Stand-up comedian and actor Gabriel Bisset-Smith is the mind behind this week’s short. Toilets is a short romantic comedy about the absurd never ending task of trying to find love. Writing, directing and acting in a film, no matter if it is a short or feature length piece, is no easy feat but Gabriel pulls it off effortlessly with his light-heared and warm tone. It is easy to see why his stand-up comedy shows at the fringe are such a success and why we will be hearing more from the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ which is the name his mother keeps calling him. Today Hunger chats with Gabriel to talk about the difficulties of working both in front and behind the camera and what he believes makes for a good collaboration.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR TOILETS COME FROM? WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
A real on off relationship I’ve had with a woman who shall remain nameless. But also all relationships I’ve had in my life be they sexual or not (a lot of them not). We all have these people we bump into throughout our lives who have some kind of meaningful connection to us even if it’s just for a moment. Jesus I sound like a dodgy life insurance ad.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT WRITING? HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?
This was pretty easy to be honest as it’s quite personal. Took me about a week. I bet some people reading are thinking “it shows”.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF STARRING IN A SHORT THAT YOU ALSO DIRECTED?
Oh man it was murder. We shot in reverse over the four hottest days of the year in cramped toilets. Not only was I getting more and more knackered over the days, but I was being made to look younger and younger. It was like this weird torture therapy where I had to confront my past self (who looked pretty old by the end). Luckily my crew and co-stars we’re rock solid. Directing is only as difficult as your crew and mine were smooth as silk!
WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF THE SHOOT?
On the final day, when my character was supposed to be eighteen or something, we really wanted him to have braces (basically to make up for the fact I looked way older than eighteen). But we didn’t have the right equipment and tried to wrap them around my teeth. We tried for ages to make them work but in the end we had to ditch them. I still regret it to this day. I would have looked like a newborn babe.
YOU DIRECTED FIVE OTHER SHORTS BEFORE TOILETS. HOW DID YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES WITH FILMMAKING INFORM YOUR WORK THIS TIME AROUND?
I guess just knowing what was achievable on our budget and time frame. And having slightly more confidence.
YOU’RE ALSO AN ACTOR AND COMEDIAN AND HAVE PLAYED AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL SEVERAL TIMES. WHAT DOES THIS EXTRA DIMENSION BRING TO YOUR SKILLS AS A FILMMAKER?
Simply, I’d say the ability to improvise. Think on the spot and make bold changes if things aren’t working. Also if a drunk Scottish heckler had stumbled in I’d have some pretty witty put-downs for him.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOUR OTHER CREATIVE ENDEAVORS AND FILMMAKING?
In the end, with filmmaking, you have a finished product (for better or worse). With live comedy or theatre it constantly shifts or changes. That’s not to say that people don’t view your films in different ways, it’s just that at least you know they’re viewing the version you like best. In comedy you can do this best show one night then the worst the next. In short I like film more than comedy.
DO YOU THINK EMERGING FILMMAKERS WOULD BE WISE TO DABBLE IN OTHER DISCIPLINES SUCH AS ACTING AND COMEDY?
Of course! Do EVERYTHING that takes you out of you comfort zone and makes you understand your craft better.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG FILMMKERS IN THE INDUSTRY?
Do everything you possibly can yourself. Fuck the industry. All you need is a great story (or at least a middling one).
WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, IS THE ESSENCE OF A GOOD COLLABORATION?
A load of arguments followed by a load of passionate sex. Followed by toast.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR GABRIEL BISSET-SMITH? ANY EXCITING PROJECTS ON THE HORIZON?
Just finishing off a couple of feature scripts. One I have my eye on to direct. Then have a play to finish and then to Edinburgh again to take on drunken scots with my witty put-downs. “Jack of all trades, master of none” as my mum continually tells me.