‘Man Under Table,’ an independent film about making an independent film, emerges at Slamdance
Comedy follows filmmaker’s plight
“Man Under Table or I’m Writing a Movie” is a comedy feature based on something filmmaker Noel David Taylor knows about — trying to make an independent film.
The film, which is now screening at the virtual Slamdance Film Festival, is inspired by the act of “artistic fumbling for discovery,” which is pretty common in the independent film world, according to Taylor.
The story follows a filmmaker, played by Taylor, who is on a quest to find funding and the means to make an independent film, only to be pulled into other people’s projects and ego trips.
“I’ve been bouncing around for years in that world, and largely getting nowhere and being frustrated,” he said. “I was collecting ideas, and had dozens of notes of random quotes that felt more funny than depressing. But I didn’t know what I would do with them.”
The idea to start making “Man Under Table” into a full-length feature came after Taylor, who is known for short films and music videos, reached an impasse.
“I was so frustrated with not doing anything, so I started putting together bits into a script,” he said.
Although he knew the project would be a feature film, Taylor approached it as he does his short films.
“I wrote it in a manner that was kind to my way of filming, because I knew from the start that this would be something I would have to self-produce in a very micro way,” he said. “So I scheduled out day shoots when I could when the actors were available. And it took a while to film, because of that.”
The cast features Taylor as the main character, along with Ben Babbitt, Danny Lane, James Canto, Robert Manion, Alisa Torres, Frank Perry, Sara Beth Tucek, Katy Fullan and John Edmund Parcher.
“The people, for the most part, are ones who I’ve worked with before, and I knew what they could bring to the script,” Taylor said. “The only person I didn’t know was the older actor, John Parcher.”
Parcher plays Gerald, an “experienced” filmmaker who really doesn’t know what he’s doing, Taylor said.
“The first time I spoke with him, I knew he would be able to bring this character to life,” Taylor said. “He really invented the character and brought it to what it is. In fact, I pretty much asked everyone to do their own version of the characters in an open and collaborative environment.”
For the main character, Taylor looked into his own characteristics.
“I wanted to make the main character a shiftless, impatient and almost arrogant, useless type of person,” he said with a laugh. “I thought it would be a fun image, and these are the worst qualities in myself.”
Adding to the minimalist feel of the film, Taylor didn’t hire any extras, and used cardboard cutouts to fill in the scenes.
“There is that notion in L.A. when you’re on a set and making the film, and no one but the stars are important,” he said. “So I thought that would be another sort of joke that extras just need to look like the shape of a person.”
Taylor began principal filming in 2018 and got the whole thing edited and ready right before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down in 2020. And the schedule only emphasized some of the prophetic touches that appear in the film.
One of those touches is the use of gas masks that protect the characters from a green, smoky haze when they go outside.
“The masks came from some psychic fever dream I had,” Taylor said. “I built the masks for the movie, because I thought if there were a need for us to wear masks in the future, they needed to be the same style, and sure enough, here we are.”
The film’s title “Man Under Table” comes from the idea of protecting oneself, like a child who makes a blanket and pillow fort under the kitchen table.
“Everything you do when you put yourself out there comes from a guarded place,” Taylor said. “You have to build some kind of persona around yourself to feel safe, and part of that essence comes from this childish behavior.”
Taylor feels Slamdance is the best festival for his film.
“It’s one of the cooler festivals out there, and I’m still processing the shock of getting in,” he said. “That’s all a little bittersweet because it’s a virtual festival this year, but it kind of fits because of the weird, alienated alone vibe the film has. I just hope it gets seen, because the intent was to reach somebody in a way that makes them feel less alone. I hope that’s what it does.”
Where: Slamdance Film Festival
When: Through Feb. 25
Cost: Festival passes are $10
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