TenEighty caught up with Sammy Paul to chat about his new short film, Bicycle.
Sammy premiered Bicycle during the Short Film Screening at Toronto’s Buffer Festival, where it won the festival’s Excellence in Performance Award. The film, which sees fellow creator Chris Kendall as the main and only character, explores bisexuality through the use of stand-up comedy.
“It’s a short about a stand-up comedian, but, on some level, it’s not about stand-up comedy at all, so much as it is about our relationship with what we make and what we’re willing to talk about on stage versus how we might feel in our personal lives,” explains Sammy, speaking with TenEighty. “It’s an oddly meta film in a way because it’s more about making stuff than it is about stand-up comedy, but, that being said, it’s about a stand-up comedian.”
Bicycle follows a stand-up comedian as he puts on a comedy set about his bisexuality. The film touches upon many aspects of bisexuality, including exploring one’s own sexual identity, coming out both privately and publicly, and the stereotypes surrounding those who identify as bisexual, and to Sammy is a filmmaker’s version of what a coming out video might look like.
“I’ve never really [gone] in-depth talking about bisexuality online, which is another key theme of the short as well,” he explains. “I guess it’s almost my version of what a coming out video might look like, but done much more through the lens of filmmaking than an explicit, personal retelling. It’s me kind of wanting to find a way to talk about it in my own way and that translating into a character who wants to find a way to talk about it on stage.”
We made a thing! It won an award! It’s got a bisexual lead character! I’m a bisexual woman! Representation in film is important! Telling real people’s stories is important! This was a lovely shoot to be a part of! I can’t stop using exclamation marks! Go and watch Bicycle! https://t.co/WXkrsb0DQk
— Reb Day (@reb_day) November 15, 2019
Sammy wanted Chris to be involved with the film from the start and wrote the character of Felix with him in mind. According to Sammy, there’s no one else he pictured playing the role, and he shares Bicycle wouldn’t have come to fruition if Chris hadn’t wanted to be a part of it. He wanted someone who would be up for the challenge of bringing to life the comedic and vulnerable aspects of the script and Chris “sort of [ticked] most of the [boxes]”.
The writing of the script was done as a collaboration between Sammy and Chris, with Sammy writing the base and Chris adding his own two-sense. Sammy credits Chris’ input for making the stand-up portion of the script follow the typical rhythm one sees when watching a comedian perform live on stage, “He didn’t get a writing credit, but he basically deserved a writing credit.”
Bicycle is different from Sammy’s past projects in that it features only one character. While he didn’t approach much differently when it came to the film’s production, he says the actual filming of the project changed as a result of the rehearsal process, ending with the final product being filmed in front of a live audience.
“Originally, I was thinking, ‘Right, I want to film Chris doing this completely clean and then certain shots we get will be with an audience and we can construct that in post-production.’ But the more I thought about it, I just realized that when you’re doing stand-up, it really feels like so much of the energy is from that audience, and it was so funny how when we were performing it just the two of us it felt so flat, comparatively, and then as soon as you got some new blood in and as soon as you got some fresh eyes on it, it would just elevate and it would just feel so much stronger because you had a crowd to play off.
Look at this! My ex is currently starring in @ICOEPR 's new short film about sexuality and spider-man. Well done everyone involved, beautifully done! ✨https://t.co/qpCM2lM3E1 pic.twitter.com/n8ZDppAFFF
— crabstickz (@Chris_Kendall_) November 15, 2019
“I suppose, in a funny way, the co-star is the crowd, so, in a way, he has that energy to work off,” he adds. “But, for an actor, I think it’s a very admirable thing to be totally in charge of the pace and totally in charge of the rhythm of the dialogue of the short film.”
Along with Chris, Sammy worked with a wide host of familiar collaborators on the film. Amongst others, Ciaran O’Brien served as Director of Photography; Jack Howard worked on the edit; Michael and Jacob Trueman consulted on the stand-up; Ashley Horne served as producer; and Rebecca Day, associate producer.
In the past, YouTube has been accused of suppressing LGBTQ+ related content. When asked if he’s worried about Bicycle experiencing this, Sammy shares that he’s not too concerned, “I just wanted to make it for me. I think when you’re making short films online, the amount of sweat that goes into making these things means your first priority is probably wanting to tell a certain story or give a certain message.”
Those wishing to view Bicycle can do so via Sammy’s YouTube channel.