Marshall Tyler became an “expert” on Los Angeles bathrooms when searching for the perfect place to set his story about a dream deferred.
“I must have gone to at least 15 or 20 around L.A.,” said Tyler, whose short “Night Shift” is a finalist in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival. “I’d go to the bathroom at an event or restaurant and all I could think about was if the space could work for the film.”
In “Night Shift,” the space serves as another character interacting with Oliver “Olly” Jefferies (played by Tunde Adebimpe of “Rachel Getting Married”), an aspiring actor stuck working as a nightclub bathroom attendant.
Tyler said he made Olly a bathroom attendant because the job is overlooked and underappreciated — and allowed for a host of interesting characters and situations. Olly runs into a former high school classmate, and another who bribes him so he have sex with a girl in a stall.
When the audience meets Olly, his Hollywood aspirations have been derailed and his wife, fed up with his stagnation, has filed for divorce. As he puts up with drunk and ungrateful patrons, he is forced to contend with where his life has gone and figure out how to get back to where he wants to be.
“For me, it was about dealing with fear,” Tyler said. “I wanted to talk about how powerful fear can be that it would force someone like Olly to settle for this life working in a job below his station. And I wanted to explore the idea of this guy in this space trying to figure out where he is in his life and his relationship.
Tyler forged a close and collaborative relationship with Adebimpe.
For one scene, in which Olly rehearses an audition monologue in front of the bathroom mirror, Tyler told Adebimpe to choose one of his favorites — which turned out to be the opening scene from “Hustle & Flow.”
Terrence Howard’s character, Djay, memorably explains that “man ain’t like a dog” but has desires mankind to dogs to illustrate that man has desires and ambitions and needs to work toward them and has to work to attain them instead of just “lying around in the sun, licking our ass all day.”
“Yeah, man, he just came up with that one. All I know is that when he said it, I knew it was perfect,” said Tyler, who plans to reteam with his leading man on his next short film, “Cap.”
“We got permission from [‘Hustle & Flow’ director Craig Brewer] and it felt like it totally just captured everything he’s going through,” he added. “It says everything.”
Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.