Director Greg Barth opens the window to the isolation-addled mind that created this bizarre short film about desire, jacket potatoes and the gig economy
Greg Barth’s lockdown film ‘Craving’ takes a lot of familiar feelings, runs with them, and then keeps running into some eyebrow-raising territory. That’s what marks it out from so many of the personal creative projects that filmmakers have thrown themselves into this year. Shot and made through the UK’s summer 2020 lockdown, the Friends Electric director’s passion project had been brewing for Greg for more than four months.
A self-isolation fever dream about one man’s hunger becoming increasingly harder to satiate, driving him to commit harmful acts against a man-potato, it’s an approach to ‘food porn’ that we’ve never seen before.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Greg to find out what the heck he was thinking when he made this wonderful oddity.
LBB> This is clearly a Covid-provoked film... what were your original thoughts and feelings that first put you on the path to making it?
Greg> Lockdown was crazy, I still think I haven't recovered! I guess when you know that everyone is in the same situation, you start to want to peek into their lives to see how they are affected by these restrictions. At least I did... And I kept imagining a solitary person looking at their food spin in their microwave for hours, most likely because they were bored and losing their sanity (i.e. all non-furloughed freelancers). You’ve done Twitter, Instagram, RSS feeds for the day, now back to that microwave window!
A repetitive life in isolation can bend reality pretty sharply (The Shining was a big reference too) so maybe after a while that microwave starts becoming something else entirely, its own little world you peek in through the window - in my case - a terrible strip club where over-lit and underwhelming food tries to charm you by on a spinning platform as you stare on.
That probably sounds odd, but that’s pretty much the breadcrumbs that played out the foundation of this short - it was really a weird time.
LBB> When did you settle on the idea of making it about desire for food and, specifically, jacket potatoes?
Greg> I felt like desire was probably heightened during lockdown. The thought of seeing friends, having good food, I mean a lot of the pleasures of our lives have been eliminated due to home confinement, FOMO had completely vanished yet our desire for special moments - and cravings - grew tenfold IMO.
With the microwave in mind, food porn (or lack thereof) became a theme, and I kept imagining the shittiest foods people were making themselves (because they couldn’t eat out, they were lazy, etc.). For that single imaginary person I was imagining, jacket potatoes as being the perfectly simple staple of comfort food in these crazy times. It also could be quite gross seeing it upright and jiggle around.
LBB> How did that form into a script? I mean, as weird as it is, there is a plot and events unfold!
Greg> I think as the idea grew, I wanted it to become a weird little mirror for A the gig economy and B our need to feel in control during these scary times. So the idea of the potato becoming a freelance “cam girl” who is forced to go to great extents to please - while our character (and his growing delusions of validation and desire) wants to see how far he can take this session. It all became a bit nasty - again a mirror of the times we were in.
LBB> What were your thoughts on how you wanted it all to look? There are so many odd little details. Could you talk us through some of those?
Greg> I wanted the character to have lost his sanity from the get-go, so the whole film is portrayed as his imagination warping into reality. The window that is just a print-out is kind of symbolic of lockdown. It’s just a view, but you can’t actually go anywhere can you? He has been so bored and hungry that he actually made himself a self-isolation calendar, with no days and dates but just pictures of terrible foods he now craves - I thought that could be a nice detail to also add the Covid-19 time stamp to the film. The crumpled up work jacket on the coat stand, I mean that one is self-explanatory :)
It was so much fun building a world that mirrored both the times and his loss of sanity.
LBB> What was shooting it like? What were the big challenges?
Greg> I want to point out that this whole film was made possible by my close friend Rodrigo Penalosa - an amazing actor (and our potato-man) - but who also had access to a small studio with some shooting gear. So we were able to make this film happen on a shoestring budget, and safely. It was a blast being only three mates on set, having laughs and quite a leisurely pace to move through the shots.
LBB> What will be your enduring memories of the process? It looks like it was a fun one!
Greg> I loved the fact that everyone involved was instantly motivated - and most importantly available! - to help me make this. We were all struggling with boredom and worried about what the future held, so just to be working was energising, but most importantly it created a unique bonding experience between us that I’ll never forget. Plus I never thought that dancing jacket potatoes would be an idea that would actually help me stay sane during this time. Thanks 2020!
LBB> How have people reacted to the film?
Greg> Interestingly, in the US it’s been quite divisive. A lot of people thought it was borderline sexual and quite disturbing. There is some underlying darkness to the piece, but maybe it was such a foreign and surreal concept for some people who, after lockdown, want to watch Friends and grasp at something simple... I don’t know. But I quite like that it’s been more divisive than my previous work.
LBB> Anything else you'd like to add?
Greg> A huge shout out to the amazing team that made this possible! I was definitely the most fun I’ve had in ages.