Tag Archives: Noel David Taylor


On February 25th, Gregory J. Smalley and Giles Edwards chatted with via Zoom about his feature film debut, Man Under Table, which just debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival. Here is the transcript (lightly edited for clarity); the raw video is at the end of the post.

366: We’re here to interview Noel David Taylor about his debut film, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, called Man Under Table. It’s a surreal satire about a sarcastic young filmmaker trying to making his first script in the indie world where all his peers’ careers seem to be advancing a little bit faster than his. Mr. Taylor, as an introduction, would you care to give us some information on your own background and how this project came to be?

Noel David Taylor: I have been making short films pretty much as long as I can remember. I just moved to LA about six years ago, and just bounced around trying to find a place. I got kind of frustrated and embroiled in this “indie film” scene that I’m satirizing in this film, and I started writing about my little experiences and frustrations in that arena.

366: “No” is a perfectly reasonable answer to both parts of this two part question: can you explain why you named the movie Man Under Table, and the follow-up is, did you ever consider naming it “Guy Under Table”?

NDT: It’s funny, “Man Under Table” is the first part of this film. Me and a friend of mine were just joking around one day, sending fake movie titles back and forth, and we landed on that one, and for some reason, it just stuck with me. I think I was starting the script at the time, and I just thought it was funny. And yeah, there is that part of the movie where the character Gerald keeps saying “guy under table”, which is almost the titular line, but not quite. 

366: You are writer, director, producer, and star of this feature, so obviously a very personal film for you, and as you just mentioned, talking about a number of personal experiences hashed out in a semi-fictionalized way. Of these four, which was your favorite? Did you like to be acting more? Did you enjoy the direction? Or is this just one ball of output?

NDT: I think it’s a combination. Because I started messing around making short films when I was a kid, I always used each part of it to aid the other part. So for certain projects—my own projects—I feel like it’s really hard for me to separate those things. They kind of lend to each other. But more and more, especially starting with this project, I kind of just enjoy the writing. It’s the part where there’s slightly less stress. You can do it in your own time, no one’s around.

366: Except in the experience of the main character there, yeah.

NDT: [laughs]

366: He always introduces himself as, “I’m writing a movie”, and that reflects your thoughts there. A brief follow-up question in that vein: did you ever think to cast someone else as you?

NDT: Oh yeah. When I started building this project, I intended on doing a lot more outsourcing. I certainly didn’t want to shoot it. The people I had around me, I couldn’t really get on board. I had Continue reading UNDER THE TABLE WITH “MAN UNDER TABLE,” NOEL DAVID TAYLOR


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DIRECTED BY: Noel David Taylor

FEATURING: Noel David Taylor, John Edmund Parcher, Ben Babbitt, Katy Fullan

PLOT: A nameless screenwriter tries to write a movie (the movie we’re watching), while his peers’ careers seem to be taking off faster than his.

Still from Man Under Table (2021)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: This microbudget meta-movie about a nameless screenwriter unabashedly gazes at its navel until that navel becomes a self-contained universe teeming with surrealism and satire.

COMMENTS: Ever since 8 1/2, directors have been making movies about the trials and tribulations of being themselves making a movie. It’s an ambitious undertaking, fraught with pretension, but the subgenre is not tapped out yet. Man Under Table relocates the conceit to a new milieu: the fringes of the indie movie scene, a world which itself exists on the fringes of Hollywood. It’s a purgatory for creatives. Everybody urgently wants rush out a movie about “identity politics” or “fracking” or, preferably, the intersection of the two—but they actually spend most of their time in bars, at parties, or in men’s rooms, talking about their hopefully soon-in-development projects. The film doesn’t really have much of an idea how to end itself, and it plays around with some intriguing possible plot angles (such as the suggestion that another character is the real author of the screenplay) only to abandon them. But that abandonment itself is both a meta-joke and an honest reflection of the script: the movie consistently, from being to end, does not know what it is, and it is all about its own lack of insight.

Such a premise would be insufferable if played straight; it can only work as a comedy. And Man Under Table has a nasty comic bite, with the movie itself, and its screenwriter, as much the target of the satire as the phonies who hang out in this plague-ridden alternate Los Angeles. Our nameless (itself a plot point) antihero is writing a movie, but he spends most of his free time bragging to all his acquaintances about how he’s writing a movie. He’s arrogant, short-tempered, neurotic, presumptuous, whiny, and obviously angry at himself but taking it out on everyone around him. His targets include screenwriting rival Ben (who looks a lot like David Foster Wallace stripped of his bandana), up-and-coming director Jill Custard, a vapid but omnipresent YouTuber, and a pair of buzzword-devouring—producers? Agents? He’s also taking advantage of Gerald, an older man with money who has an idea for a movie but needs help with the “technical part” (i.e., writing it), and who insists that there shouldn’t be any of that “modern movie gay stuff.”  You personally don’t know any characters like this, and characters like this could in fact never exist, yet you believe they are caricatures of real people—or at least, that they’re caricatures of real caricatures.

Man Under Table plays out on minimal sets—a bathroom, a barroom, an apartment, a warehouse, a blank void—and moves from scene to scene with little flow or causality. The order of incidents could be shuffled about without making much difference; it’s set in a netherworld of eternal project development. “This isn’t a movie, it’s just random scenes about some guy,” our screenwriter complains midway through. At one point, he finds himself unwittingly cast in—and cut from—someone else’s project, which breaks out around him as he’s trying to order a beer. The movie also draws attention to its own movieness by introducing deliberate continuity errors (a disappearing drink becomes a running gag).

Where Man Under Table shines, and sometimes becomes laugh-out-loud funny, is in writer/director Taylor’s charmingly obnoxious performance as his own alter-ego, and especially in his ear for cutting dialogue that exposes the shallow ambitions of his characters. His generic pitches to the movie-producing couple are brilliant (he throws the word “content” in at random and their eyes get huge). A parody of a competitor’s production shows a knack for capturing ridiculously poetic indie dialogue (“I always imagined that leaving prison was like being ripped from the womb all over again—you emerge screaming, wet, and pale.”) Other great lines include “I didn’t really want to talk about it either, I was just asking you questions I wanted you to ask me” and “I’d like to be suicidal again, but I can’t even get there with all the garbage you’re saying.” Some of the dialogue even achieves poignancy: “Sometimes I get excited about all the possibilities there are, until I realize none of them are available to me.”

As boorish and self-absorbed as our hero is, you gradually begin to feel for him. He is trapped in an absurd, dystopian world peopled entirely by poseurs, a universe that seemingly exists only to crush his dreams. Oh yeah, and then there’s all the weird stuff that happens to his character in the movie, too.

Man Under Table is currently playing Slamdance (online).


“This film is definitely weird.”–Lorry Kitka, Film Threat