“The Bench” is a 2-minute short film starring Daniel Rock as the occupant of the bench and Josh Tichauer as the stranger who sits awkwardly close to him. It was directed and edited by Melody Rock, shot on the Canon 7D and cut on Final Cut Pro X. I used wonderful royalty free music, a silent film title card I found on the Internet, and built in effects from FCPX to achieve the old silent film style.
I wasn’t feeling so hot and Daniel suggested that we go make a short film. It would be simple – two actors, one location, one filmmaker (me). No pressure, let’s just go have some fun with a camera and see what happens. I said, “Okay.”
Daniel had the idea that he would be sitting on a bench by the neighborhood manmade lake, a favorite spot for us to film. Josh would come up and sit down next to him to deliver a letter. It was something like that.
“Sure, let’s go with that and see what happens.”
Over the next couple of days, I thought more about the idea and wondered if we could get away with something even simpler — a guy sits on a bench by himself and then a stranger comes up and sits right next to him. Awkward much? It’s always weird and unexpected when someone comes and sits next to you, especially in that situation. There are many other places they could go but they choose to sit right next to you. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Why is it even a thing? Isn’t it kind of sad that we consider that to be an awkward situation? Isn’t that some kind of disgrace to humanity, like we don’t want to embrace each other?
Imagine if aliens came down and we told them of our ways, and we expressed that it wasn’t quite right to sit next to a stranger if there was somewhere else to sit. I think that aliens would find that strange. Yet, This is an idea that everyone can identify with, something we all feel, and hope never happens to us. And when it does we look at the other person like they are some kind of freak for daring to sit near us when there were ample other options.
For instance, myhalf-Aunt Michele told me a tale where she went to the movie with her mother and friendsand they were the only people in the movie theater. Sure enough a random guy walks in and wouldyou believe he goes and sits right next to them. Out of all the seats in the whole theater he goes to sit right next to them. How dare he! Or maybe he was just being friendly? We’ll never know.
Either way half-Aunt Michele did not hold back, “Oh no, you are not sitting there!” And she made him move to another seat. I don’t blame her. That is weird. But why is it weird?
The moral of the story is – its awkward when a total stranger sits down next to you when they didn’t have to. Imagine if you were on the subway in New York and you had the whole car to yourself and then someone got on board and sat down right next to you. You’re instinct would probably be to move. But wouldn’t it be better to embrace the instant and engage that person because who knows who they could be? I wouldn’t do that and I don’t think most peoplewould either, but imagine how much better off we would be if we did. Or maybe we’d get pickpocketed.
Anyway, “The Bench” purely captures the awkwardness of that moment and then takes it to a level of spontaneous physical comedy. I didn’t have much beyond the awkward moment but Daniel and Josh tried some things – dialogue based mostly – that didn’t work. It wasn’t that funny but we were just working through it trying to find the comedy. Eventually on the third or fourth take I suggested doing it totally silent with no dialogue exchanged and making it purely physical. The result of that is what you see in the short. Daniel and Josh went for it and didn’t spare any care or concern for their bodies. They had me laughing so hard that I nearly ruined the shot (I was the camera lady). We knew that we hadsomething good. We did our best to get some coverage from other angles and called it a day.
How lucky to find something so magical when shooting! You pray that something like that will happen every time out. Most times you don’t know if you got it or not. But this one was special because we were pretty sure we happened on something pretty great. We captured a truly funny moment where both Daniel and Josh were fully engaged and connected to each other and they were able to elevate the idea of awkwardness to a whole other level.
“The Bench” doesn’t answer the question of whether or not its right to be bothered by a stranger who sits too close, but it makes you question is there really something to be bothered about? I like that about it. It makes you think a little bit. And people relate. Like half-Aunt Michele’s story – it’s a strange reaction that wehave and it’s a good thing to question. Looking back at it, I like that Josh doesn’t acceptDaniel’s shooing away of him and instead fights back. What if a stranger did that to you? What would you do?
The best part about “The Bench” was that we set out to do something fun with no result in mind and we ended up with a short film that we were all proud to share. It was unexpected and fun and better yet, inspired us to keep making shorts. It’s been the most fun part of this summer, coming up with ideas and experimenting with them. My favorite part of it is being able to say I don’t care if it ends up working or not because having that mentality makes it feel okay to screw up and do things that other people or even you might think are stupid. It’s a nice, freeing way to work. You don’t have to second-guess or worry or get anxious about it – you just go shoot and hope that by some miracle it all cuts together in the end.
I’m very happy Daniel said to me let’s go make “The Bench” because it ended up inspiring us to make more short films.
We’d love to hear your awkward Bench-like stories! Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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CLICK HERE TO WATCH The Bench