Jesse Eisenberg Uses the Urinal
Film Major and senior Alec Brown is wrapping up the finishing touches on his latest short film, “Jesse Eisenberg Uses the Urinal.” Brown sat down with Jackalope Magazine to discuss the project and where he hopes it will end up in the future.
JM: Tell me where the concept for this project came from.
AB: It’s kind of a long story. One day when I was watching my No. one favorite film of all time, The Social Network, in which Jesse Eisenberg has one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, I realized that Jesse Eisenberg has kind of been typecast as the fast-talking know-it-all who articulates every word that he says. He plays it in almost every movie that he’s in. I thought, ‘that’s a great start for a comedy.’ And I thought and thought, what would be the easiest thing for someone to do? And that would be urinate. (Laughs). There’s really nothing easier than urinating. I don’t know what demon possessed me to write a screenplay about it, but I did. It’s incredibly nonsensical, really raunchy, borderline, and I’m just really glad that everybody who helped me out on the film believed in the screenplay enough. Maybe they believed in the insanity. (Laughs).
JM: Can you tell me a little about the process of making the film?
AB: “Jesse Eisenberg Uses The Urinal” is the easiest film I have ever made. Not only the easiest, but also the most fun. Because, first off, it took us a cumulative of nine hours in one day to shoot this entire film. And, of course, that wasn’t because we were rushing. We were making sure everything was perfect and where it needed to be, because we all wanted this film, as weird as it is, to have incredibly high production value, because that’s what film festivals like, as well as effort and originality. When I say this film was the most fun I’ve ever worked on, that’s because it took us nine hours to shoot but it probably would have taken us seven hours if so many people weren’t laughing on set. Here’s the thing: it wasn’t just me and the main characters who were cracking up. It was actually crew members who couldn’t hold in their laughter until the end of the take. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s actually a great problem to have. We still got the film finished in a sufficient amount of time, everybody had a good time to my knowledge, and I really hope that shows in the film. I hope film festivals will take notice of that.
JM: That leads into my next question. What do you hope people will get out of watching this film? What kind of experience do you want them to have?
AB: First of all, I want people to understand that this is an homage to Jesse Eisenberg and his works because I do think he’s a very talented actor and I felt that this was my way of paying an homage to him. But I also want people to realize that, if done correctly, it’s 100 percent ok to laugh at potty humor. It’s okay, you know? I mean, I see a lot of people who will just kind of roll their eyes and be like, ‘this is child humor.’ I look upon that like, ‘lighten up.’ Now, granted, this whole film is not just potty humor but when I was writing the screenplay, those were the jokes that kept me and the people who read the screenplay laughing so I knew we had to keep those jokes. I feel like there is a stigma that follows student comedies and that stigma is that people won’t laugh as much because they’re going into the film knowing it’s a student film. How funny can it be? It can be incredibly funny. I don’t want people to just watch this film and chuckle and peer around to make sure no one’s watching. I want people to cough up their intestines laughing so hard. Which would kind of go along with the movie, when you think about it. (Laughs.) But that stigma needs to end. Student films can be funny.
JM: It’s interesting that you’re tackling two things that have these stigmas attached to them. Student films and potty humor, which, as you say, most people turn their noses up at. Why do you think that is? After all, it’s a pretty universal source of humor.
AB: I mean, it’s the first kind of humor. What else did cavemen have to laugh at back then, other than their own expulsions of gas from their bodies? It’s not like one caveman just up and said, ‘a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar,’ you know?
JM: Very good point. With such ambition for this project, where do you plan to send it? What are your hopes for the future of this film?
AB: Well, my biggest hope for this film is to have the real Jesse Eisenberg see it at some point. This is my gift to him and what better way to get him to see this than to submit it to huge festivals? Festivals that might be screening one of Jesse Eisenberg’s films, or that might have him for a guest. Those are the festivals we’re targeting. I mean, you’re only going to have Jesse Eisenberg for a guest at a huge festival, so that’s a plus. Those are the festivals we’re shooting for. Now, I’m not saying this film will get into any of them. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch. I will say that ‘Jesse Eisenberg Uses the Urinal,’ despite it being child humor and adult humor at the same time, I do think is my best work as a writer and director because I’ve never put myself as much into a film until now. I kind of used this film for a new mindset, which is ‘be a perfectionist.’ If my DP calls me over to the camera and says, ‘hey, take a look at this shot is this good enough for you?’ And my reaction is ‘good enough,’ then it’s not good enough. ‘Good enough’ implies good but could be better. I kind of used this perfectionist mindset to make this film as good as it could be.
JM: I find it interesting that you set out to produce a film with a high production value that also employs potty humor. You don’t hear about that being done very often. Do you think that’s part of the problem of the stigma, both with the subject matter and student films in general?
AB: That is a great point, and that’s exactly the mindset I went into with this film too. Here’s the thing: When I was writing the screenplay, I knew that this film could either be really really good or really really bad. I thought to myself, you know, potty humor is usually associated with bad movies. Adam Sandler movies that don’t gross anything at the box office. So, I realized we had to have all of our technical aspects on point. I told my DP, Nathaniel Regier, to mimic Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography from The Social Network, which this movie spoofs at some points. And he did it! And I told him, ‘Nate, I know this is a weird, raunchy comedy but I want it to look beautiful. I want people to walk out of that theater thinking, that was so funny but it was also really good cinematography.’ Nowadays, you don’t ever see a lot of comedies with really beautiful cinematography. Back in the 60’s, they put so much effort into that. The Great Race, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Odd Couple. They all got nominated for Oscars for technical awards and nowadays you see comedies get nominated for writing and acting but never for, like, ‘Best Cinematography’ or ‘Best Sound Editing’ or ‘Best Production Design.’ That’s why I really admire Birdman, if I may say that. I thought, why are people only putting effort into the acting and the writing? Make it look pretty. Make it look pleasing to look at. Make the sound really pop. Make it stand out. Humor is beautiful. Why not make everything else beautiful too?
JM: Good point. Any last thoughts?
AB: Maybe I shouldn’t say this… Oh, well. I know most people on this campus are voting for Bernie Sanders, so they say, ‘I’m feelin’ the bern.’ Jesse Eisenberg has my vote. I’m Feelin’ the berg. (laughs.)