FOR A FIVE-MINUTE SHORT about finding a toilet, Numero Dos certainly boasts an interesting — and complicated — pedigree.
The “plot” concerns the efforts of a roadie for country superstar Brad Paisley to find a restroom, because according to an ancient unwritten rule of the road, “you just don’t go number two on a tour bus.”
Country stars don’t generally have a large presence at film festivals, to put it kindly. But they do when they’re married to a sitcom star (Kimberly Williams-Paisley of According to Jim) whose sister Ashley Williams is an established actress in her own right (Good Morning Miami, Law and Order, Montana Sky).
Kim wrote and directed Numero Dos, with Jay Williams as the guy looking for a place to go "numero dos." Brad has a small role in the film and composed and performed the score.
Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to speak to Brad or Kim. But we did talk to Ashley Williams and her significant other, Neal Dodson, Numero Dos producer, who works at Warner Brothers in his other life.
You’ve made a film about taking a dump. What sicko came up with that idea?
Ashley Williams: We were definitely at a dinner and definitely drinking some wine. That was part of the excitement and the inspiration (laughs).
Neal Dodson: For the inspiration, I actually have to give credit to Mr. Paisley. Brad told us a story over dinner one night, a country urban legend — so I guess it’s a “rural legend,” if you will — about an unwritten rule on tour buses that you can’t do number two. You just don’t do that on the bus, it’s too close quarters to risk it.
He told us this story of a guy who was basically being tortured by being told he couldn’t do it, and he was trying to find a usable toilet. In the film there’s a little twist on the end. So I suppose you could chalk it up to the real-life experiences of Brad Paisley.
Ashley Williams: We were laughing so hard. It was definitely one of those roundtable, wonderful dinners that lasts three hours. That was the inception, the moment of genius (laughs).
From what I hear since, possibly inspired by the film, Brad is upgrading to a really fancy bus now. So now you really can do number two on it. I guess that’s a sign you’ve really made it, when you can afford a bus that allows you to do number two (laughs).
At some point you have to make the transition from dinner table to film set. How did that come about?
Ashley Williams: At that point Kim had just finished doing Shade for the festival circuit, an 11-minute piece about somebody with a serious disease who can’t go outside in the sun. Let’s say it’s a pretty sobering movie (laughs). So when she was done with that she was like, can’t I do something funny?
It’s all been very hands-on doing this little project, but we really tried to keep it light. Which meant don’t spend a ton of money. We didn’t even have a clapboard. I would stand in front of a camera and say, “Scene three, take six,” and clap my hands. Of course the whole time just laughing.
Neal Dodson: The old bald guy that leans in the bathroom at the end, that’s my dad. The woman at the concert in the credits, that’s my mother. The bus driver is one of Brad’s bus drivers. The whole thing was done for a dime over a weekend of riding the bus around in Texas, Nashville and New Orleans.
Ashley Williams: Kim and our brother were the ones who edited it. It took a year to edit, mainly because we were so unorganized about the shots. It was very haphazard, and we had to do a lot of work in post. So that was the first time that “fix it in post” actually worked (laughs).
It was always just a hoot to us. The first time we watched it we were just falling on floor and laughing. Then we figured why not have a comedy short, and just send it out and see what happens just for fun?
And it’s actually been an incredible success. I guess it’s sort of refreshing for people to watch a short that’s not trying to do a very in-depth job.
You guys sound like one fun family.
Ashley Williams: We do have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot together.
I don’t follow country music closely, but it seems like Brad Paisley isn’t the typical country star.
Neal Dodson: For sure, he’s not. Full disclosure here, I didn’t know a heck of a lot about country music either before I started dating Ashley. When I came into the family I didn’t know a whole hell of a lot about country or Brad either. I’ve gotten to travel with him on the road a little bit. He’s an unbelievably talented guy. Aside from being a superstar he’s a real phenom on the guitar.
His concerts are very video and film-driven. His new concert set incorporates video and special effects. All the risers are made out of amps, and the front of the amps become televisions.
But Brad’s music is on the more traditional side. His musicianship comes out of real respect for country music. So he has a Mac and an iPhone and animates and does film, but his musical roots are very much based in tradition.
Brad Paisley is an animator?
Ashley Williams: He does his own animation for his music videos, and he often edits own music videos. He stays up all night on his computer, he’s a total night owl. He’s a lot more creatively involved than really he has to be, and because of that I think that’s a big reason why he’s so successful.
Neal Dodson: One of his videos is directed by and stars Jason Alexander, from Seinfeld. His videos are always fun and almost more like short films than videos.
Of course he does the music for Numero Dos.
Neal Dodson: Yeah, there’s no real lyrics, it’s more like film score music. It’s all played by him. It’s not a single with lyrics, it’s not something where people will say, “Oh my God, that’s a Brad Paisley song.” There’s one track that sounds more like elevator music. One thing is an organ-driven hymn, sort of at the ultimate moment of the film, called “Dark Victory” (laughs.) At the end you’ll see him play a song in concert. It finishes with him in some great concert footage.
Is Brad interested in making any more films with you guys?.
Neal Dodson: We haven’t discussed it with him. Certainly it’s possible. He loves music and has no desire to act, aside from playing himself for a brief second. He’s humble enough to not want everything to revolve around him. Of course in the world of country music there’s a plethora of stories waiting to be told. I think we’re looking to tell other stories from that world.
Is Numero Dos a better film because you all have established careers and can be so loose about it?
Ashley Williams: You mean it’s almost like at this point we don’t have as much to prove? Well, by no means have any of us completely landed where we ultimately want to be professionally. We’re always striving to get to the next level.
I guess the thing that’s happened is Kim and Brad have money (laughs)! That puts us in a completely different situation. We can afford to sit there at dinner for three hours as opposed to how it was when I was in school. But, yeah, Numero Dos is my ticket to Hollywood (laughs)!
So what other projects are you doing now, Ashley?
Ashley Williams: I’m babysitting for my nephew, actually. That’s a huge project (laughs). He’s napping upstairs now, so it’s going really well. I’m doing the audition game these days. I have to convince people I’m awesome (laughs)! Frankly I kind of love auditioning, it’s hysterical to me.
If nothing else, you can always continue to make movies about bodily functions.
Ashley Williams: Oh, I can totally keep doing that (laughs). Yeah, we’ll see ya next year in Savannah for Fart Time!Numero Dos screens Sun. Oct. 28 at 11:30 a.m. at the Trustees Theatre and Fri. Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre.