Hunt Beaty On ‘Pay Pig’ And The Success Of Six Short Films

Filmmakers Hunt Beaty, José Andrés Cardona and Wesley Wingo continue to win admirers with their impressive string of short films.

Pay Pig, their fifth short to be released online in the last fourteen months, presents a nuanced portrait of a bodybuilder who finds satisfaction in paying a woman to humiliate him over the phone. A cleverly constructed story that finds intrigue and depth in a place we might not expect it, the short is yet another example of this team’s exciting potential.

Hunt Beaty, who directed Pay Pig, joins us on Close-up Culture for a fascinating in-depth chat about everything from researching fetishes to his love for skydiving.

Q: You met Six Short Films co-founders José Andrés Cardona and Wesley Wingo at NYU Film School over a decade ago. What initially bonded the three of you together and why do you think this connection is strong enough to now be regularly making films together?

A: Yes, well initially we were mostly friends who hung out socially in college. As we got older and were working in various production roles, we would inevitably hire each other on various projects and I think there was a mutual acknowledgement of having a similar demeanor and “vibe.” This translated into a deeper friendship off the job also.

Also, we all have reasonably similar taste and appreciation for various movies/videos/ etc. However, I think we differ enough that weʼre able to act as a check of sorts on each otherʼs bad ideas. Hopefully. So itʼs just been an organic friendship that translated into a good working relationship basically.

Robert Youells in ‘Pay Pig’

Q: You are a sound recordist by day. What feeling does it give you to be making these films and be filling a multitude of different creative roles with Six Short Films?

A: Yes, Iʼve enjoyed a nice career as a sound recordist thus far, and while I havenʼt left it completely behind as of yet, Iʼm working on it and trying to fully transition to producing and directing. I can only hope that the mileage Iʼve logged as a “professional listener” has lended itself to my own unique offering as a content creator.

Obviously, sound is very important to me on these projects and I love working on the final mix in post-production with the engineers. Weʼve been very lucky to have the talented team at Silver Sound (Cory, Ted, Tarcisio, Ash) support us on these projects. Theyʼve truly brought them to the next level.

And yes, itʼs also been fulfilling to step into a variety of roles on these films and hang the headphones up for the most part. At the very least, itʼs been a rough and tumble “film school 101” crash course/refresher of sorts. Itʼs good to flex muscles that havenʼt been used in awhile, and all three of us have certainly done that on these projects in a major way.

I recall one day in particular on one of the shorts where Wes was actually pulling focus on the camera while simultaneously directing the actors. Thatʼs a good image that really distills how weʼve been working on these shoots, for better or worse.

Q: Iʼm sure youʼll have put yourselves in many interesting situations making so many shorts with this tight-knit approach and in such a short period time. What is the mood and dynamic generally like working on these projects?

A: Ha, we certainly have.

Well, the aforementioned situation of Wes pulling focus while directing actors remains a great example of how these shorts have worked for the most part. Each short has been a true “all hands on deck” approach, often with only myself, Wes, and Andres on the actual shoot at points.

I recall one day on Sundays where Andres was alone shooting with the lead actor in the car, while I was off prepping our next location and that was IT. We have also had a lot of help from friends though that would come through for a day or two to crew for us, and Ashley Knowlton has done a bulk of the production sound.

Also I even recall Wes and I each being legitimately sick with flu/colds on two of the productions in fact, and we all had to just come together and truly power through, picking up slack wherever it was needed. To say that producing and shooting these films was easy or even remotely comfortable would be WRONG haha.

Probably safe to say each of us look back at each of the weekends we shot the shorts with a hint of “PTSD,” perhaps, but we had all been in the “trenches” of production, so to speak, enough in our careers already that we knew what to expect and how to tackle problems as they inevitably arose on set. At the end of the day, we had each otherʼs backs full tilt, and I think thatʼs what got us through everything.

Q: Any fun stories to share from working on these films?

A: So many, but first image that pops off the top of my head is that of Francesca Anderson, aka “Frankie,” walking around Times Square speaking into a phone, stopping to take constant selfies over and over. We needed to shoot a lot, so we basically gave her some talking points then sent her off into the throng of people and let her riff into the phone as she walked in a big circle through the crowd.

It went on for long enough that folks in the crowd definitely took a bit of notice. She told us afterward that she overheard people saying things like, “look at that crazy lady who wonʼt stop taking selfies!” Haha. Frankie is a trooper and really put in the effort for that short.

Francesca Anderson in ‘Pay Pigs’

Q:Iʼm amazed at the complex and nuanced character portraits found in each short from you guys. What inspired you to write the bodybuilder and the dominatrix in ‘Pay Pigʼ?

A: Thanks! Well so I broadly encountered this subculture quite randomly online while researching a DIFFERENT fetish, the online marketplace of people who buy and sell underwear and other undergarments online. This search was prompted by a conversation I had with a friend whoʼs an amateur bodybuilder and told me people hit him up on Instagram asking for his workout shorts all of the time. No joke!

