STEPHEN STANLEY'S entry in the Savannah Film Festival sounds it might also be at home as a skit from the Dave Chappelle Show. His lovingly satirical 15-minute homage to the long-form music vids of the early MTV era involves a toy store and a popular late ‘80s R‘n’B group. We spoke to Stanley recently about the film.
What happens in Push?
Stephen Stanley: You have eight ordinary people in a toy store, and suddenly the whole scene morphs into dance video for Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Push It.” We set it up so the lyrics would be the actual dialogue of film. There are two characters named Salt and Pepa, and that of course leads into the lyrics. It’s just a fun exercise meant to mimic the long-form videos of the ‘80s, where things suddenly transform from a story into a music video. For me it’s a way to let normal people get to experience this world where things suddenly burst into music.
That constantly happens in classic musicals like West Side Story or The Sound of Music, when all of a sudden they start singing.
Stephen Stanley: We looked at some of those conventions. I love all the grand Hollywood musicals.
Most student films don’t have a cast as large as yours in Push.
Stephen Stanley: All the films I’ve made somehow end up with ensemble casts. Logistically it was hard. You certainly have to run a tight ship to keep that many people in focus. We filmed it all in real time, all in one room. The first ten minutes of the movie starts with two people, and then you end up with eight or nine as more and more people enter the scene as the song gets going. That created some challenges in terms of continuity.
You mean it’s a single take?
Stephen Stanley: No, it’s not in one take. But it’s one scene in the sense that we never cut to a different place or point in time.
What was the genesis of the idea?
Stephen Stanley: I worked retail for many years before going to grad school. Normally in retail stores you pull to open the door, but in this one you had to push. I guess ours was a really old building or something. So it became a game for us to distract from the drudgery of retail work (laughs). We’d all yell, “you have to push it.” So it sort of spun from there. I’m always interested in the ways jingles come up in normal conversation. We’re at a point where jingles and songs always pop up in how we speak to each other.
What do you do now?
Stephen Stanley: I got a Masters from SCAD in film, and moved to L.A. when I got done. I’m now working in a talent agency in “feature lit” -- in other words, an agency that represent writers and directors. I’ve been doing that about six months. It’s been great working in the industry and seeing how successful writers and directors take an idea to the finished product.
What do you want to do next?
Stephen Stanley: I tend to do comedy. One project I’m developing involves a time-traveling robot in a the CB radio of a woman in Memphis in 1983.
Another look at the blurring of reality.
Stephen Stanley: Yeah, film is a way to reimagine the world as you either see it or wish it could be. Tragedy is what you fear may become. For me, I do look to create more offbeat worlds.