Ever been walking past someone in the mall, grocery store or on the sidewalk and they bump into you? It happens… and there’s an etiquette for these situations. You both stop, turn around and apologize, right? But what if you turn around and the other person doesn’t, they just keep walking. Now it’s personal, it’s a hit and run/walk and it doesn’t feel good. Do you run after them to demand an apology or do you yell at them in a fit of frustration? It’s likened to road rage without the vehicle. If you do nothing, you risk losing part of your courage, your bravery, principles and masculinity. Right or wrong, you decide to confront the personal assault. They bumped you and you should be entitled to an apology!
Whether you agree or not, this is the perfect dilemma and premise for a short film called, Bump. It’s written and directed by Maziyar Khatam and based off an idea he read in Dostoyevsky’s book, Notes From the Underground. A terrific little film shot in 1 take, which is a bold and courageous endeavour in itself. Khatam is no stranger to taking risks in film, especially when they’re calculated and the results bring awards. Past films, The Big Payback, Nothing but Money, Two Queens a King and a God? have all won awards and have encouraged Khatam to keep creating unique stories that keep people talking long after the popcorn’s gone.
Bump is jet setting around the world as it screens at multiple festivals. It was recently at Sundance and Palm Springs, which Khatam has testified as Life Changing! We were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Maziyar Khatam about Bump and it was a fun and incredibly interesting chat. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “Interesting film, Bump. It felt like a scene from a bigger film. What was the inspiration for it?”
MAZIYAR “The inspiration came from a book from the Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, called Notes From the Underground. It has a lot of fragmented stories and there’s one section where a guy gets shoved by a big construction worker. In the book, there’s a small section of ‘voice over’ where the man imagines all the things he’ll do to the guy… should he shove him, should he follow him? These thoughts go on for a year and I thought it was a really interesting idea – on masculinity and insecurity. Everyone’s had that moment where you’ve had an experience that makes you feel inferior and small. I thought it would be a great idea for a short, but without the voice over. I didn’t feel that it would work for this type of film. I wanted it dialogue heavy with it all captured in a single shot. I also thought it should be a very brief interaction that builds to absurdity. It examines how insecure men are in these situations and how we can poke fun at it. We spent a minimal budget on this film ($100.00) and made it with a group of friends. I wanted it to feel realistic to those encounters that we’ve experienced ourselves.”
HNMAG “The film is shot from a distance. Did the actors use Lav mics?”
MAZIYAR “Yes and I was one of the actors. I was the guy in the yellow jacket; nobody else wanted to do it. I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ I’ve never acted before. So, we wore Lav mics and Dylan (Hatton) who plays the other character, is a good friend of mine and we both went to film school. A lot of the film is improv but based off a script that included rehearsals. We were doing it on the street with people looking at us – we had to stay in the moment. The take in the film is the final take but in the few earlier ones, people were interacting with us, telling us to calm down – it’s not a big deal. There’s another take, where a homeless man was trying to take Dylan’s cigarette. We were piecing together which one we wanted but we ended up picking the last one. There’s a van that comes in at a pivotal moment, when I wanted to bump him. We saw that and we couldn’t have asked for a better take. It was crazy and people were asking if we had planned it. It was the best thing ever and we knew we had to use it. The biggest struggle with this film was trying to make it appear natural while adding real world elements. We didn’t want it to look like a skit or a prank. We shot it in a single take to make you feel like it’s really happening and you’re the spectator.”
HNMAG “Is this the first time you’ve used improv in one of your films?”
MAZIYAR “I’d say that we used improv in my previous film, The Flower Boy, where I was a producer and actor. We started experimenting with it on that film but after a rehearsed improv. We spent 2-weeks tweaking what we were going to say to each other and how we would react, then wrote a transcript and built the script around that. It was a very structured improv, which is a technique we used on a previous film. We took that formula and did the same thing in this film, which really worked out for the structure.”
HNMAG “Is there going to be a sequel?”
MAZIYAR “(Laughing) People have asked how long the guy is going to be waiting. I don’t know, probably not though. The feature film I’m currently working on (pre-production) has a very similar and absurd vibe. The character that I’m playing in the film has crazy things happen to him. It’s how this neurotic character reacts to them, very much in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I enjoy how that character reacts to crazy situations. It’s not a sequel but it has a similar tone in the feature film.”
HNMAG “Where does the film go next?”
