Boris Bilic’s Dumps is a dark comedy dealing with anxiety, depression and suicide. While the film not only succeeds at hitting the right notes, in terms of its puns and wit, it also surprisingly manages to pull off a water-flooding scene in its short runtime. A successful feat coming from a young filmmaker.
We catch up with Bilic, to know how hard it is to nail the comedy genre, how nightmarish it can be to deal with artificial flooding on the sets, and why a toilet, of all the things, had to be the setting of his film!
- Congratulations on Dumps, Boris! First and foremost, how did you pitch this idea? If it could be as outlandish as it appeared on-screen, I can only imagine what it must have been on the paper!
Thank you so much!! Pitching the film was definitely a journey. Bear in mind, I have never been to a film school, and before Dumps the film I directed was another short – and, it was with two actors in one location and we shot it in a single morning. So when I told people that I wanted to shoot another film over multiple days, build my own set, triple the size of the crew and have practical running water effects, I was told it would be impossible for someone of my skill level. And when you add to that, you’re making a comedy about a subject which is a very sensitive one for most people – suicide and depression, it’s even harder to get people on board.
As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time asking for help. I knew it would be a difficult project to get people involved with, so I did everything I could do myself to make my actors and crew know that they were in good hands, both in terms of a cohesive creative vision, and that we were organized, on schedule and prepared in case things went wrong.
- Was it intentional all along to make it a dark comedy?
Absolutely! There were parts that I knew I wanted to be more grounded and serious, but otherwise, we knew we were making a dark comedy from the get-go.
- What’s been your biggest learning from making a bottle film?
Originally, I wanted to make a film that took place in one location for budget reasons – little did I know that the location would actually be the most challenging and costly aspect of making the film. Thankfully, I had 2 incredible production design collaborators, Gia McLoughlin and Jacob Betts, who helped enormously with the design and construction of the bathroom.
The biggest lesson though: communicate with the DOP and make sure the space is versatile enough to still get the shots we need!
- You chose very peculiar props; a toilet, bathtub and a toaster. When you conceptualised or scripted the story, did these props feature right at the start?
Yes – I would say the props and the location were the things that stayed most consistent throughout the writing process. They were such central tenets of the theme and story, there was never really a moment when I considered parting ways with any of them.
- Comedy is a difficult genre. The film neither made light of the matters nor exaggerated them. How did you manage to strike this balance?
You’re right. It has been tricky! It’s a sensitive topic, and I knew that unless we were careful, the audience might think that we were making light of a serious issue. That was never the intent. Through each draft of the script, I tried to make sure that we were always on Andy’s side, always rooting for him to live and make it out alive (and dry) on the other side, and that the humour derived from other characters’ reactions (or lack thereof) to his situation. That way, we would be more-so laughing at their insensitivity rather than laughing at Andy’s suffering, if that makes sense.
- Denise is almost the elephant in the room. For a character that remains unseen for nearly half the screentime, you invested fittingly well into creating her. What was that process like for you?
It sort of happened on its own, believe it or not! I knew I wanted the final scene to be between Andy and Denise, and I’m a big fan of setting things up early only to bring them back later – so I made sure to pepper in lots of details and hints about who this person might be. Then, when the time came to actually write the scene, everything I needed to know was already there. And of course, it helps that we cast Jordan, who’s an incredible actress and collaborator – she just brought so much depth and humanity to the part I never even considered when I first wrote the role.
- How did you test if the humour is working?
Any time I finished a new draft I was proud of, I would show it to whoever would read it! If they laughed, I knew it was working. Reading it out loud also helps a lot.
- Considering the success of having filmed an artificial flooding scene. Is it something you’d want to experiment with again? Or is there some other element you’d like to try next?
Oh lord, no. While the flooding looks great and was good fun on the day of the shoot (I popped on a pair of swim-trunks to join the cast and gave all my notes in the water to boost morale), the actual planning and logistics of it was a big old headache. It was a great mountain to be able to say we climbed, but I’m certainly not looking forward to working in any watery arena again any time soon.
On the other hand, I’d love to do something in one-take, a la 1917 or Birdman. That feels like it would be more like fun planning rather than if-this-goes-wrong-it-will-ruin-us-financially planning.
- If budget or logistics weren’t a constraint, what changes would you make in Dumps?
Two words: more water!
- The film has an open ending. Would you be interested in its sequel or do you feel Dumps is best left as it is?
Haha, no sequel planned yet! And the ending isn’t as open as you might think! To me, the story is pretty self-contained and there wouldn’t be anything left to explore in an additional film. However, I’d be open to adapting the same story as a feature, or as a stage-play.
- Did any film, in particular, inspire you to make Dumps?
Two references I used a lot when telling the story originally were 127 Hours and Groundhog Day. 127 Hours came to mind mainly as a reference for cinematography, and as a way to emulate the feeling of being in an enclosed claustrophobic space for an extended period. Groundhog Day, on the other hand, was more because of the fantastical, what-the-hell-is-going-on elements, and the dry, witty dialogue.
Boris Bilic might downplay it, but Dumps offers several subtexts in its narrative. An interesting short and brilliantly executed from a relatively new and inexperienced filmmaker, Boris’s work is sure to stay with you. We wish him the best!
To connect with Boris, please click here.