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Funnel

His car has broken down, a guy spend a whole day on the phone while looking for a funnel.

2014 | 5 - 10 | Comedy | Friendship | Live-Action | USA | 2014

Andre Hyland, the author of this surreal short, is what in Italy we’d lovingly call an “adorable dick”, which is not only his natural “attitude”, but his peculiar signature. Let’s just say he’s not a totally improvised “dick”, though. Hyland is actually a live-performer, a comedian, an author and a self-taught filmmaker, his films and his shows are often found in Los Angeles’ “alternative” venues, and he has participated in two TV-pilots for Comedy Central, one of whom he wrote in collaboration with Bob Odenkirk (Walter White’s attorney in Breaking Bad, now starring in Better Call Saul).

His specialty is creating absurd fictional characters or parodies of real “types” (improbable skater, nerd, rapper, etc), which then he throws into the “real world”, making them interact with people and situations. Obviously he plays them all. Often we see them from a distance, or from above, as they were observed by a surveillance camera, except that the “overseer” is us looking at those hilarious interactions with unsuspecting accomplices. Semi-autistic monologues, fake conversations, senseless jokes, that somehow relate to that “demential-prankish” style à la Jackass (probably the finest expression of this genre). But Hyland was particularly good at understanding the web as the ideal platform for testing new ideas and new comic characters that he (mis)places in such improvised situations poised between candid camera, sitcoms and street-performance.

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With Funnel, Hyland got it right, because he succeded in adapting the typical structure of his “street-sketches” in a more structured story. And it worked very well because the short was entered by the Rolling Stone among the 12 must-see Sundance successes, where it premiered. What is it about? The story is very simple, but it is functional to his “farcical” style. There’s this guy, a typical American student, harmless and a bit naive, of course played by Andre Hyland himself, who goes in search of a funnel because his car has broken down, and must use a non specified liquid to restart it. While wandering through villages and outskirts, crossing fields and jumping over “moats” until evening, he entertains a bizarre conversation on the phone with a friend explaining the matter, but continuously going off topic with digressions. The funny thing is how Hyland “normalizes” this improbable situation yet keeps us clinging to the character – which we will end up loving – even if, in fact, almost nothing happens: pure “demential” voyeurism. Except in the final, where Hyland concludes, “resolves”, and above all, makes us laugh.

What is so special about this short? First, the fact that it was shot in one day and with a cost – declared by Hyland himself –  of $ 80, which means that he didn’t rely on the technical values, but he mainly focused on the performance of the character, the development of this apparent “non-story”, and its peculiar style of narration. This approach can be a trump card, if you also will want to get noticed by producers. In the world of shorts is much more likely to be noticed for the idea and the quality of a story, rather than for the filming skills. Then, of course, there are other “low budget” cases, where everything is at the top, as in The Brain Hack.

Indeed, Funnel has already brought luck to the author: the comedy group Lonely Island has just finished producing a half-hour TV pilot, written and directed by Hyland, after watching his short last year. Hyland is currently working on a feature comedy he wrote which he will also direct and star in. So let’s stay tuned to the guy. He could be the next new thing in “comedy”.

Read the interview with Andre, here.

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder, creative director, curator @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great booze. My motto is, your motto.

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