MAZIYAR “It’s going to Palm Springs next, on the 20th. We also had our Sundance premiere, which was amazing and life-changing. It was mind-blowing to have our little film there. It was very cool, the people we got to meet even though it was online. It’s also screening at the FOFS (Future of Film Showcase), which is on the 19th in Toronto.”
HNMAG “You’ve made some great short films and won many awards for them. Films such as The Big Payback, Nothing but Money and Two Queens, a King and a God? that you shared an award with Anya Chirkova. Does winning awards help to open more doors and find more financing for other films?”
MAZIYAR “It definitely helps but I’m still trying to figure out how to finance projects. I’ve been self-funding all my films with my team but Sundance definitely helped a lot and more doors are open. I was able to find managers, who are very supportive and are key in developing my feature. I’m not so sure that the awards have helped but the festivals, such as Palm Springs and Sundance have helped a lot.”
HNMAG “Any other films coming out this year?”
MAZIYAR “We have another short film coming out soon. We finished the post-production on it at the end of April. We’ve submitted it to many festivals and it’s more dramatic with comedic elements. It’s called Bubba and I’m excited to see what people think of that one as well.”
HNMAG “Congratulations again on your many awards in being celebrated as a filmmaker. Is there anyone in the film world that you might borrow techniques from or admire for their style?”
MAZIYAR “Yes, my biggest inspirations currently in Contemporary film are the Safdie Brothers (Good Time, Uncut Gems). I love the way they do dialogue and I think they make the most authentic films, where it pertains to dialogue. People talk over each other, they repeat lines of dialogue and it has an improv feel. We definitely watched Uncut Gems and Good Time multiple times before making Bump because we wanted that energy to it as well. There’s lots of them… Ruben Östlund is another one, he’s a Swedish filmmaker. If anyone’s ever seen Incident By a Bank, they’d definitely see the similar style in this film. These two filmmakers that are on their way to set, witness a bank robbery and are watching it. It’s all done in a single take, it’s mind-blowing. There’s a parade happening, he staged and planned so much, even with the Background Actors, it’s unbelievable. He also made another film that was just amazing, Force Majeure. It’s one of my favourite films. I would say that definitely Ruben Östlund and the Safdie Brothers are some of my favourites.”
HNMAG “Would you say that you have a preference for long takes?”
MAZIYAR “Not really, this is the first film. If you’ve seen the previous film, it’s so different from this one. On that one, we went with a lot of hand-held, a lot of close takes with very little wide shots – it had a claustrophobic feel. We like to consider what might be appropriate for the film. The team and I try to determine how the film should feel, what are our references and should we look for outside references? I love long takes; there’s a great quote by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). He said ‘the great thing about single shots – the audience knows you’re not lying to them’. In a single shot, you can’t lie, you can’t cut, you can’t hide something… you can’t cut to the other performer because the other actor isn’t bringing it. People find a single take captivating. With the film Bump, if there were a cut – it would feel phoney. It had to all be in a single take and we had to make it work.”
HNMAG “What has the making of this film taught you?”
MAZIYAR “I learned that you can do a lot with no money, I was surprised. I thought this film wouldn’t amount to anything. We had Sundance and these other festivals asking us how much the budget was. I didn’t really spend any money, I only bought donuts for the crew. It makes you look at things differently when you’re more limited, you might use a wheelchair for a dolly, it makes you more creative. Going into my feature film, I’m thinking about those things and what elements we can get done for free. It teaches you the run n gun style of shooting, which will help you when you have money. I also love working with my friends, even if people say not to work with your friends. I absolutely love it, they’re so honest and I’d say that the entire crew – the DP, my friends, the producer and I were all hanging out and rehearsing. It makes everything more fun. If you find the right group of friends, they’ll also be honest with you and if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here making the kinds of films we’re making. When you find a group of people like that, it really allows you to grow.”
HNMAG “What type of camera did you use to film Bump?”
MAZIYAR “It was a Black Magic Cinema camera. We shot it in 4K and we wanted that luxury of being able to crop and zoom. We were going to use the RED but the DP said it was too big and would draw attention. The Blackmagic camera was perfect because it’s so small and easy to conceal, we could always say we’re taking photos. We needed a small camera with that 4 K ability.”
HNMAG “What frame rate did you shoot it at?”
MAZIYAR “We shot it at 23.9 fps.”
Bump is a short film that will keep you talking longer than the duration of the film. It’s unique and the premise is simple but a story grew around it, which is where the entertainment factor jumps in. A moment in time that might reflect a resolve or seed more restitution. Thank you Maziyar Khatam for a great film and we wish you continued success!