Officially Selected Alumni Interviews

Hannah McKibbin and Caspar Leopard: Lift-Off Filmmaker Interview

After it’s London Lift-Off screening, Lift-Off’s Laura Jaramillo Duque interviewed the director and composer of The Happy Genius, Hannah McKibbin and Caspar Leopard, to learn more about this film that went down so well with the audience.

Well first of all, how did the idea originally come to you Hannah?

H: The film is based on a poem called Dance Russe, which is a poem by an American modernist writer called William Carlos Williams. I first read the poem about seven years ago and I just loved it and found it very very affecting in its sort of representation of what it means to be alone, and the faces that we wear to the world to hide that. I just always loved this poem and then, years later, when I was thinking about making a short film, and wanted to make something very small and simple it came to mind, so that’s how it evolved.

How did you go about casting (Martin Bishop is absolutely fantastic as Henry!)

H – I was lucky enough to have the help of wonderful casting agent, Gillian Hawser, for the search and we cast the net far and wide for this role. As it was my directorial debut, many actors were put off my the naked aspect of the film – but I was lucky enough to find Martin Bishop who through himself into the role with such gusto. We had such a good time filming his naked dancing scene and I feel extremely happy to have found him for the role.

Did you started working together from the very beginning?

C: No, I actually came on after the film was shot, and composed the score after the film was finished, rather than along side it.

And what was your director/ composer process of working together?

C: Well we are actually a couple! I’m a musician and we also collaborate making films together as well, but this was our first collaboration.

H: Yes, this was our first time working together actually and it was very fun. We’ve been working on quite lot of other things, so we just made a music video and recently we are making another surreal fairytale drama at the moment, so it was kind of the beginning.

C: That will be more a co-direct work, because Happy Genius was entirely written and directed by Hannah, and I just did the score, but is was the first collaboration and we found out that actually we can work together and go out, (and not argue!) which was quite nice.

H: It was dynamic.

Where did you get the inspiration for creating the score Caspar?

C: I worked with Hannah a lot with this, she was quite particular about the direction, and she wanted something that really embodied the protagonist (Henry). He is an older man and he is a traditionalist at heart, so we felt that a score that was traditional, hence the waltz at the end, that kind of classical structure, something to carry it forward; but also I guess the inspiration was something slightly playful, a bit like the teddy bears on a picnic, with a hint of silliness. That was quite important for Hannah.

H: I guess it was quite to trying get balance in the film, we wanted people to laugh and kind of feel happy for him having this moment of freedom. There is a point in the film (which I think works very well with the waltz) that can be quite silly, and then the solo piano moment that can have a bit of immersive loneliness, so it’s trying to get the balance between the two for the main piece.

C: It was a lot of fun to work on this. It’s the first fully classical score that I have done, my taste is usually something a little bit more atmospheric or modernist, so it was quite fun actually to get back to the old school.

Last question, can you tell us are your future projects? What do you want to do next?

H: The film we’re working on at the moment, it’s been quite a long process and we’ve done a number of shots for it, is called The Blood Bride, and it’s a surreal fairytale drama. We just finished it and when I just went to the post-production. The film is very music lead actually, so it’s a very very visual piece and now Caspar is about to delve into deep composition process of it.

C: There is a teaser online actually (, so that you can get a little taste of the visual aesthetics.

H: That is all for the moment, we will see what happens next!

That’s amazing, thank you very much for your time.


The Happy Genius is nominated for Best Score at Lift-Off’s Season Awards, and will be screening with us again in Berlin, in February. 

Click here to view current nominations and images from previous Lift-Off Season Awards.