If the film title alone conjures up syrupy-sweet, romcommy scenes of engagement parties, bridal showers and flying bouquets, comically flavoured with a man-obsession and a dash of desperation, let me assure you that you won’t find any of that in The Bridesmaid. What this short celebrates is not your traditional onscreen single-gal qualities of demureness and self-doubt, but rather one of the most universally shared bodily functions, making it both disarmingly relatable and explosively funny. The six-minute comedy directed by Rachel Stubbings (who has kept us laughing here at DN for years in a variety of acting roles) and written, produced and starring Sophie Dickson, centres around a bridesmaid who finds herself locked inside a toilet on her friend’s big day – rather ironically since all she wants to do is go to the bathroom, but can’t. Giving ‘toilet humour’ a much needed revamp, The Bridesmaid is a fresh, perfectly observed, bite-sized comedic gem which metaphorically sticks two fingers up to all the stereotypical, male-centric narratives. DN is proud to share the online premiere of The Bridesmaid alongside our interview with Stubbings, where we cover everything from feeling bunged up, to finding the perfect fart noises, to the inspiration she draws from the pain and humiliation of life.
Let’s start with what everyone will be wondering about. Was The Bridesmaid based on a true story?
Haha. Nope. Sorry to disappoint you there. That said, I did use to spend a considerable amount of my childhood accidentally locked in cupboards. At least I think it was accidental.
Tell me a little about how you got involved and what drew you to direct the film.
I was actually mentoring Sophie as part of the comedy writing and production course at the NFTS. A course I now head up as it happens. Sophie had some brilliant ideas for comedy scripts and as soon as the idea for a bridesmaid stuck in a loo surfaced, I immediately knew I could do something fun with the idea and asked her outright if I could direct it. It was as simple as that. I’d just come off a shoot where we’d had a big cast, 72 supporting artists, a gospel choir and loads of complicated camera moves so the idea of directing something in one location with one lead actor felt dreamy.
How long did it take to shoot it and were there any surprises along the way?
It was a one day shoot but an illegally long one as we were a tiny crew. We had a lovely surprise on the tech recce because Jonathan Nicol our DoP told us he’d made a SnorriCam – one of those cameras that’s rigged to the body of the actor, facing them directly. I’ve wanted to use one of those ever since I saw Requiem for a Dream all those years ago so I nearly busted something when Jonathan said he could bring one. I had to go away and have a stern word with myself to check I wasn’t using it for the sake of it (I get quite giddy about kit) but I’m so glad I decided to use it as it worked really well in highlighting the bridesmaid’s panic when she thinks she’s stuck.
As soon as the idea for a bridesmaid stuck in a loo surfaced, I immediately knew I could do something fun with the idea.
Dickson’s performance is superb! How much of it was improvised and how much was straight from the script?
She’s great, isn’t she? Absolutely loads of it was improvised. What was so lovely about working with Sophie was that she was up for trying anything. Once we knew we’d got a take, I would basically bark stuff at her to try from the bath and she gave all of it a go. The top-down angle when she’s gone full feral was so fun. She absolutely went for it and we were all trying not to ruin the takes by giggling.
There are also loads of funny moments from stuff Sophie improvised that didn’t make it in because we wanted to keep it short and sweet. The plan was to make a 5 minute film and it ended up being 5.57 minutes. Once Nick and I had a rough assemble which was way too long, we had to get pretty brutal with it. It always hurts at the time to ditch stuff but it paid off.
We were all trying not to ruin the takes by giggling.
Part of what makes the gross-out nature of the narrative so comical is that it all centres around a female character. Was that an important part of the script and how do you think a version of the film with a male lead would play out?
This probably says an awful lot about me but it genuinely never occurred to me that her managing to poo was gross. The fact she couldn’t poo but then managed to at the end became our narrative arc. To me, it’s just a happy ending. Nobody likes feeling bunged up. That said, I have no interest in seeing a man sh*t. No thank you.
You could’ve really gone to town with the sound effects, but there is a sense of restraint in the sound design and the music, which works so well precisely because they never cross into slapstick waters. Tell me more about how you found that balance.
I’m so glad you said that. The editor and I, Nick Price, who I work with a lot, spent aaaaages going through different fart noises. He’s a very busy man so I had to pinch his evenings to get the edit done. I remember sitting together really late into the night going through stomach gurgles, farts and plop noises and having these incredibly earnest conversations about what noise was most suitable. I thought “What a brilliant way to make a living”.
The track we used is from my favourite album of 2021, it’s called AA2.1 by P. Morris and the track is called cielo tango. My dream would be to have P. Morris score a film for me. He’s an incredible artist.
I think my style of comedy is very much anchored in reality. I like it when things are played with absolute sincerity rather than for laughs.
Do you have a favourite moment/scene from the film?
I’m really fond of the SnorriCam stuff because it was so fun to do but my favourite bit is when Sophie is pulling faces in the mirror. Jonathan Nicol did wonders with the lighting and pulling focus as she turns round when her phone rings. We shot that quite late on and we were all really tired but we knew we’d found a lovely moment.
At DN, we are huge fans of your work. Can you tell us a little bit about what/who inspires your comedy style and what you hope the audience will get from it?
Thank you! I think my style of comedy is very much anchored in reality. I like it when things are played with absolute sincerity rather than for laughs. I think it makes it more real and therefore funnier. A friend of mine said he watches my stuff with a slight sense of dread and that pleased me. Haha. Maybe it shouldn’t. I just think life is so f*cking painful and embarrassing and I like my comedy to reflect that. Filmmakers like Kenneth Lonergan, Andrea Arnold and the Duplass brothers have had a huge influence on me.
What are you working on next?
I’m writing a feature film with Craig Ainsley based on our short film Whenever You’re Ready which is an absolute tonic. Craig will direct that and I’ll play a character cleverly named, Rachel. A brilliant comedian, Jessica Fostekew and I wrote a short for Sky and I’ll be co-directing that in May. I’ve also got something like five TV shows in development which sounds very exciting in theory but it all takes so long so to itch the scratch and get out from behind my laptop, I’m making a new thing with my directing partner Ben Mallaby (BARBARA) soon. You know me. I like to make sure I’m making something at all times. I never relax.