It started with a pee

When 'The Independent' asked for a feature on the etiquette of the urinal, writer Tim Hulse hardly expected to be contacted by a film maker. But Brad Pitt?
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The Independent Culture

Most journalists like to indulge in a particular little daydream from time to time. As they're sweating over a story, they imagine a wild scenario in which a top Hollywood producer somehow stumbles across their article and decides it would be the ideal basis for a blockbuster movie.

Most journalists like to indulge in a particular little daydream from time to time. As they're sweating over a story, they imagine a wild scenario in which a top Hollywood producer somehow stumbles across their article and decides it would be the ideal basis for a blockbuster movie.

For the humble hack, vast wealth and immortality then follow. It may sound far-fetched, but it happens sometimes, and perhaps the best example is that of the British journalist Nik Cohn. In the early Seventies he wrote an article for an American magazine about an inarticulate kid from the New York suburbs called Vincent, who worked in a paint shop by day but by night became a king of the disco dancefloor. On the day the piece was published, Cohn got a phone call from film producer Robert Stigwood, and by the evening he had signed a contract giving Stigwood the rights to the story. It later became the basis for Saturday Night Fever, and Cohn became richer by more than a million dollars.

And now the same thing has happened to me. Well, sort of. It's all a question of scale, I suppose. I'm certainly no richer, but nevertheless I am proud to announce that one of my articles, first published in this very newspaper, has been immortalised in film. Admittedly it's only a six-minute film and its subject is men's urinals, but still, I have to admit that I do feel rather chuffed.

It all goes back to June 1998, when The Independent asked if I would like to write a humorous piece on the etiquette of gentlemen's lavatories. I sat down and rattled off 900 words about what happens in the gents - the code of silence which is generally observed, the avoidance of each other's eyes; the halting conversations between acquaintances or colleagues; the hip-thrusting, trouser-stuffing routine which follows urination, the problem some men have with urinating in public and so on. The piece was published shortly afterwards and I quickly forgot about it. Until February last year, that is, when I got a telephone call from an agent. She said that she represented a commercials director who was interested in making a short film based on my article. She said she would send me a copy of the screenplay.

A couple of days later, it arrived, together with a covering letter from Mark Nunneley himself. "I've used a great deal of your original words in my dramatisation," he wrote. "It should make a fantastic short film." I wasn't going to make any money out of it, because everyone was working for free, so I thought of it as my contribution to the arts.

Imagine my surprise when, a couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to a screening of Yoorinal - An Insider's Guide to the Gents' Toilet. I thought it was actually rather good. The audience laughed quite a lot. The main role of narrator was played with some panache by Paul Kaye, who is most famous as Dennis Pennis. At the screening I met Mark Nunneley, who turned out to be a rather quiet and polite 34-year-old. He has big ideas for the film, which ended up costing him around 10 grand to make. It's being lined up for various festivals.

It's also going to be shown before the main feature in two art-house cinemas. Then there's Brad Pitt. He came into Mark's office last week and Mark made sure he was given a copy of the film. Brad said that if he liked it, he'd get Mark to direct his next movie. We like to think that perhaps he'll decide to remake Yoorinal for an American audience.

But Mark has even bigger ideas than that. He has decided to try to get an Academy Award. He reckons you just have to fill in an entry form and send it in. And let's face it, if our little film wins an Oscar, it will be one more than Saturday Night Fever ever won.

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