I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
AUSTIN – Every year at Fantastic Fest there’s a film that has the “Rooty Tooty Fresh ’n Fruity” of movie titles. This year, that honor belongs to BUTT BOY. Once you catch a whiff of what this movie is about, you won’t be able to Febreeze it from your mind anytime soon.
Filmmaker-comedian Tyler Cornack’s BUTT BOY contains the most ridiculous concept but plays it straight throughout — a method that often leads to the best comedies. BUTT BOY focuses on a middle-class man (Cornack) with a tedious life who awakens to a new obsession after his first prostate exam: He likes to shove things up his ass. It’s not always the most basic objects either. I will just let your imagination run away with you.
So, buckle up for a film that’s going to be anything but in the rearview after you are released from its grasp.
Fresh Fiction sat down with director and star Cornack at Fantastic Fest to discuss the process of making the film and how it gave him a lot of worry.
Preston Barta: Out of all your sketches and jokes from TINY CINEMA, what made BUTT BOY the right one to expand?
Tyler Cornack: “Coming off our comedy channel, it made the most sense in a lot of ways. A short that we did had some success. A year before [BUTT BOY happened], I would have never guessed that we would be making it. It felt easy, though. We knew the characters and the tone. The tone was definitely the most important thing.”
“Beyond that, it’s still weird. It’s weird that we made it because it’s a weird movie. It felt like that all the way through. All of our sketches are taking one tiny thing and expanding it into something way bigger. We took one small joke and made it this big thing. It had the best tone for a movie. The cinematic aspect of it complimented the sketch the most.”
Did it take much convincing to get everyone on board? I feel like you had to probably talk to each person and say, “Hey, I know what you’re thinking, but there’s more to it than the title suggests.”
“Yeah. That was a big part of it. We had a fear of people not getting past the title page. When people hear the title, it’s a hard phone call to have. It’s a tough thing to pitch. People probably thought it was a lot sillier than it is, even though it is silly.”
“There was a lot of explaining during the film, too. ‘No, no. Trust us…’ In the beginning – during the auditions, at least – we told people the movie was called something else because we were embarrassed by what the reaction might have been. There are kids in the movie, and it was a hard pitch to parents. Most of them were down, though. [Laughs] You know, just explaining that it’s not just about a guy putting things up his butt. It is a movie. It’s going to feel like a movie.”
I remember when they had director Robert Eggers at Fantastic Fest for the premiere of THE VVITCH, he told audiences that the kids in the movie thought they were shooting a Disney movie. That’s what Eggers told them when they were filming, so they didn’t pick up on the dark material.
“Oh, really? [Laughs] We didn’t go that far.”
How did you get the parents to sign off on this?
“We were very upfront with everyone. We sent emails over and over again to remind them that this is about a guy who shoves children up his butt. The kids that were in the film were cool with it, I think.”
What did the drawing board look like? How planned was the process of filling out the film’s narrative from the sketch?
“It was pretty planned. It was planned shot for shot. As far as the production part went, I storyboarded the whole movie with photos. We had access to the sets early. So I would snap photos and print them out. Because I was in the movie, too, I was able to tell everyone on the crew exactly what the shots were.”
“Creating a visual look was very easy (again) because we had a short film as a reference. I was working on another screenplay at the time, something that you would probably consider more of a real movie on paper, my writing partner, Ryan Koch, said to me, ‘What if we just expanded the BUTT BOY short into a movie?’ He started listing out the things he could visualize, like the office and the sh*tty marriage. Literally, that night, we had everything outlined. It was swift and organic. It’s kind of like all my friends who are musicians: the best songs just come to you. And it felt like that. As uncomfortable as the movie is, we were comfortable.”
Was it relatively easy to wrangle in the actors to make sure they follow through with the tone you wanted to achieve? Everyone plays it straight.
“It was an easy tone to navigate based on the casting. Tyler Rice [who plays the police officer in the film investigating the case] is one of my favorite actors. I think there’s a classic element to him that worked so well for this. If we had comedians playing these roles, it wouldn’t have been right.”
“The movie AIRPLANE, for example. The circumstances are very intense, but it’s filled with jokes. This is the exact opposite. The circumstance is the joke. There are almost no jokes in it. It’s straight all the way through. That’s the way we always looked at it.”
Can I ask about the design of the colon cave? (The visual representation of the central character’s butt.)
“Yes! We shot that in the Bronson Canyon bat caves. It’s where they used to shoot the old Adam West BATMAN episodes. That’s the cave he would drive out of. That’s what it was made for. They blew a hole in it. It’s a man-made cave for Hollywood. I used to go up there and hike.”
“The look of it was tough. We were trying to figure out what to do. Color was a big thing. We knew it always had to be red. We also had no electricity. So all the lights are battery-powered. We had a charging system that was all wireless because of money. We couldn’t afford to have an electrician come, and you had to have a firefighter there if we had. So, we figured out how to do it all by battery.”
“Those scenes were the most fun to shoot by the way. It just felt like a movie. We were there really late at night. It was a blast. We did a little bit in post to make it look less like a straight cave. There’s [ass dust], which was done later.”
[Pointing at Austin Lewis.] In addition to playing the boss of the office, you edited the film, too, right?
Austin Lewis: “Yes, I did!”
Cornack: “Yes. He’s amazing! He was one of my main collaborators on the film. He worked his ass off on it. We cut five or six scenes, right?”
Lewis: “Yes. About five.”
Cornack: “Yeah. All the scenes where characters were over-explaining things.”
Speaking of not over-explaining things or providing too much, I like that BUTT BOY never shows the act of the character shoving something up his ass. We see the object, and we just know what’s happening next. Was it important to have audiences wonder about the science behind it?
Cornack: “Yes! It’s like JAWS in a sense. Don’t show the shark in its full effect until later. That was always the plan, even in the original short we never showed it. I think alluding to it is part of the joke. You see the next object, and you’re like, ‘Oh. Now he’s doing a remote.’ That’s part of the rhythm of it.”
Lewis, you have a particularly hilarious scene where you are amping up the office by doing a chant and slapping their thighs.
I made me think of REMEMBER THE TITANS.
“[Laughs] We actually got that from the ‘We are Walmart (Fight Song)’ video. It’s pretty much a rip of that video – that whole Monday blues. We got so into it.”
“[Cornack] and I became very close. We just had to be jackasses the entire time. I had to be the worst human being on the planet in the movie.”
Did you feel any worse in real life by being the person who had to break Cornack the truth about which darlings of his had to be killed in the edit?
“Once we made the first major cut, we were like, ‘OK.’ We were less precious about it. We were figuring it out as we went along. We weren’t making a rom-com. The whole thing was experimental. Once we started axing the first scene, we got comfortable butchering and finding it. We were very aware we were making a weird thing, but it had to be fun.”
BUTT BOY is currently seeking distribution. We will keep you posted on any updates and screenings. But for now, just know you’re about to have a weird movie on your hands.