On the 28th April 2019 Chewboy Productions brought their own brand of surrealist humour to a startled, and underprepared, audience at Loughborough Junction’s Whirled Cinema.

The packed out auditorium patiently awaited the screening of Chewboy’s debut film offering, The Process Trilogy. Through its three seemingly silent films; To Play/Think, To Create/Change, To Trap/Break, all three explores the effects of mental health issues amongst young creatives working under extreme artistic pressures.

In truth, it is difficult to be fully prepared for a piece as absurdist and visceral as The Process Trilogy, with its approach to promoting unease in the viewer furthered by the approach to editing. Not only did the audience not know what was in store for them, but the team behind Chewboy didn’t either. Before the screening began, helpers conducted a questionnaire with everyone who bought a ticket to the screening.

The questions ranged from issues surrounding, irrational fears, personal relationships and film tastes, to name but a few. The audience’s answers were then fed through an algorithm that decided the final edit of the film that was to be played on the night; a truly terrifying level of uncertainty for any creative about to present a debut work. Each film offered up its own unique style and perspective, whilst at the same time being unmistakably linked by common elements such as a carefully constructed score, the use of silent movie cards and an emphasis on physical character performances.

In the first film, To Play/Think, the audience were presented with doppelgangers, cannibalism, and urination (just to settle you in gently). As a movie card reads, “you’re like a lift in a power cut”, the audience is confronted by the near-paralyzing stasis of a character unsure of their own art and unsure of the validity of the thoughts in their own mind.

Even when dealing with intimidatingly weighty issues, Chewboy’s approach is one that is adept in its addition of comical charm and whimsy. While our character is being followed by an unknown assailant, his journey orchestrated by the repeated booming of a base drum, the edge is taken off carefully by the unpredictable cue cards, such as: “I think he heard you…doing a wee”. The tone of the Process Trilogy is at times both haunting and hysterical, complimented by Ted Hayes’ brilliant original score.

The music drives the pacing of the film and journeys through an impressively eclectic collection of influences, from jazz, to solo drum beats, to eerie renditions of Silent Night. Hayes’ score is a highlight throughout, his composition technique marrying perfectly with writer George Bailey’s vibrant approach to the silent film narrative. An onscreen countdown between pictures reminds us that we are on a journey through the trilogy and the ante is certainly upped as we approach part two, To Create/Change.

Here we view a painter, facing the crushing stresses of creation amidst tight time constraints. Whilst she paints, the silent movie cards illuminate the artist’s inner thought processes: “Because it must be finished…only you can finish it”. Throughout we are never afforded a glimpse of the artist’s work, a detail brilliantly reinforced by an image of the artist painting over the camera lens as it further inhibits our view of her process.

Chewboy Productions

Chewboy Productions The Process Trilogy

The set design in the artist’s studio is fantastic, employing quirks like using her own thigh as a palette to mix paint. We watch a creative on the edge as she becomes entwined with her process and part of her art. Throughout we are reminded that, for our characters, the process of creation never stops its relentless churn, with each of the film’s ending with the same refrain: “We’ll try again tomorrow”.

To Create/Change arguably has the clearest intention of the three and works well to ground the two more abstract films that appear either side of it. The artist’s pressures are clear, the turmoil of her inner mind disturbingly apparent, and its presence in the trilogy deserved.

And then we arrive at part three, To Trap/Break. Earlier in the trilogy the audience is told: “You can relax, right? Wrong.” Thank god that this warning was included as the trilogy’s conclusion is, for want of a better phrase, bat-shit. We follow the intimate relationship of two tuxedo-clad forlorn clowns who, as their journey together comes to an end, are amazed to meet the omniscient writer of the silent movie cards at a bus stop down the road.

The breakdown of the two clown’s personal relationship is wonderfully captured during a sequence of vertical split screen in which, despite their apparent physical closeness, are unable to reach out of their own frame and into the other’s. It is a moment similar to a sequence in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, and does a fantastic job of reminding us of the twin pressures of managing the loneliness of solo creativity with the challenges of intimacy. To Trap/Break feels very much like the conclusion of what we have witnessed so far, taking us somewhere completely new with the addition of ‘the writer’ as a third character in the piece.

