Alumni’s Swiss Army Man kicks off Bright Lights for 2016

by Monika Davis / Beacon Correspondent • September 14, 2016

The directors of Swiss Army man skyped in for a panel discussion
The directors of Swiss Army man skyped in for a panel discussion

With a sold-out theater of people anxious to see Daniel Radcliffe farting on the big screen, The Bright Lights series kicked off Tuesday, Sept. 13 with Swiss Army Man in the Paramount Center’s Bright Family Screening Room. 

The Bright Lights series seeks to cultivate an environment of open and educational conversation following the screenings in order to further foster a dialogue in the film community, according to this year’s Bright Lights program. Much of the featured work included in the series is done by students, alumni, and faculty, but also includes work from around the world. It is also common for the lectures and conversations after the screenings to be conducted by industry professionals. The Bright Lights series is hosted by the department of visual and media arts every Tuesday and Thursday when school is in session.

The first screening of the year, Swiss Army Man, was directed by Emerson alumni Daniel Scheinert ‘09 and Daniel Kwan ‘10—also known as “Daniels”—and featured Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. This fall, the Bright Lights series is showcasing six films by Emerson alumni.

After meeting in an animation class at Emerson, Daniels didn’t begin to work together until 2009 when they were teaching assistants at New York Film Academy. Over the last seven years, they have worked on numerous short films, music videos, and small projects together, all with the goal of eventually making a feature film.

Anna Feder, the director of programming for the Bright Lights series, said her goal is to encourage discussion of art.

“The mission of the Bright Lights series is to show current films released in the last two years,” she said.

After the movie screening, Daniels Skyped with the audience and discussed their creative process, how they met at Emerson, and the journey they took to create a movie like Swiss Army Man.

Swiss Army Man, a dramedy, features a young man named Hank (Paul Dano), stuck on a deserted island and crazed by loneliness, who begins the movie by attempting suicide. He is thrown off guard when he sees a body wash up on the shore and awkwardly stumbles off the cooler supporting him, tightening the noose around his neck. The noose breaks and Dano gasps as he runs toward the only sign of life on the deserted island. The corpse, played by Daniel Radcliffe, which continually farts throughout the movie, displays a series of bodily functions that help Hank, the main character, make it back to civilization.

When pitching the story to potential backers, Daniels said that the movie was primarily about a lonely suicidal man who uses a dead body’s flatulations and bodily functions as tools to get back to civilization.

Xueyi Yang, a graduate visual and media arts major, was surprised it was so interesting.

“I didn’t expect it to be so funny and weird,” Yang said. “[I] was amazed by it because of the friendship that was displayed by the two guys.”

The Q&A after the movie lasted about 45 minutes and allowed Daniels to explain the steps they took to get the movie into Sundance Film Festival.

“[The whole movie], we kind of made it because we had apprehension about every single bit of content,” Scheinert said. “We wanted to take all the things you’re not supposed to put in a movie and put them together and try to make a good film.”

When asked about how they used special effects to make it look like the main character, Hank, was riding the corpse like a jet ski, Daniels explained that the process was complex. They said much of it was done with molded casts of Radcliffe’s body.

In terms of getting a major actor like Radcliffe, Daniels said they got Dano first and asked him who he would like to work with. They then asked him to consider who he would be comfortable with carrying around for a large portion of shooting. They said their sights were not set that high, but were shocked to get someone so sweet and pure.

Emma Lukens, a junior performing arts major, said she “thought it was really funny and would watch it again immediately.”

“[Bright Lights] is such a valuable program and it is inspiring to see Emerson alums doing things in the real world,” Lukens said.

 The Daniels said they were excited to see a full house and share their experience with Emerson students. They could not be reached for further comment.

“We wanted to do something people aren’t used to seeing,” Scheinert said.