Textual Relationship, by Syd Heather, is a charming, bittersweet romantic comedy short adapted from a theatre short written by award-winning playwright Tom Glover. It explores the differences between ‘real-world reality’ and our more interesting fabricated online personas, via two characters courting via an online dating app, and then trying to work past their offline incompatibilities.

Tom wrote the play for Descent Theatre, where actor David Frias-Robles saw the play and thought it’d make a great short film; and with that, he brought it to filmmaker Syd Heather. Syd, with a healthy roster of films behind him, instantly saw the potential in Textual Relationship and spoke to Tom, agreeing to an adaptation. From there, the rest of the cast and crew came together, via the network of creatives who had worked with each other in the past. David knew actress Sarah Langrish-Smith from previous work, and suggested her for the second lead role in the short. Meanwhile Syd brought in Dan Eycott, with whom he’d worked with before, to act as co-producer, allowing him the freedom to also direct. Lightening the load made sense, especially in the run-up to the crowdfunding campaign.

The IndieGogo campaign successfully rallied 66 people to raise £3000 in 13 days, back in 2014. The campaign was fully funded, with barely 20 minutes to spare!

Shot by the meticulous and skilled cinematographer Daniel Salter, the first two and a half minutes do an excellent job of setting the scene, establishing tone and premise. A breaking of the fourth wall, already part of the play, and was retained for the short film. This was a quirky way of establishing back story, and an honesty with the audience,  via the dating site introductions and interspliced dialogues.

David Frias-Robles plays DarkDemon92, and Sarah Langrish-Smith plays Uniquetalent_33 who become enraptured with each other’s virtual personas over an online dating service. Both bring across a charm that endears us to them, even at their most ridiculous.

[fusion_testimonial name=”David Frias-Robles” avatar=”male” image=”” image_border_radius=”” company=”” link=”” target=”_self”]

The scene we shot had to be my masturbation scene, of course! So embarrassing!

David Frias-Robles

The second act shows what happens when the two meet; as opposed to this cast and crew, there’s no magic, no frisson between them. They can’t maintain the bond that existed only between their online personas, an unsustainable lie. But, being lonely souls in love with love, they decide to move in together nonetheless; to try and forge truth from this lie.

Textual Relationship Still

Naturally, the situation continues to deteriorate; a gradual increase in awkwardness to the point of almost being unbearable in its cringeworthiness. Luckily the balance teeters on the side of positive due to the well-edited decline and Sarah Langrish-Smith’s on-point comic timing. A great example, and popular scene, is a wonderfully framed simulated split-screen in bathrooms, where the characters’ ‘together apart’ scheme is hatched.

Textual Relationship Still Toilet

The awkwardness is ramped up by a subtly placed absence: Richard D. Taylor’s score, that carried the quirky feel of Textual Relationship, is absent. To the point that three quarters of the way through, we just want the characters to be okay, one way or another. Sufficient empathy has been engendered that even if they don’t work out, that we want them individually to be okay. And Taylor’s music returns, enhancing the inevitable bittersweet conclusion.

Overall, I was impressed by how much had been accomplished with so little. The crew were very much married to an indie mentality, to use what you have. For example, much of the short was shot in Sarah’s old house, with her housemates generously making themselves scarce when needed.

It was the new season of First Dates that spurred the completion of the edit.

Syd Heather

The shoot itself was merely a week, but it then took another seven months of post-production, design and preparatory work to bring it to it’s current state, and make it ready for film festivals.

Textual Relationship BTS Still

You’ll likely be able to see Textual Relationship at a short film festival near you in the new year. We’d like to thank the cast and crew for their time, wish them all the best for their next projects, and hope they have a chance to work together again in future.

The only question that continues to perplex and intrigue: What exactly was Uniquetalent_33’s unique talent?!