Tyler Cornack’s thriller-comedy-horror Butt Boy – the film that launched a thousand puns – is deadpan funny with a crazy premise, as detective Russel Fox (Tyler Rice) tries to bring to justice a man he suspects is kidnapping children by absorbing them up his bottom. But it’s also quite moving, in a non-laxative kind of way.
As a thriller it’s played absolutely straight, even as Russel is sucked into the hellscape that is Chip’s rectum. (You can read my review here.)
Cornack is writer, director and star – he plays Chip, the man with the abduction-inclined anus – and I spoke to him about making an indie thriller that doesn’t look like an indie, having a butt stand-in, and famous people he’d like to be locked-down with.
The interview took place over Zoom, with me in Oxfordshire and Tyler in LA, and has been edited for length, sense, and extraneous Yeahs on both sides.
Sarah: So you are in lockdown. Have you been watching movies?
Tyler: Non-stop. Non-stop.
Sarah: I watched Butt Boy again today. I really enjoyed it the first time, but actually the second time, what really struck me, it’s funny, but it’s also really emotional. At the end I was welling up.
Tyler: Oh wow. That makes me happy. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. That was the whole idea. We find it funny that we can actually get reactions like that out of such a stupid premise, you know? That was the whole challenge and the idea. So that makes me happy that you experienced that.
Sarah: It started off as a sketch, didn’t it, so then you’ve expanded it and back-filled it with the issues of addiction and everything else. How did you go about that?
Tyler: Yeah it started as a sketch, but the original sketch itself had the serious rhythm and tone to it all. So it was already set in stone – the joke was, in fact, how seriously we took it.
And then the more we talked about the characters, and expanding the world, and their lifestyles, it just became more and more serious, and we just figured we could see how far we could take that.
There were also scenes that we shot that were too funny for the movie that we had to get rid of. It made it just a dumber movie altogether, I think. Very on-the-nose humour that we had to get rid of, to make it true to the story.
Sarah: In terms of writing reviews, Butt Boy is the gift that keeps on giving. I don’t know if any critic has managed to write their review without at least one bum pun.
Tyler: Oh, I know, I know. That’s the thing with the title too. We thought the biggest joke of the movie could be the title. So it is something you don’t expect. When you watch it, it’s something completely different than what you thought. So we’re happy with all the puns. Couldn’t be happier. There’ve been some good ones.
Sarah: The budget was $150,000. Your production values were very high considering that’s all you had. I knew it was an indie, but I thought you’d made it for a lot more than that.
Tyler: Thank you. That was the whole idea. When we wrote the script, we had the budget in mind. We wrote within our means, we wrote for different locations. I mean, literally, we can shoot at this place for X amount of dollars, and this place for X amount.
We worked with what we had and did it guerrilla-filmmaking style, which was a blast in a way. It was really fun. But thank you. We tried to make it look bigger than what it was.
Sarah: The inside of Chip’s colon was really impressive. [Red-lit and cavernous.]
Tyler: That was crazy. That felt like a gamble, a big-time gamble, because, it’s scary to take it there, you know? Even throughout filming it, we were like, “What the fuck are we doing right now?” But we shot that at the Bronson Bat Caves, which is where the old Batman series was shot with Adam West. It’s this man-made cave in the middle of Hollywood.
It’s a very weird place, and you have to hike up this trail to get there, and we shot that in the heart of the summer. It was so hot, but it was honestly one of the greatest experiences ever.
We were up there till 5am, 6am some mornings. It was just gruelling, but the best kind of gruelling, and we just had a blast shooting it. Again, we had that location in mind when writing the script, we knew that that would be a cheaper route, and credit to [cinematographer] Bill Morean and [assistant camera] Joel, all the guys who shot it. We had no electricity up there either.
So all the lights you see, all that red is all battery-powered, solar-powered lighting, because we couldn’t afford a fire marshal to be up there with us, which you need to have when you have electricity going.
Sarah: The colour turquoise is everywhere in the movie.
Tyler: It’s my favorite colour. I’m always trying to get that in everything from here on out in some way, shape or form. So yeah I’m obsessed with it. We went crazy on a lot of it, especially in the house. Every bit of wardrobe has it, pretty much.