Initially, I thought weʼd make a film more focused on that, but the more I read about the broader subculture of financial domination the more I was intrigued. To me, this idea of a “pay pig” just felt so completely “of the moment,” and a thing that had only truly come into existence recently, so I wanted to pull at that thread.

The more we dug into this world, it felt compelling to write a character who was diligent and meticulously in control of one aspect of his life – in this case it was Blaneʼs attention and work ethic surrounding the building up of his body – while simultaneously, that same character is completely surrendering control of another aspect (finances) to someone else. Lexi, in this scenario.

Q: ‘Pay Pigʼ is the second film in which Francesca Anderson brilliantly embodied a character for Six Short Films. Can you talk about working with Francesca and the other recurring actors in your works (Harry Bainbridge, Andrew Erwin)?

A: Certainly, I canʼt say enough good things about Frankie, who we first worked with on F*ck Bunny, directed by Wes.

As I mentioned earlier, part of me was certainly nervous about making this film so it felt good to be working with someone who I could trust and felt comfortable working with already. Frankie really does her homework when she plays a character and I loved collaborating with someone who took ownership of the character. Weʼd often discuss the validity of certain lines while on set and Iʼd look to her for what she felt was something that her character would believably say.

Harry Bainbridge has also been a through-line for us on these shorts and heʼs great to work with. Heʼs also a very capable actor with both a great comedic sense as well as appreciation for nuance. Harry is great because he often just “gets” the scene straight away before you have to tell him anything.

And personally, I love working with talent who truly understand that sometimes in cinema, as opposed to theater, less is often more, particularly in terms of facial expression and general output. Harry really understands that, and weʼve loved collaborating with him on these shorts.

Harry Bainbridge in ‘Pay Pig’

Q: As part of the quick turnaround in your work, the shorts have premiered online with outlets such as Vimeo and Short Film of the Week. How interesting has it been for you to get the films out so quickly and have that instant audience feedback?

A: Sure, this was our general M.O. from the beginning. We feel the landscape is changing for shorts, and for us it was honestly more important to release the project, get feedback, hopefully as many folks watch it as possible, then release another one. While festivals certainly still have their place for certain projects, we did not want to spend a year or more tied to just one project, for a potentially limited ROI, particularly in terms of eyeballs and exposure.

All that being said, we were grateful to just have our third short in the series, Sundays, directed by Andres, screen at the SxSW film festival. Itʼs been a truly awesome experience, and it feels like the cherry on top of all the hard work everyone has put in.

Bottom line, our goal is to re-ignite our creative engines and overall productivity/output. In todayʼs world, we think it matters more to be continually producing – even if they donʼt all “land”- as opposed to putting all of our eggs into one basket.

Q: I believe one of your hobbies is sky diving. Is that how you ‘unwindʼ away from the chaos of filmmaking?

A: Ha, yes! I am a licensed skydiver.

Wes and Andres donʼt particularly approve of this pastime, but for me itʼs not about the adrenaline or anything like that. Iʼve always been fascinated with all aspects of aviation from a young age and so yes, Iʼd agree that for me skydiving has become a way to ‘unwindʼ and step outside of my regular life for a bit.

It definitely is more of a meditation or “zen- like” thing for me that has provided some much-needed big-picture perspective in my life. Iʼm thankful for every moment I get to spend in the sky with friends, it feels like magic.

Q: Can you name one or two filmmakers of the moment who you admire?

A: As of this moment, Iʼve had a reinvigorated respect for Yorgos Lanthimos, as I sincerely enjoyed The Favourite.

Also, I really enjoyed Mandy by director Panos Cosmatos. Say what you will about the movie, but it had been a minute since Iʼd watched something where I felt such a firm commitment and confidence obviously bleeding into the movie from a director in such a blatant way. Feels as if he confidently made choices and stuck to his guns while shooting and I admire that immensely, even if the film doesnʼt always work for everyone who sees it.

Finally, some classmates of ours from NYU, Dan Berk and Bobby Olsen, just premiered a new feature at SxSW that they co-wrote and directed and that I can honestly say is a fun, must-watch movie called Villains. Weʼve grown up with those guys in a way and itʼs always incredibly cool to watch people you knew at a young age grow up and become true craftsmen, and those two have certainly put that on full display in this recent film. Be on the look out for it, very inspiring stuff!

Q: Iʼm sure I echo a lot of people when I say how excited I would be to see a feature from yourself, José and Wesley. What are your visions for the future?

A: Thanks for that! Well, weʼd certainly like to pursue that as well and have a couple of ideas weʼre kicking the tires on currently. Weʼre considering developing Pay Pig into a feature, and Wesley has an outline together for a feature based on our second short, The Sound of Your Voice.

Aside from that, weʼre still pursuing other opportunities in the commercial world.


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