Chewboy Productions

Chewboy Productions The Process Trilogy

Here the similarities to Noel Fielding’s character of the moon in The Mighty Boosh are clear, and the Boosh’s influence on Chewboy. The film sums up the journey of its characters with one simple instruction: “Better get to the zoo before the rest of the animals.” In truth, this is the effect that a viewing of The Process Trilogy has on you. It is the feeling that you are watching animals, not so far removed from yourself, exploring their personal cage.

Verdict: ★★★★☆

Miro caught up with Chewboy co-founder, George Bailey to get some of his insight on the creation of The Process Trilogy.

M: Trilogies aren’t the most common form when it comes to short film cinema. Talk us through your decision to arrange the work in this way.

GB: As a company, we’re always looking to work in a way that differs from the norm and from what people have come to expect from us as a production company. In a way, this is a perfect example of us doing that, being little shits and going against the grain.

Having taken ideas from David Lynch and The Mighty Boosh, where we love the episodic elements and people watching and finding intrinsic links and little hints, we thought, yeah, we want a bit of that. We had to do a trilogy for that reason. we wanted to create something that was a bit more of a beast than just a straight forward, straight through drama or comedy film that followed a natural storyline and characters.

We wanted an air of the surreal, of the abstract, but distilling it down to individual people who an audience could relate to. And if they didn’t relate to one, they’ve got 3 more to choose from…

M: The soundtrack from Ted Hayes is beautiful and features some good variation throughout the three films, talk us through your working relationship with Ted

GB: We had a strong collaborative relationship with Ted throughout the editing process and even before. He came to the shooting days, and as well as holding lights for us, blocking out natural light and holding mics, he started thinking about what kind of tracks, beats and styles would fit this tone of film even at that point in the process.

Working with Ted on nailing the score as a storytelling device throughout the editing process, constantly sending footage and music back and forth to each other to work on, was an absolute wonder to be part of and was one of the most exciting methods of working we’ve experienced so far.

It was incredible to be able to send each other different samples and snippets of footage and think about everything which would connect the films to the music. What would marry this onscreen action best? Where are the peaks, where are the builds? What are we trying to communicate here? Yeah, it was pretty bloody special. Or, as we’d say, it was lit.

Chewboy Productions

Chewboy Productions The Process Trilogy

M: Before the screening at Whirled Cinema, the audience completed a questionnaire that influenced the edit of the film they actually viewed on the night. Had that been an idea you were working with right from the beginning of development or did it come to mind later after preliminary filming?

 GB: The questionnaire idea came about in the midst of the planning stages. On the back of our theatre show EUAN, we loved the interpretive qualities people were finding in our work; and no two people were taking away the same things. This was something we really wanted to build on, and we were obsessed with making an individual experience in which an audience member selects their own journey in some sort of weird game where their way of playing defined the edits, music and character journey’s they followed.

Bandersnatch then came out on Netflix just as we were finishing up our plans for the trilogy and we were like: “Right, ok. Back to the drawing board we go.” And this wasn’t a reaction of us fearing to seem gimmicky, it was more the idea had been done, done really well and we knew at this stage in our career we really couldn’t do any better with the resources available to us.

For a while through the storyboards and initial planning, we stuck with the idea of having an interactive element, until we suddenly realized we could edit together a film right before an audience saw it using a sneaky algorithm we were shown in a digital crash course.

But again, this made things all the more terrifying, because what would we have done if it hadn’t worked on the night? It’d be hideous having to let down a room of people like that. We were just lucky we’d tried and tested it so much to the point we were comfortable knowing exactly what we were doing.

Off of that, we decided to play more with the live element and the ‘theatre’ of the interpretation, creating a film for a whole room based on some basic answers related to the films, as you then read into what the person next to you has said, what you’ve said, and you consider who you’re watching this film with. It becomes a community experience, it gets you talking, it gets you thinking. And that’s the kind of event we wanted to be part of, let alone organize and host.