When Rick asks his buddy to take his shoes off if he passes out, the night takes a weird turn as his friend obliges and embarks on a bizarre caring spree that seems to have no end.

“Shoes Off,” the uproarious short comedy directed by Joel Jay Blacker and starring Clayton Farris and Rick Darge, spins its hilarious tale from the witty script by Nick Logsdon. The film kicks off with a simple request: when Rick jokingly asks his friend to remove his shoes should he pass out. But little does he know, this seemingly innocuous ask sends his buddy on an unpredictable, caring spree that leads to a series of offbeat and comical scenarios.

Under the creative helm of director Joel Jay Blacker, the film not only boasts an entertaining storyline but also showcases the seamless chemistry between the actors, Farris and Darge. As we dive deeper into the upcoming interview, we’ll explore how Logsdon’s script fueled the quirky narrative and brought to life the absurd yet engaging events that unfold in “Shoes Off.” Get ready for an insightful look into the collaborative efforts that birthed this off-the-wall comedy and discover the creative dynamics behind the scenes.

“Shoes Off” revolves around a bizarre caring spree triggered by a simple request. What inspired the premise of the film, and how did you develop the comedic narrative around this unusual situation?

The script – written by Nick Logsdon – was so funny and such a simple premise that I think a lot of people can relate to it in spite of how far we took the original kernel idea. But, according to Nick, the story for him was born out of a trope and a love for his friends. The comedy for me comes from the unknown and so I thought going with a darker style and tone, creating more confusion with horror elements, would help add to that.

The film seems to play with the idea of unexpected consequences. Can you discuss the comedic elements and storytelling techniques used to escalate the situation after the initial request?

The score (original score by Miller Wrenn) was vital because we intended it to tell a different story to what was actually going on. Otherwise there’s not much to suggest you can mistrust the situation. Miller is a genius and created an underlying feeling of heightened alarm. That, coupled with the voyeurism was fun. I wanted to play with a perspective shift–as if whoever might be walking by on the street sees something totally different to what’s happening. It feeds into the idea that we’re looking in on something we shouldn’t and leads you to believe the worst. To Nick and I, that elevates our jokes. The punchlines hit harder when they feel like an exasperated relief to whatever dark thing we thought might be coming.

The dynamic between Rick and his friend is central to the story. Can you delve into the character dynamics and how their interactions drive the comedic plot forward?

Clayton’s character is coming from a place of regret and insecurity having not been there for his friend previously. We wanted it to feel as though the night is Clayton’s character overcompensating for something. It’s not so much a habitual act of service the way he shows up for his friend, but more his need to express his love. It’s something they’ve done before, but haven’t for a long time. Rick and Clayton found that balance so well and it made for a really sweet safe space between the characters. Also, fun fact, Rick’s character was named Nick in the script. But Clayton accidentally called him “Rick” and the read was just so funny we had to go with it.

Can you tell us more about your casting process? How did you find Clayton and Rick?

Clayton I’ve worked with more than any other actor. I love casting him and working with him because I believe he has an innate ability to perform with so much nuance and can shift tonally on a dime. He’s also funny as hell and can always bring something fresh and unexpected with every take. Rick I had worked with before. He’s a brilliant director as well as an actor, so I knew he understood completely what I was going for visually and tonally. That’s a dream for a role that was so physically demanding.

Comedy often relies on timing and delivery. How did you work with the actors to bring out the humor in the script, especially in scenes where the humor might be more nuanced or situational?

I think the film is situationally very funny. So the more genuine, loving and grounded it felt between the two characters, the more the circumstances and physical humor is elevated because it’s out of the ordinary. Blocking I’d say is where we spent more time. Having the film shot listed so the talent knows what’s obscured or what’s being revealed in each frame felt freeing as they knew they didn’t have to overperform. Each frame was intentional and we needed just enough from them in each given moment. It also allowed for us to play and improvise which they’re both so good at doing given we knew what we needed at most in each shot.

The film appears to embrace absurdity and unpredictability. How did you maintain a balance between keeping the storyline unpredictable and ensuring it remained coherent for the audience?

It started with the script. Nick Logsdon did an excellent job initially keeping me on my toes when I read it. I wanted to preserve that as best as possible, beat for beat. Luckily we’re playing with the unknown in the film, so a lack of clarity is important as long as we very clearly finalized each moment with a punchline or detail that moved the story forward. For example, throwing the audience off the scent with something else they don’t expect isn’t necessarily clarifying, but it creates more intrigue and a laugh. When Clayton drags Rick out of the living room, I often hear the audience tense up expecting the worst. But it makes the teeth brushing all the funnier because… why the fuck is he doing that?

The short film format requires concise storytelling. What was your method to pack humor, character development, and a full storyline into the limited runtime?

The pacing was tricky because we wanted this to be as short as possible while having room for suspense. But I don’t think there’s more to the joke if we went any longer. The trick for me was voyeurism and sitting in longer zoom shots letting a slow zoom do the job of capturing the eeriness. I believe that did enough for us to behave as silly and big as we wanted in performances because it created balance. That, and an intense score to create an unnerving and very different feeling.

With the script it was important to establish their relationship dynamic without falling on exposition. We didn’t need to see what came before in the night because we get it. It feels like a familial friendship and that’s what we wanted to make sure resonated with their chemistry and vibes more than anything. The audience gets there’s a lot of love between these two and they’ve been through it together with very little said.

Were there any particular moments or scenes in the film that were challenging to execute due to their comedic nature?

The timing of the powder was crucial and extremely difficult. We had to incorporate VFX (thanks Andy Windak) to retime the rise of the powder cloud. If it was too early, the audience wouldn’t be left to ponder. But too late and we lose the joke completely making it more painful to watch.

We like to ask filmmakers about their favorite filmmakers and where they draw their biggest inspirations from. What are yours?

Ruben Östlund, Yorgos Lanthimos, Paul Thomas Anderson, Emma Seligman, Donald Glover, Hiro Murai, Kristoffer Borgli, The Daniels, Greta Gerwig. All of them are directors who are broaching comedy in a bizarre and surreal way.

And finally, if you had to name your 2 or 3 all-time favorite short films, what would they be?

I have so many, 2 or 3 doesn’t seem fair!
A Reasonable Request by Andrew Laurich (Watch on FS!)
Brian and Charles by Jim Archer (Watch on FS!)
The Voice In Your Head by Graham Parkes
Former Cult Member Hears Music For The First Time by Kristoffer Borgli
BLASTOFF by Rick Darge