Bottoms up

Tyler Cornack on the ins and outs of Butt Boy

by Jennie Kermode

Chip (Tyler Cornack) and wife Anne (Shelby Dash) in Butt Boy
Chip (Tyler Cornack) and wife Anne (Shelby Dash) in Butt Boy

I was advised before I saw Butt Boy that there is no other film like it. One hears a lot of that sort of thing from film promoters. Sometimes, though, it’s true.

Arranging a call with director Tyler Cornack was difficult, despite his enthusiasm. He was on a shoot, working very lat nights, and the time difference between Scotland and Los Angeles meant we were awake at opposite ends of the day. But arrange it we did, and I began by telling him about some of the reactions I’d seen from people who watched it as part of Frightfest at the Glasgow Film Festival. Some people said it was the best film they’d ever seen, some that they’d never seen anything worse, and one that it’s the end of cinema as we know it.

Tyler was amused by this. “There have been some people saying that this shouldn’t have been made into a feature, it should have been a short film,” he remarked, “but that was kind of the whole point for us, was to see how far we could take one little joke.”

Temptation
Temptation

That joke, for the uninitiated, is pretty simple. Butt Boy is the story of a man who sticks things up his arse. All sorts of things. of course, lots of people do this, but when he does it, they disappear. As his habit becomes criminal, he attracts the attention of a greasy-haired, leather jacket-wearing, alcoholic cop who knows something is amiss and becomes determined to, ahem, get to the bottom of it.

“We were paying homage to all the movies that we love,” says Tyler. “Slow burning crime thrillers. As weird as the movie is, we tried to get a lot of tropes within the writing process so it was somewhat familiar territory, and then we’d take you out of it at times.”

It’s a film that starts out quite joyously, with a man discovering his sexuality, then goes to very dark places before the opening credits have rolled. Was he worried about keeping the audience with him through that?

“No, not really. We always felt that that should be a story of its own – that’s kind of what the original short was. Some people say that’s the funniest part of the film, some people say it’s the darkest part. To us it’s really funny, the way the guy does – every object – it just becomes another joke.”

There’s a shot over the credits that I have a praise him for. I explain that I watched the film with my partner, who is a cinematographer, and who really admired the way he managed to capture a police car cruising round the streets of Los Angeles without ever getting an inappropriate reflection in shot.

“That was actually a really tiny camera for that shot,” says Tyler, pleased. “We didn’t even know if that was going to work. I was in the back seat, laying down there, and I had a monitor, and it was just me and the actor driving around. Just to let you know how low budget this movie was, we didn’t have permits or anything, we put a cop light up and drove around Los Angeles like that. We actually got in trouble with the police shortly after shooting that.

Tyler Rice as Detective Russel Fox
Tyler Rice as Detective Russel Fox

“We shot a lot more for that scene but I ended up just using that long shot for the credits because it kind of had a cool vibe, to me. Kind of a Seventies, raunchy vibe.”

I add that I was impressed by the quality of the film overall, especially given the low budget.

“We shot it on a nice camera,” he says. “We’ve made stuff for a while, we’ve made stuff for the internet, we’ve made comedy sketches. We always wanted to up the technical side of things. When you make stuff online you don’t really care, it’s like nobody gives a shit but you at that point, but when you’re making a movie you can up the game and give it higher production values.

“We all come from film backgrounds. We just tried to make it as cinematic as we could. We had $115,000 to make the whole thing and it was a lot of locations. I storyboarded the whole entire movie beforehand. I would take still photos and print those out so the whole crew and cast could see what the next shot was for the entire movie.”

One of the big themes in the film is addiction. Is that something he’s seen up close in his own life?

“Yeah. I still do with people in my life. There’s kind of a repetitiveness in the movie – I don’t know if that comes through or not but the idea was to have this kind of repetitive drone feeling in it, to represent what the whole addiction thing feels like and what it’s about. I didn’t want to get too serious about it because ultimately it’s about a guy putting things up his butt, but that was definitely there, you know?

“In my feeling, right where the film starts to get repetitive again, it picks up. The very last time he can handle it and then it starts to happen. That was an intentional thing to make it feel like he’s just trapped in this cycle and the cycle keeps gong and going and going until it kind of breaks.

“I think everybody has some sort of addiction and some are more toxic than others. I have plenty of friends who have been through the wringer, keeping it a secret and all of that stuff.”

Butt Boy poster
Butt Boy poster

The addiction theme helps to ground the film in reality before we get to the surreal final act. It probably isn’t much of a spoiler, given how much it has been talked about elsewhere, to reveal that this takes place inside that increasingly dangerous arse.

“That was really scary, if you can imagine, because it’s crazy,” Tyler says. “The whole time we were thinking is this remotely going to work? We had to just say, okay, this is a silly movie, we’re not trying to go to the Oscars here – we’re just telling a stupid story.

“We went through a lot of ideas. The original script had this Pepto-Bismol scene where I thought we’d have CGI and a river of Pepto-Bismol that’s like this pink river, and everyone was like ‘Alright dud, relax, there’s no way that’s going to happen.’ So we shot at the Bronson Batcaves in Hollywood, which a historical, manmade – so many things were shot there but it was originally for the Adam West Batman series. it’s the cave they used to drive out of.

“It was actually the best part of the shoot because it felt like we were making a real movie. It felt bigger and it was in Hollywood in the middle of the night and it was just a great experience, but again how we did it was kind of crazy. We couldn’t even afford to get a fire marshal up there which you have to have when you’re running power, so we powered that whole thing with solar and battery. So all those red lights you see, those are all solar powered, battery operated lights. W did it very low budget and we pulled it off.

“I think it works. I think it’s campy and at first you think ‘Well, this is crazy but I’m going with it,’ and yeah, I’m pretty happy with it.”

How did the shoot go more generally?

“You always want more time, I think, but it was good. I don’t regret acting in it but I’m not by nature an actor, by any means. I much prefer directing and originally I wasn’t going to act in t but it just made sense logistically. I knew that I could pull it off and we wouldn’t have to worry about it. That got a little bit stressful at times. It was fine thought. It was the good kind of stress, you know? It’s the stress you enjoy.”

So how does one follow up a film like that?

“Right now we’re shooting an anthology series and it’s a bit like Butt Boy in a way. It’s a bunch of these little tiny jokes taken really seriously. There’s three shorts per episode. it’s kind of like our Twilight Zone... After that’s it’s on to more films.”

Butt Boy is out on VoD from Tuesday.

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