Your new movie Mental
Aquarium: The Collected Short Films and Trailers of Andrew Buckner - in a few words, what is it about?
a 75-minute collection of genre-spanning short films. All of the short
films in the feature run between one and six minutes. They were also all
created between 2020 and 2021. Included in the feature are also some of
my trailers. Most are fake and unapologetically tongue-in-cheek. They
were all collected to make a feature-length anthology of my work.
What inspired you to collect all these shorts, and did you
make them (or at least some of them) with Mental
Aquarium already in mind, or was the anthology a spur of the
The inspiration for Mental
Aquarium came from a need to prove to myself that I could make
a feature film entirely by myself and entirely for free. None of the shorts were made with the movie in mind. I figured that with
all the dozens of short films I had already created that I had more than
enough material for a feature-length anthology. After this came to mind,
I knew I had my plan to make a feature, not only for free and by myself,
but in a quick timeframe. All I really needed to do was figure out the
order of the shorts, put them together, and add a closing credits bit
and the film would be complete.
Aquarium encompasses many genres, and goes from dead serious to
rather hilarious and back - so what do you think do the films have in
common to collect them in an anthology, and did you have any shorts left
that didn't fit the mold?
There are two things the shorts I collected in Mental
Aquarium have in common. The first is that they all represent
different aspects of my personality (especially considering my goofy
sense of humor as well as well as my more serious/introspective side).
The second is that the shorts in Mental
Aquarium all contain various elements of certain films that I
have always admired as both a cinephile and as a lover of stories in
general. For instance, many of the trailers are modeled after B-movie trailers.
In particular, the monster movies of the 1950’s. The voice I use in
the narration for some of the trailers at the beginning of Mental
Aquarium is modeled after trailers from drive-in style B-movies
from that era. It is also why I add phrasing such as “At a drive-in
near you” and “Summer, 1957” to the end credits of some of the
trailers found in the film. This also explains why I include more
dramatic and serious fare, such as The Man Who Fears the Rain
(2020), as well as more visually and narratively experimental shorts,
such as Sights/Sounds (2021) and A 6-Minute Vacation (2020),
into the mix.
As for the question about if there were any shorts that didn’t fit the
mold, I had a short retrospective documentary called
Big Screen Memories (2020), which is about how the
theater shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic affected me as a
cinephile that I considered using in Mental
Aquarium. Yet, at 14 minutes in length, it was too long when put
alongside the other short films in the feature. I thought that adding
Big Screen Memories might weigh down the pace of the feature. This
is because the other shorts in the feature all run less than half that
Probably connected to the last
question, do you feel Mental
Aquarium has an overall style or something?
Yes, I feel that Mental
Aquarium showcases my love for classic cinema by emulating it
in one way or another. This is especially true of films from the
1920’s and 1950’s. This can be seen in the use of black and white
that is present in many of the shorts in the collection. It can also be
seen in what I stated previously about the trailers found at the start
of the picture. It also showcases my love for experimental films from
the silent era as well as those from the 1930’s, 1960’s, and
1970’s. Again, Sights/Sounds and A 6-Minute Vacation are
great examples of my deep respect for these types of pictures.
pretty much fill all the roles on Mental
Aquarium both behind and in front of the camera - so is that for
purely practical reasons, or is there another idea behind it? And of all
the jobs you're doing on your shorts, which do you enjoy the most, which
do you think you excel, and which could you do without?
Yes, it was mainly for practical reasons. As I mentioned beforehand, I
wanted to make a feature completely for free and my challenge to myself
was to create each of the individual short films in the work for free
when I was making them. I also wanted to challenge myself and increase the range of my
experience and abilities by taking up every filmmaking task in all the
shorts included in the feature as well as in the feature itself.
As for which roles I enjoy the most, I was surprised by how much I
enjoyed every facet of filmmaking. I was also immensely satisfied by how
fulfilling it was to know that I can create a feature entirely by
myself. If I had to choose which I enjoy the most, it would be the writing,
recording, as well as seeing my cinematic vision come together with the
editing of the project. As for what I liked least, I would say the acting. Not because I don’t
enjoy being in front of the camera, but because it was rather difficult
to record yourself and give a natural performance at the same time.
you're also the only person in Mental
Aquarium appearing in front of the camera, do talk about yourself
as an actor for a bit!
As I mentioned earlier, the acting aspect regarding the shorts included
difficult when you were trying to also film yourself at the same time.
Yet, the acting I did in features like directors Lenny Schwartz and
Nathan Suher’s [Nathan Suher
interview - click here] wonderful Comic
Book Junkies (2020), where I had to simultaneously film myself
while acting out my own part for the picture, helped immensely in this
area. Before Comic Book
Junkies, I was an extra in several independent films such as Chris
Staron’s religious comedy Bringing
Up Bobby (2009), and Mark Netter’s brilliant
science-fiction feature Nightmare
Code (2014). These experiences also helped greatly when it came
time to craft the short films that are showcased in Mental
What can you tell us about the
shoots as such?
The shoots for the short films were generally in my home or in my
backyard. They were extremely quick, usually involving no more than
three takes for each scene, and the shooting for each respective short
film was usually done within a day. Sometimes it was within a mere
morning or afternoon. The fake trailer Mower Vengeance (2020),
which starts Mental
filmed in 45 minutes.
The $64-question of course, where can Mental
Aquarium be seen?
It currently is available on YouTube in a 65-minute version that was
recently shown as part of Without Your Head’s inaugural Bloody
Stumps Feature Film Festival in
early September. It is also available in its 75-minute “final cut”
on YouTube. The link to see the 75-minute version of the film in full
can be found here:
Anything you can tell us about
the audience and critical reception of Mental
I have been overwhelmed with the positive reaction from audiences,
especially the feedback I received from those who viewed Mental
Aquarium when it was showcased as part of the Bloody Stumps
Feature Film Festival, as well as the outstanding critical reception
that I have received for the feature so far. I also would like to take this time to thank you, Michael, for the
wonderful review you penned for Mental
Aquarium. Every positive word and bit of feedback helps give me the confidence to
continue to create even more.
Any future projects you'd like to
I have recently made three animated short films. I am toying with the
idea of either continuing to make more of them until I have enough to
make another feature-length anthology of these animated projects or make
an entire animated feature from a single story. I’m not sure which will come to fruition, but that is part of the
singular fun of the creative process.
What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I haven’t received any formal training on filmmaking, but I always
loved movies from as far back as I can remember. Because of this deep
love, I had always hoped technology would get to the point where it is
now. By that I mean, where you can film something for free on a device
as accessible as your phone.
What got me into filmmaking, aside from what I just mentioned, was a
desire to try new ways to creatively express myself. Before I even made
my first short film, I published well over a hundred books. Among these
are poetry volumes, short stories, short story collections, novels,
reviews, original song lyrics in album form, original scripts in book
format etc. I did pretty much everything I set out to do with my
writing, so I realized it was time to try a new inventive avenue.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Mental
As mentioned beforehand, I worked as a film extra. I also had small
roles in several independent films. I was listed as an associate
producer on the fantastic zombie film Wormwood’s
End (2014) from director William Victor Schotten. I also had penned a variety of short and feature-length screenplays in
many genres. Some are available right now in book form on Amazon. There
was a feature-length script called Whispers
in the Darkness (2012) that I co-authored with Russell Stiver.
It is a demonic possession tale that was a runner-up in the Great Lakes
International Film Festival Screenplay Competition. Though that one is
not available in book form at Amazon, I would love to see it made into
an actual film or even adapted into a novel.
I was listed in the “thank you” section of a variety of independent
films in the credits for backing them financially through websites like
Kickstarter. That also gave me more of variety in the experience
department. This is when it came to my involvement in different avenues
And, of course, there was the creation of my own short films. This
started with a short called A Serene Scene (2020). It was
basically me recording, in what I believed was a most artistic way, the
view from the hammock in my backyard. I had a four-minute acoustic
guitar riff called Quarantined on a Friday Night (2020) that I had
recently created, as I was also starting to branch out into making music
as well (another creative outlet I always wanted to tap into that I put
off until the technology got to a point where I can do it for free). I
put the song in the background of the short and the result was quietly
beautiful and soothing. In short, it perfectly mirrored the title. The positive response I received from that film helped me create dozens
more short films since that time, many of which were used in Mental
Filmmakers, writers, actors, whoever
else who inspire you?
Stephen King has always been a constant source of inspiration to me.
This was from the time I was starting to read and form my own words. Other writers I greatly admire
are John Grisham, Michael Chrichton,
Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan, William Shakespeare, Whitley
Strieber, Saul Williams (who I also look up to immensely as a musician
and he is also one of my favorite poets), Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin,
Ralph Waldo Emerson (who I also admire as a poet), Dean Koontz, Clive
Barker, Arthur C. Clarke, Marquis De Sade, and Pier Paolo Pasolini (who
is also one of my favorite filmmakers and poets).
Aside from Pasolini, some of the other filmmakers who inspire me are
Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Michelangelo Antonioni, Steven Spielberg,
Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, David Lynch, David
Cronenberg, Lloyd Kaufman, Fritz Lang, Bernardo Bertolucci, Richard
Griffin [Richard Griffin
interview - click here], Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here], Dario Argento, Mario Bava [Mario
Bava bio - click here], Lucio Fulci [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here], Andrei
Tarkovsky, Larry Cohen [Larry
Cohen bio - click here], Oliver Stone, Akira Kurosawa, Isao Takahata,
Hayao Miyazaki, George A. Romero, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese.
There are plenty more, but, for the sake of brevity, I will stop here.
Musically, I have always been a big fan of highly lyrical rappers. This
is because they inspire me as a writer, a poet, and as a general lover
of language and self-expression. Some of my favorites are Eminem, Tupac,
Common, Talib Kweli, Big Punisher, the Notorious B.I.G., Andre 3000,
R.A. the Rugged Man, LL Cool J, Redman, Necro, Xzibit, Tech N9ne, Chris
Orrick, and Nas. I’ve also always been inspired by highly lyrical rap
groups for precisely the same reason. Some of my favorites in this
department are Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, D-12,
Atmosphere, and Outkast. I am also a big fan of the brilliant
experimental music of Frank Zappa. Moreover, I also greatly admire
lyric-driven rock bands like Nirvana, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Aerosmith.
I’ve always been inspired by classic Hollywood actors like Cary Grant,
Humphrey Bogart, Laurence Olivier, and James Stewart. Some modern actors
I equally admire are Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson,
Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Ben
Kingsley, and Willem Dafoe
Your favourite movies?
I have so many favorite films that I decided to make a list of my 105
favorite feature films of all time on my web site
Here is a link to the list:
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I am generally not the biggest fan of superhero movies, but there are
some films in this genre, like the recent Shang-Chi
and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) and the original Toxic
Avenger (1984), which I think are fantastic. I also enjoyed M.
Night Shyamalan’s psychological spin on the genre with the terrific
features Unbreakable (2000)
and Glass (2019).
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
have an official site yet, but I am planning on making one in the
future. For now, you can contact me on social media at @moviesforlife09 on
Twitter. You can also follow me on my movie/book/music review,
interview, list, and general writing site AWordofDreams.com, and on
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Not that I can think of right now. We have covered a lot of ground.
for the interview!