Directed by Dan Roe
“That Thing,” a short film by Dan Roe that premiered at the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival, follows Tabby (Claire Lucido), who is taken by surprise when her date Patrick (Sam Yarabek) abruptly reveals an odd bedroom quirk. She's initially put off, but over the course of this micro-farce she finds herself feeling a little ambivalent, even intrigued.
Just as a rough charcoal sketches capture the immediacy of the artist’s hand, so too can the digital short come alive with the urgency of the actors and filmmakers. I wanted my latest short, “That Thing,” to feel as though it were carved out of the air or scrawled across the wall. The methods that we employed forced us to burrow deeper into the scene and find humor and emotion that we might have missed otherwise. My hope, though, is simply that the audience has some laughs and maybe an opportunity to mull over the nature of desire and the strangeness of love. I feel that my wonderful cast and I were able to articulate or at least suggest, with humor and maybe even grace, something about the mysteriousness of sex. The sexual quirk that is at the center of the film is strange and opaque enough to stand in for any number of peculiar kinks and innocent enough to win our sympathy, but the dynamics between the two characters hint at something a little more thorny and dangerous. While the two characters struggle to navigate their relationship with each other, they have just as hard a time understanding their own impulses.
The short began as a story that the lead actress Claire Lucido relayed to me years ago about an incredibly awkward date she had been on. I kept it in the back of my mind as the possible germ of a story idea. When the time came to make another short film (mainly in order to keep up the practice), I decided to plunge into the “awkward date idea” headfirst. I assembled my actors and we spent a day discussing the different possibilities it presented. I typed up a script and we shot it.
Now, the main reason digital video bestows the same freedom and spontaneity that draftsman have always enjoyed in their chosen medium is that it is cheap. Because we didn’t have to worry about spending any money, we were able to re-shoot to our hearts’ content. After our first shoot, I was unhappy with how some of it came out. So I cut some scenes and rearranged others, then outlined several possible alternate endings and scenarios building on the material we had that I did like. I got my actors back together three more times and had them improvise various different scenarios. Once back in the editing room, I used the abundant new footage as raw material and assembled yet a different version pulling from multiple takes and constructing new exchanges between the actors. The final result is a totally new version that was not conceived of on set or at the writing stage.
War Story: We shot this film with the barest of bones skeleton crew. It was just me operating the camera and assuming all cinematography duties and a sound man. When the time came for our lead actor to get naked, he admitted to feeling a little bashful about being the only person in the room without clothes on. I assured him that I'd frame the shot so that objects would stand between his private parts and my eye-line, Austin Powers style. Our lead actress promised to keep her eyes up and not to sneak a peak. When we completed the scenes and Sam was fully clothed again, I reassured him that none of us caught a glimpse of his naughty bits. Unfortunately, our sound man, Spencer, confessed that he couldn't resist. He looked. On the bright side, he was not disappointed by what he saw. Now I regret being such a gentleman. Next time!
Produced, Directed, Shot, and Edited by Dan Roe
Starring Claire Lucido and Sam Yarabek
About the Director
Dan Roe - Producer/Director
Dan Roe is a cartoonist and filmmaker. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker magazine and his short film Weenie premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival.