What Happens After You Get a Short Film Into Sundance?

I first learned about the work of director Bobby Miller when he e-mailed me in 2009. The subject line of his e-mail read “Hi Dave! Long Time Listener, first time…uhhhhhh” and he was contacting me to share with me his work from his amusing video show “The Best Short Films in the World.

Not too long afterwards, I heard rumblings about a short film that Bobby was writing and directing called Tub. I thought the premise was pretty out there; the logline of the film is “Paul jerked off in the shower. Paul just impregnated his bath tub.” Imagine my surprise when I found out that Miller’s film had been accepted into the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Not only that, it’s a pretty damn creepy and effective piece of work.

After the jump, see Bobby Miller’s Tub and learn more about what happens to a short film after it gets into Sundance.

First of all, here’s the short film in its entirety, which Miller is letting us premiere at /Film:

I asked Miller about how he was inspired to create something based on this twisted premise. He responded:

I probably came up with it while I was masturbating in the shower. Actually, I think the germ of it came from my undergrad freshman roommate. He was goofing on someone and said, “You jerk off in the shower so much, you probably have babies living in the sewer!” I’m assuming the comment stuck in my brain somehow, because I didn’t write TUB until several years later at Columbia University. I love practical effects and I had wanted to do something with a puppet and animatronics for years. I was in my last year of film school and tried to make it for three years. But, it was a really weird one and I couldn’t get grant money, so I just took out another loan and hoped for the best.

According to Miller, getting into Sundance was a “gamechanger.” It was much easier to get representation afterwards, and Miller did indeed score some with Oasis Media Group. “The beauty about Sundance is agents and managers swarm it and are looking for new talent,” Miller recalled.

But what happens to the short film itself? It’s a difficult world out there for short film distribution and Miller did not have too many options. Some of Miller’s colleagues got the short film into Wholphin, a prestigious short film anthology that’s released periodically (Miller e-mailed them but never heard back). Many of them ended up just releasing the short films online for free on Vimeo or Youtube.

Still, Miller wanted to try something different. “I think it plays really well in front of a crowd and I didn’t want to spoil it by putting it online too soon.” He tried to get the short film to play in front of features in some LA theaters but unfortunately, nobody was interested. However, Miller did get the film into over 30 film festivals (where it’s still playing). Miller also launched a Kickstarter campaign to sell Special Edition DVDs. He ended up selling 300 copies, and he “shipped all of those damn things by hand!” After that ordeal, rather than dealing with the manual labor required to continue shipping them out, Miller is working with CreateSpace to sell more copies.

As for what Miller’s up to now?

I wrote a feature length script that tonally is similiar to TUB that I’m really excited about. But, thankfully it has 100% less masturbation in it. I’ve been going on meetings around town in regards to that and I’m also revising it for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. I also have an animated TV show that I’m writing with my pal, Matthew Gustafson. Hopefully we’ll start pitching that soon. And then lastly, I was hired to write/direct a web series for youtube’s Fred. I know that sounds hard to believe, based on how weird TUB is. But, the teaser for that drops next week. I’m hoping it’ll feel like a live-action Space Ghost.

If Miller keeps upping his game using his unique vision and style, he’ll certainly be a talent to watch in the days to come.

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