The Short Cut is a new column on Under The Gun that showcases the careers of short film directors. Shorts are often overlooked when it comes to the entire spectrum of film, and by including interviews with the directors themselves and information about their creative efforts, this column will highlight the work of some of the category’s dignitaries that we feel deserve your attention.
According to his official website, “Bobby Miller is a writer/director/actor/amateur cartoonist/painter/bad musician. (In that order).” The first and second occupations in that list led to the creation of his short film, TUB, which has been shown at over 30 renowned film festivals, beginning in 2010 at Sundance. Some have referred to TUB as, “The craziest short film I’ve ever seen,” and I would have to say that this is likely a very accurate statement that could be repeated by many. TUB‘s premise is ridiculous, interesting and definitely original. Some may revel in its grotesque glory, while others could very likely allow it to disgust them, offend them and ruin their day.
I recently spoke with Bobby Miller and we discussed the themes and inspirations of his short film, some masturbation topics and what his family thinks of TUB. Read through and get acquainted with a short film director that deserves your attention!
I live a double life! For the last couple years I’ve made digital content for companies like MTV, Next New Networks and the Collective. Most of which starred me as the goofball host. I’m also a filmmaker, who made a short called TUB that went to Sundance in 2010. Right now, on the digital side, I’m channel manager at SoulPancake (Rainn Wilson’s company). On the film-making side, I’m in the midst of getting my first feature film off the ground. I’d say most people on the internet know me by my web series work (The Best Short Films in The World, Reel Good Show, or That Movie Show), and TUB.
What first inspired you to get involved with film making and how did you get started?
I don’t remember a film that directly inspired me. I just remember being into creating stuff at a very young age. It started with comic books and drawing and then eventually I began asking my family to buy me a video camera. I made a ton of “short films” in 5th grade and haven’t really stopped since.
So… TUB… for those that may not have heard of it, how would you describe it?
The snappy log line is: “Paul jerked off in the shower. Paul just impregnated his bath tub.” So, if you’re into that, you’re gonna have a blast!
What inspired TUB and how did you go about deciding how to portray it on film?
In undergrad, I was rooming with five other guys and one of them used to take long showers. My friend often made fun of him with: “You probably jerk off in the shower so much that there’s babies living in the sewers.” That image of a baby in a drain stuck with me for a while. One of the first images I came up with was that slow descent into the tub drain and going through the drain and seeing something alive inside.
How did you decide which tub to use as the star of the film?
That was actually something I gave a lot of thought about. I was really attracted aesthetically to the old fashioned claw foot tub, and we went with a rental place that could rent us out one like that.
TUB has had a significant circulation in the festival circuit. Have there been times when you were embarrassed about what you’ve created?
Sure. In fact, I wouldn’t show my family the movie until a screening came to town, because I figured the audience would cushion the blow. I couldn’t imagine watching TUB after dinner. “Let’s have coffee and cake and watch your weirdo, movie, Bobby.” But, the best advice I ever got was in a photography class at Columbia University; the professor urged us to take pictures that would embarrass us, because that meant you were getting at something interesting.
I personally enjoyed the film but I could see this being one of those that people would walk out on, which seems like quite the accomplishment seeing as how it’s a short. Have you heard of any TUB walk-outs? What have been some of the more interesting or angry responses to the film?
Y’know, I don’t remember any walk outs. It’s screened at film fests and dive bars and it always goes over decently. The weirdest screening was when someone wanted me to show it at a party with like six people. It was awfully uncomfortable. Then someone I had just met there started asking me if I had mental problems. It was a great time.
How did you think the film would do once it was released?
I had no idea. When I first saw a cut, I got immensely depressed and thought I failed. So, when it got into Sundance, I had to be like: “Wait… is it good?” I really had no idea what to expect, but that first screening was amazing. Exciting, nerve-wracking, emotional. The whole 9.
Have your parents seen it? What were their thoughts?
My mom thought it was “tastefully done” and I heard her laugh during some stuff at the screening. My dad has never said one word about it.
What materials did you use for the gunk and discolored water in the tub and umbilical cord fluid?
My mind is foggy, but I believe the gunk was just gelatin. The tub. God knows what the heck was in that by the time we got to shooting.
What would you have done in the situation? Would you keep the baby?
No one has ever asked me this before. I think the idea of birthing a monster is pretty compelling stuff. Part of me would totally dump it off somewhere and try not to think about it, but the other part couldn’t help but getting attached. I guess I really don’t know the answer to that. I guess I need to start whacking off in the tub some more.
Would you consider a short film collection series of people impregnating different inanimate objects? What things would you enjoy to see pregnant and birthing?
I’m not sure. But, I would executive produce it if it paid well.
What effect do you feel TUB has had on shower masturbators the world over?
I hope it’ll become the new JAWS, but y’know, for masturbation.
Okay, enough about masturbation. What have you been working on since TUB‘s completion and when can we expect your next effort?
Could we talk about masturbation some more? No? Okay. Fine… Well, I’m in the midst of getting a feature off the ground. The script is done and things are moving forward-ish. It’s very exciting. It’s got creatures in it. But, no masturbation. (There goes my core demographic.)
Possibility for a TUB full length film?
I’m not sure even I would watch that.
Will you ever sell the baby prop?
No way, Jose! It’s currently sitting on the coffee table, where it will continue to freak out unsuspecting guests.
What is your biggest goal as a film maker?
Time for me to sound pretentious. My biggest goal is to make films that mean something. Maybe it’s not in your face, but if you peel back a few layers, there’s something meatier underneath. I love the idea of smuggling ideas and themes into genre films. The idea that you could make someone laugh or recoil in horror, but then have them feel something genuinely moving in the next moment. Balancing tone is a tricky tight rope walk, but it’s something that is really exciting to me.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
As a web host, beating Jimmy Fallon for the Webby Award in 2009. As a filmmaker, that first screening of TUB at Sundance by a landslide.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter