Professor in the Bathroom – A film diary 

The last few months I’ve been working on a short film with film maker John Tomkins.
Professor in the Bathroom is based on one of the poems from my collection ‘Nice’, published by Burning Eye Books. The idea of a professor trapped in someone’s bathroom gave John the idea of making a film with the restrictions evident in the text, a whole film shot in his bathroom!
The first thing we needed was an actor and John contacted Lee Rawlings. Lee is an amazing character actor, singer and full-time librarian. John and I met up and looked at the poem, working out how we might shoot the film, and I suggested he watch the film ‘Amelie’. We then went to Exeter and met Lee, by which time John had watched Ameile and was filled with inspiration about camera angles, cinematography, and all that kind of stuff.
Lee was amazing and very much interested in the project. A couple of weeks later we all met at his place of work after it had closed, and we spent the evening working on rehearsals, camera angles and the logistical side of things.
As a writer, I didn’t really have much input at this stage, so for me it was fun to sit back, watch them work, and make the occasional wise crack. I took some amusing photographs, too. The process was very valuable to the outcome of the film in that both John and Lee became very familiar with what they wanted from it.
A month or so later we all met at John’s house in Paignton. John had spent the intervening weeks looking at people’s bathrooms, but there were logistics involved. Like, if we borrowed someone’s bathroom, what happens when they need to use the bathroom? John concluded that his own bathroom was aesthetically and practically the place he was looking for.
At home, I recorded the poem and supPlied it by email, and then we all met up for filming. There were so many little bits which needed doing, so many small problems to create the illusion we needed. I found some free standing wooden shelves which stood in for the medicine cabinet, through which John could film as if from inside the medicine cabinet. Lee provided lots of pill bottles, and I had to find the meats and crisps for the professor to eat from underneath the door, a job made slightly harder by the fact that Lee is a vegetarian. The most cunning prop was a long piece of wood which John painted, which stood in for the bottom of he bathroom door.
Filming went very well. My job, as production assistant, was to carry the lighting equipment. Every angle in the bathroom necessitated Lee, John as cameraman, and myself with the lights,,all crammed into that tight space. It’s amazing what just one small poem can end up precipitating!
Once the filming was complete, John spent a couple of months editing, blending in the original soundtrack provided by a very fine musician, and some sound effects of the professor, provided by Lee post-filming, grunting and making strange noises into the microphone in John’s editing suite. My own part in the film may have been small, but it needed rehearsing, (I’m not an actor), and then my lines re-dubbing, which meant I had to go to John’s and match the words with my lip movements. Which is quite difficult!
So Professor in the Bathroom is completed and will soon premier at the Torbay Film Festival in late August. And I can’t wait for you to see it!



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