It started as an anecdote that I didn't believe. I was helping out on a theatre production of The Cherry Orchard which was suffering some severe technical issues. While I stood in the wings during rehearsal, I got to chatting with the lighting designer who proceeded to tell the tale of a production he had worked on a year earlier which had faced even greater problems.
A few hours before the first performance, one of the supporting cast called in sick. Unable to get a replacement in time, and under extreme stress, the director made a bold and avant garde choice: They took one of the PA speakers from the theatre, dressed it in a cloak and hat and wheeled it out on stage in lieu of the actor. The director then spoke the lines through a mic from backstage. A speaker with a hat on. The absurdity of the image burned into my brain.
I've been writing scripts for years. Sitcoms, plays, movie scripts. I've been working in earnest for the past few years, sending out specs, entering competitions, weeping softly. In an effort to push me that little bit further along in my learning, I decided scripts weren't enough, I had to make something.
I started looking through my ideas file, and the Speaker with a Hat On was top of my list. Not quite a big enough idea for a feature, but perfect for a weird little short. Initially I tried to just do a literal retelling of the anecdote, but I couldn't wrap it in a satisfying story. I'm mildly obsessive about structure, and after discovering Dan Harmon's story circle (a broader, simplified version of Campbell's heroes journey) I apply it to everything.
The idea of stand up comedy was what shifted it. I've performed some stand up myself, and have a few friends who are professionals. I thought the speaker with a hat on could be a cool cipher for a nervous performer. The ultimate insult comic, because the actual comic could hide backstage. A neat idea, but again, I couldn't frame it around a story. Then: Maybe it could be his conscience? The story wrote itself from there.
I was lucky enough to gather together a great cast and crew and am really proud and humbled at the work they put in. I'm really pleased with the finished result.