Perfectly described by director Patrick Muhlberger as “a stylish comedy with heart and darkness and a few boner jokes”, Pop Music is an endearing revenge tale about an over-protective Uncle and his heartbroken niece. Determined to find his narrative voice after making a lot of commercials and kids content, Muhlberger expertly blends bitter-sweet comedy and a music-video aesthetic to create a surprisingly charming short that pulls on the heartstrings and tickles the funny bones.
“I’m obsessed with the awkwardness of youth, so that kind of naturally worked its way into it”
Inspired to create his story when stuck in traffic listening to popular music on the radio, the filmmaker explained to Short of the Week the unusual way in which his narrative developed. “I became obsessed with all of the songs playing and started to craft a story that could revolve around the absurdity of pop music”, says Muhlberger. “I was also watching a lot of music videos and felt inspired by some of the amazing visuals I was seeing…I wanted to tell a story from a character who sees the world as if it were a music video. I tried to make something so serious about its absurdity that it almost seemed like a drama. I’m obsessed with the awkwardness of youth, so that kind of naturally worked its way into it. Finally, I just really like blood and dancing, so I made sure to add those in”.
Written almost two years ago, Muhlberger’s short took some time to get going as the director had to raise the money to fund the filming himself. With the finances raised and Pop Music shot in May 2015 a lot of the production had to be completed between jobs with the team working in their “free” time. “I called in all the favors I had built up over the past few years and asked all my friends to call in favors too”, Muhlberger revels. “We shot on a RED Dragon with these beautiful primo lenses that Panavision Hollywood generously donated. A lot of people worked for free which was the only way I could have afforded to make this. It helped that the project was so absurd that each day had a fun little thing to look forward to. Whether it was a big dance number, destroying a kitchen in slow motion, or smashing the lead actor with a glass at 5 in the morning”.
“Luckily we found Bella…who was willing to work on weird films about freak dancing and samurai swords”
Propelled by another standout performance from short film regular Elisha Yaffe (Time Travel Lover and The Promise), alongside a charming turn from young actress Bella Shepard, Muhlberger admits he pictured Yaffe in the lead role when writing the film and was lucky to find a young actress to star alongside him who was “willing to work on weird films about freak dancing and samurai swords”.
Pop Music is a film with a strong directorial voice and universal appeal and one I’m genuinely excited to be sharing on Short of the Week. Muhlberger does an excellent job of balancing the sentimentality of his narrative with the black comedy strongly coursing through the film’s veins. Currently trying to figure out his next project, lets hope we see this obviously talented storytelling ditch his day job more often and throw some more cinematic boner jokes our way.