This past week, over a hundred students filtered into the auditorium at Ithaca College's Park School of Communications with the hope of seeing a new, oddly titled, short film, The Pisser. Directed and written by film students including Kieran Sherry, Tyler Grisafi, and Tristan Robertson, the short was met with rapturous applause from a room full of fellow film students. It is a moment that I believe reflects the wacky nature of self-produced student film.
Made by 214 Creative, The Pisser is a noir mystery about detective Chauncy P. Ennis (played by Mike Lopoukhine) and his journey to solve the case of a urine-covered toilet seat in the dorm building's bathroom. Helping Chauncy is his fresh-faced new partner, George (Tristan Robertson). The film includes impressive cinematography and editing from Jaden Lee, Aron Taub, and Jonah Barresi, so good that at times it's hard to tell that it's just a student film with a budget of practically nothing. Not to mention there is a delightfully shocking yet funny plot twist in the mystery.
Going to the premiere, watching dozens and dozens of people taking their seats, ready to watch something that started off as nothing but a passion project and a loose script was something I had never experienced before. I was lucky enough to be a production assistant for The Pisser, and watch it come together. Whether it was spraying canned fog, handling props, or laying on the floor to make sure a door opened at just the right speed, being on set was an experience I'll never forget. It's important to note that The Pisser was not a project made for a class or a grade, it was birthed from a pure love of film as an art form, and kind of a petty revenge plot. The script was first thought up when the crew kept noticing that somebody in the dorm building's bathroom had pretty terrible aim. What else were they to do but make a movie about it?
The Pisser is not your average short film made by freshmen film students. It looks so incredibly professional, the juvenile bathroom humor juxtaposed with the serious nature of the characters amplifies the comedy so nicely. If there's one thing about 214 Creative, they're not afraid to stoop down to potty humor. Amazingly, the short also has an original jazz score produced by Taub and performed by saxophonist, Lyle Setnik-King. Original music is not a very common aspect of many college short films, especially not from a crew that is not formally studying music production.
No matter who you are, we've all encountered a bad student film or two. With budgets of close to $0 and a cast/crew that is not often hired or paid for their "skills," it's understandable to see why most student short films don't exactly make it to the Oscars. Perhaps I have a deep appreciation for 214 Creative's The Pisser because I helped it get made, but if I take my personal bias out of the equation, it is still an uplifting example of what young creative people can accomplish when they put their minds to it. I can distinctly remember entering the second floor bathroom of my building and miraculously finding a fully set-up film set complete with lights, audio equipment, and a black magic camera. The short really stands as a testament to the fact that good art comes from creativity and determination, not big budgets.
Being apart of the entertainment industry is not something that comes easy. It seems like today that studios give the most favor to sequels, reboots, safe and unoriginal movies. But it gives me hope to catch a brief glimpse of the future of the industry, full of people who are going into the field not just for a good payday, but because they love telling stories, bringing joy, and expressing their creativity no matter how risky it may be. Especially in prestigious film schools nowadays there is a pressure to be serious, existential, polished in your work, but The Pisser and 214 Creative serve as a reminder that there is success to be found in not taking yourself too seriously.
I remember when I first heard my friend, Kieran Sherry, bring up the idea to make a film about the guy who would constantly leave a mess in the bathroom. And months later, to see it on a big screen with a crowd of 100+ cheering and watching in awe was an amazing full-circle moment. It was a bigger reaction than any of us could've expected from a film titled, The Pisser. I am very, very proud of my friends. I hope you love the film and that as a community, we will start to give student films a fair shake.
To watch The Pisser please visit the 214 Creative Youtube page: here.