‘Madam Black’

Writer Matthew Harris

This is a quirky though touching comedic short about a bottom-scraping photographer who kills a cat and develops a curious relationship with the pet’s adolescent owner.


What inspired you to tell this story?

The type of comedy I enjoy most is usually based on awkwardness: it makes me feel uncomfortable, and then works toward resolving that discomfort. That’s this story in a nutshell. It’s like the psychologist Steven Pinker says: our sense of social discomfort comes down to challenges in relationship types: some things are appropriate in some kinds of relationships and not in others. Like, you might eat a prawn off your spouse’s plate at a dinner party, but you wouldn’t grab one off your boss’s plate. When characters are forced to behave in certain uncomfortable ways, we can’t help but empathize with them as they attempt to dig their way out.

Are you a “cat person”?

Yes. I have a black cat I call Ninja. She’s been a bit cold lately. I think she’s annoyed at me because I won’t cook the stuff she brings in from the hunt. Thing is, I just don’t buy that she’d actually eat a stew made from thrushes, crickets, and rats anyway. She’s all talk.

Have you had to work any degrading jobs like the protagonist ?

Way worse, like when I was a student and I did boom op work on an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.

What’s the next step for a film like this beyond festivals?

One of the coolest things for me is when it’s finally released on Vimeo and reading all of the comments coming in. Last week, I was having a flat day until someone who stumbled across our previous film, Snooze Time, emailed me out of the blue to say their favorite short ever and thanks for bringing it into the world. That sort of thing goes a long way to making it worthwhile.

What’s your next project?

I think only Ivan knows that. I’d like us to make an HBO series about a couple of guys from New Zealand trying to make it in the film industry. Flight of the Boeing 737s.

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