of which have put together trailers for their short film as a teaser of what’s to come if they get to make them for real. To help you decide who to vote for, Empire sat down with each director to get to know them a little better, learn more about their short film idea, their influences – and, of course, their favourite type of M&M’S.

This time, we’re talking to Tom Oxenham, director of Anders The Dogman – a surreal comedy about a lonely billionaire who develops a super high-tech, wearable dog suit as part of his quest for more human connection. Find out more about Oxenham below – and click here to watch all three trailers, and place your vote!

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

EMPIRE: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

TOM OXENHAM: My full name is Tom Oxenham. Like the two meats, 'Oxen' and 'ham'. I'm 34, I live in Peckham in London, and I'm a British-Australian writer-director. I started out in acting, and trained at the National Youth Theatre and then the NFTS [National Film and Television School]. Then I ended up wanting to make my own work, and did some theatre first, and then shorts, and just realised that's what I want to do. I work in comedy mostly, genre-wise, but I'm trying to explore more, and am getting into horror. But I come from quite absurdist, weird, surreal comedies.

What made you want to be a filmmaker?

Growing up, I was doing lots of acting. I was definitely a drama kid at school. I think the first time I really thought about filmmaking was at age 11. We spent the summer making a two-film franchise called Digital AssassinsMission: Impossible 2 had just come out, and Paramount could have taken us to the cleaners for copyright infringement, because I don't think we changed anything. I think the main character was called Ethan Hunt. It was bad, it was really bad. I made the mistake of bringing it into school. I don't think it's ever seen the light of day since then.

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

Can you tell us about your previous short films?

This one that I've made for the M&M'S Short Film Festival will be number five. The first thing I ever made was a docu-comedy, in that it was a fictional character operating in a real environment – I guess Sacha Baron Cohen style, but pretty different from that. It was about a guy who was trying to win the World Stone-Skimming Championships in Scotland. That was called Skim For England.

My graduation film from NFTS was about the spider that bit Peter Parker. Our logic was, if Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and is given spider-powers, what happened to the spider? And we thought, well, he's probably just a man living in a flat in Walthamstow, trying to adjust to life as a human. Very weird, but good fun. And I've made a horror short called The Nicky Nack, which is a bit like A Ghost Story For Christmas. The story is this pub tale that comes from the North East of England about a guy that gets scared to death by his broken shoe.

Which filmmakers inspire you the most?

Ruben Östlund's films immediately come to mind. I'm obsessed with Julia Davis, everything she does is just incredible. Yorgos Lanthimos; I love Edgar Wright. From the comedy side, I'd say The Ali G Show and The Fast Show and all those sorts of things.

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

Which films are direct influences on your new short?

Interestingly, what became the biggest one was Mary Harron's American Psycho. The longer it went in terms of writing and developing it, I thought, this is sort of turning into Patrick Bateman! Ex Machina is hard to avoid, and I love that film. Dogtooth – that film has probably influenced a lot of my work, in terms of the borders of reality and the surreal, and just accepting that and playing it completely straight. And then, I'd say Westworld, the film and the series.

Where did the initial idea for Anders The Dogman come from?

It actually started off with this weird joke that we had on this holiday. We went to visit a friend of ours in Barcelona, and her job there was dog-sitting for this enigmatic character who lived in this amazing penthouse apartment, but who she'd never met. And whenever she'd gone to collect the dog, the dog was just waiting for her in this flat as if it was his. So then it became this running joke, the whole holiday, that this guy was inside of this dog, and it was all a plan to create a link between them, or something.

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

The theme of the competition is ‘belonging’. How would you say your short film encompasses that?

Really simply, it's about someone who, to us, is going to the most unbelievable lengths to seek human connection. But maybe for him, it's something that feels completely logical. It hasn't worked for him in other ways. I think what's true about those sorts of characters is you can imagine they're surrounded by people constantly, but that might not necessarily mean that they feel connection, or a sense that they belong somewhere. Anders' solution is to build a wearable, biomechanic proxy-canine technology.

It's interesting, because I feel like, especially in the last few years, we're just at peak behaviour of the erratic tech billionaires and their vanity projects. I think a lot of that is still driven by really simple human behaviour. Something I really loved about Succession is that these decisions with these massive geopolitical implications are being motivated by petty rivalry and jealousy and childhood trauma, and that feels really truthful. Whether you've got a space program, or you're buying a huge social media company, whatever that might be, I think it feels real that that could just be motivated by the simplest things.

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

It's been a fine line, because it'd be easy to fall into the kink aspect of it. But we've tried to really hone in on the idea of someone going to the most extraordinary lengths to find connection.

What would be your absolute dream project in the future?

The thing that I keep getting drawn back to, but as an emerging filmmaker, is probably a tricky sell, is a big bawdy period comedy. Something like Tony McNamara's stuff, or Barry Lyndon levels of scale. That would be amazing.

What’s the next step in your filmmaking journey after this competition?

Immediately, it's working towards my debut feature. There are a couple of projects that I'm really excited about. I've really loved getting the chance to make another short. At this stage, you're spending so much time working towards longform that it's so easy to go a long time without making anything. So it's just been a joy to have a chance to do that again and flex those muscles.

M&M'S Short Film Festival – Anders The Dogman

You win an Oscar one day. Who are you thanking in your speech?

I mean, it would have to be the whole Digital Assassins team, where it all began. And Tom Cruise and John Woo too, of course.

What's your favourite type of M&M’S?

For girth alone, I'd say peanuts.



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