Sarah: All the soft furnishings, all the clothes. The Cluedo piece. [The piece also goes up Chip’s bottom]
Tyler: Yeah Sorry. We call [that game] Sorry. The irony of him saying sorry for what he’s about to do.
Sarah: You’ve got the most famous bottom currently [the only nudity in the film is Chip’s backside].
Tyler: I do yeah. A lot of it is not my butt actually.
Sarah: Did you have a stand-in?
Tyler: Our first AC [assistant camerman]. Not even just out of my insecurities, but so I could see the monitor. If I didn’t have to be in the shot with the butts, I didn’t do it. So it’s really his butt that gets all the credit.
Sarah: It was impressive.
Tyler: I’ll let him know you said that.
Sarah: So you balanced the movie between the premise and a street crime thriller, and there are some jokes through it, but they’re very deadpan. Is that tricky to do? When you’re writing it, did you feel you were too immersed to see what was too much or what was too little?
Tyler: That was scary all the way through, even up until we released the movie, you know? It was new territory that we haven’t seen before. But again, that was the whole point of making the movie. That’s the whole reason we wanted to do it, just to see if we could create this new tone, a new way of laughing at things. That was the goal, anyways. I hope that it did that.
It sounds like a good idea to make something that would be new and people haven’t seen before, but when you’re in front of an audience watching it, it becomes very horrifying and frightening. But I’m glad we stuck with it and it’s paid off in the end.
Sarah: I liked your supporting cast, even when they’re only little cameos. It’s a very diverse cast. Is that something you aimed to do, or was it just that indie filmmaking is anyway more diverse than the mainstream?
Tyler: We aimed to do that. I mean, with the office stuff, we definitely wanted it to be weird. I don’t want to call them weird, but there were some weird people in there, and people of all different sizes and shapes. We just thought that would be weird and funny, and kind of otherworldly, and make you feel, from the opening scene, you’ve seen these tropes before – being in a depressing workspace – but it’s a little bit offbeat, and a little bit slanted, and there’s humour in all of that.
And for the rest of the film, we wanted it to feel bigger than the movie actually was. So we kept that in mind with location and casting as well, just to create as much separation as possible.
Sarah: I thought in the office they did feel like they were a family. Their boss Rick Mitchum [Austin Lewis] is very over the top, and a bit gormless, but they’re all happy there, aren’t they? Apart from Chip.
Tyler: If you go back and watch it again, there’s a few other depressed ones; we were joking that some of these other characters could be a side character in a whole different movie, if we went down the rabbit hole. But yeah, it was great. We laughed a lot, and the extras had a really great time. So it did feel like a family even in reality.
Sarah: You talk about whether supporting characters should have their spin-off – I did think that Rick should have his own film.
Tyler: Totally. We deleted another scene with him as well, where you see Chip’s position in the office a little bit more in-depth, and the boss just wasn’t giving him the time of day. It was a great scene, but it was too funny for the movie.
But it’s funny you say that. We shot a short film that I never even showed to anyone. It was more for character stuff, but of that guy, and it was great. It was funny. He has a dark life at home, and lives through his work. He likes female escorts and jet skis, and it was wow.
Sarah: Have you seen the British version of The Office? Rick reminded me of a combination of David Brent and Gareth.
Tyler: Gareth more physically and David Brent emotionally. Totally. Where his character kind of spawned from is, I don’t know if you ever have seen the We Are Walmart video. It’s a Walmart manager with all of his staff, and he’s doing that stomping thing in the beginning [Rick makes the team stomp and clap in a circle]. That’s where we got it from, and Rick’s just taking his job really seriously. The real version is actually more ridiculous, believe it or not.
Sarah: What effect do you think Lockdown is going to have on independent cinema? And also you personally in terms of what you’ve got planned?
Tyler: I mean, there’s pros and cons to it. I would say the cons outweigh it right now, because everything is so unknown and unfamiliar. Nobody really knows what’s going on. [Not] just in film, but with everything. The industry – outside of just the independent realm – has been very affected by it here.
The town is so quiet now, and everybody that we know that was working on shows and things like that here, they’re on hold and nobody really knows what’s going to happen.
But you know, for me specifically, I think the bright side of it is people are going to be looking for content now, since they’ve had all this downtime when they were supposed to be filming things. And we’re thinking in that realm as well.
