Soiree (United States | 2016, 5 min)

Directed by: Ben Rock

Ben Rock, ('The Blair Witch Project', 'Alien Raiders') directs this comedic short starring Lauren Van Kurin ('Second City') and Donal Thoms-Cappello ('Timeless', 'The Red Machine') as two people desperately trying to get a circle of party guests to open up and accept them. When they finally get their chance at a higher status among peers, however, they realize it comes with a price....


Interview with: Donal Thoms-Cappello, Soiree
Interview by: Caleb Dawdy

1) The topic of this short is most likely an event that most audiences can relate to. When writing a comedic short like this, what elements of the writing process and delivery do you find essential to keep a relatable topic like this punchy and humorous?

I guess it's just important to remember what the conflict is at its core: two people wanting acceptance from the reality around them, trying every strategy they can think of in order to get that acceptance. Keeping it funny involves a lot of stuff. Pace (which Ben Rock our director was very good at keeping in mind) and the brilliance of Lauren Van Kurin's improvisation and timing.

2.) Could you speak towards the level of planning vs. improvisation both in the writing and delivery process of this material?

Essentially, I write out most of the dialogue. Then there are beats within it where banter between Lauren and me are called for, and that's where you see a lot of improvisation. Lauren is so good at that part, I usually just let her try something and then work off her. Most of that is happening as we're crouched together in our "asides".

3.) What are some of your influences in film that you tried to draw on for this piece?

Oh man. Well, I've always been interested in strange, slightly manic absurdity in indie films. Anthony Minghella's version of Beckett's "Play" (2001) probably was swimming in my head as I wrote this. And the tension you usually see in Christopher Guest's films definitely rubbed off on me for this project, as well.

4.) What are some of your comedic influences?

I'm an Ernie Kovacs fan, especially for the batshit out of the box sketches he did on his television show. Some of it was just so odd, but so revealing of what was actually going on under the subtext of the 1950's-60's American mainstream. I'm also a fan of Nichols and May's work, as well as George Carlin, Eddie Cantor, and Lily Tomlin.

5.) So the dark humor that overtakes the final moments of this film was inspirational and surprising. What brought you to this ending...was it an idea that was always intended or were there other ideas floating around?

I have no idea where it came from, but I suspect it is a reflection of what winds up happening to those of us who attempt to play along with industrial or societal norms: we wind up self-destructing. The idea of being trapped outside a social circle had always been in my head since I moved to New York City after college and literally could not speak to anyone at a social engagement without severe anxiety. But the piece didn't take life until it occurred to me that the natural end result of people who try to fit their square peg personalities into (literal) circular settings is they either destroy the setting or destroy themselves. Once I started writing with that, it felt like the story was worth telling. The initial idea, however, was that we'd go into a table. Ben Rock gets the credit for pointing out the pool during set-up and saying "Dude, come on. You both gotta get into the pool". And from there it just got darker and darker.

6.) Are there any other projects you and/or your team that are upcoming or ongoing that we can fix our attention to?

We're all members of the fabulous Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles, where Ben is currently working on "The Sirens of Titan" with Stuart Gordon. Lauren is an improv beast and a mainstay at iO West shows, and I have just wrapped up my MFA at The University of British Columbia. After I take a needed break in Vancouver this summer (see: Daniels, Jack) I'll probably join my wonderful colleagues back in Los Angeles for more work then.