But I think there’s just so much unknown. Theaters, it breaks my heart to know that that could be getting even further away from us after this, because everybody’s really going to want to stay home. Nobody’s going to want to get in groups of people like that, and that was already depressing enough as it was, but now, it’s hard to see what the future is going to be with that.
But at home people are going to be looking for content always, and hopefully, they’re looking for weird stuff. So I guess that’s a good part of it. You know, trying to be the optimist here.
Sarah: At the moment, we’ve got new films. Some things are going straight to video on demand, and streaming, and some of the big ones are backing up. So you’re going to have those, but then there’s going to be a drought because nothing’s being made at the moment.
Tyler: Exactly. and you have to think two years down the line. I mean, there’s projects set up to be shooting in a year and a half, two years from now that were ready to go, and the banks have backed out of the loans because it’s so unknown and weird, and everything’s just on pause.
So I think from my perspective, it’s definitely worse than good right now, but I think people are going to be looking for stuff down the line.
Sarah: I wonder if there are any guerrilla filmmakers out there, making the most of the quiet streets. I mean, at the beginning of lockdown in Britain, an enterprising director could have remade 28 Days Later.
Tyler: Totally. I’m sure there’s film crews all around town here doing that.
A lot of Corona scripts being typed up.
Sarah: Tyler Rice, who plays Russel, I thought he really looked like Ethan Hawke.
Tyler: You know, he has different things all the time with that. People say so many different things.
Sarah: There’s something about him, the hunching, and the greasy hair, he seems transformed. You’ve worked with him before, haven’t you?
Tyler: Yeah, we’ve worked with each other for years. He’s one of my favourite people to see on camera. Even if it’s outside of film, if you give him anything to do, he puts all he has into it, 110%, and he’s an actor. He has so many questions, and does all the homework, and gets the physicalities down, and shows up, and is always great.
We wrote the role for him in this. And I think he did an amazing job. I think he steals the movie, and it was a culmination of throwback, tropey detective roles from the ’70s and ’80s films, but bringing his own thing to it as well.
Sarah: I thought there was a real sense of sadness around him. When he climbs that tree, and he’s looking in a window, and it’s a man bringing his wife a cup of tea, and just those little moments showing that’s what he’s lost.
Tyler: Yeah, exactly. And it’s that point in the film where we’re trying to get everybody more invested in him, and create some mystery around him, and, “Oh, what’s this guy going to be all about?” We always said that was like in Catch Me If You Can, when Leo goes to see his mother with her new family in the end, on Christmas Eve night. I think we played the soundtrack when we filmed that, for that scene to get him in the mindset.
Sarah: You’re stuck in lockdown, if you could be stuck there with anyone, either famous or literary or fictional characters, who would you choose, and what would you get up to?
Tyler: Oh man. That’s a great question. What’s your answer for that? I’m curious.
Sarah: Oh, I’d want people who were really entertaining, but who weren’t so sharp and witty that I felt I couldn’t say anything.
Tyler: Right. A lot of mine, I feel like could be annoying, like heroes of mine. I don’t want them to end up being annoying, and then I can’t stand them anymore.
Sarah: Well, this is it. I always think Anne Boleyn, from several hundred years’ distance, is a much-maligned character. But she might’ve been a bit of a cow if you actually knew her at the time.
Tyler: Right. That’s like so many of them. I would do somebody in film, not to sound like a cliché, like a film school student or anything, but something in film for sure. Just so I could learn as much as I could. Maybe like a very cliché answer. Like get drunk with Quentin Tarantino.
Sarah: Yes and someone who can cook really well.
Tyler: Maybe John Favreau then.
Sarah: Oh, is he a good cook?
Tyler: You should check out his show on Netflix, The Chef Show. Yeah, he’s a great cook. So Tarantino and John Favreau. Just hanging out with them, you know? That’d be good. Tarantino might get annoying, but who knows.
Sarah: What you’re doing next, after lockdown, what are your plans?
Tyler: We already shot something actually. We did a pilot for a TV series we’ve been pitching around town for a while, and it’s like our Twilight Zone. They’re like little mini Butt Boy short films, with this weird host that guides you around. We’re editing that right now.
It’s called Tiny Cinema. It’s like little movies every week, basically.
Read my review of Butt Boy, or watch the trailer below. Butt Boy is currently out on digital in the UK and US, and on DVD / blu-ray in the US.
Watch the Butt Boy trailer: