The genesis of this short film is in a recent conversation with a co-worker in my current government day job, which recalled the glory (or perhaps also gory) days of my time as a corporate consultant. My co-worker said something that was uncharacteristically flattering, and I asked him, “Are you grinfucking me?” Surprisingly he wasn’t familiar with the term, and I explained to him, that it meant agreeing/ schmoozing/ flattering and going along with your clients/ co-workers/ subordinates/ peers while all the time actively pursuing your own agenda, diametrically opposite to their interests and expectations.
The film is about a group of corporate consultants and their clients, and their complex dynamic of rivalry, shared interests, and incestuous and hardly private romantic relationships. Xerxes, a consulting partner, is in a sales slump and is feeling the pressure from his hard-driving managing partner Jensen. Part of the slump may be due to a mid-life crisis of sorts, and the fact that Xerxes is carrying on with his much younger associate Giselle. This is hardly a secret to the firm’s gossip mill, and is known to Xerxes co-partner Andrea, with whom he once shared a more discreet relationship. Xerxes nemesis is Arnold, his CEO-client, hard-nosed “ballbreaker” to Xerxes’ subtle grinfucker. With Jensen increasingly putting the screws on him, Xerxes allows his ambitious consulting manager Seth, who is also enamoured with Giselle but unaware of her relationship with Xerxes, to take the lead in the client pitches. Is Xerxes is really slipping, or is perhaps his lassitude designed to bring Seth and Giselle together while he manoeuvres in the background? Xerxes engineers a deal with Seyfried, long-time client and friend, to lure Arnold into a financing deal with Seyfried’s equity fund and multiple consulting projects for Xerxes. The sweetener: Seyfried will facilitate Arnold, an earnest but terribly incompetent golfer, to play in a golf event with the masters at a golf club that Seyfried chairs.
The comedy in the film is cerebral and subtle. The cupidity of the characters is accentuated by their brazen efforts to “game” and influence each other. The characters speak in euphemism-filled jargon that is full of sub-text, as much as in what is said as what is left unsaid. Their motivations appear petty at times and their relationships superficial and motivated by self-interest. Yet ultimately we see people who genuinely like each other and enjoy each others’ machinations.
There is a subtle post-racial theme in the film. Xerxes, Giselle, and Seth shared a common Asian ancestry while the other partners Jensen and Andrea, and the client CEOs Arnold and Seyfried, are Caucasian. Xerxes’ amorality extends to all alike, including Giselle with whom he has an inappropriate relationship, and Seth who he mentors but also manoeuvres into falling for Giselle so he can entangle himself from Giselle. While Jensen might exercise a managing partner’s prerogatives, this does not preclude Xerxes from undermining and playing Jensen, as he also plays his recalcitrant client Arnold.
The film is shot 4K on a Red camera. Many of the scenes involve as many as 7-8 actors, and the shoot involved multiple setups to ensure that all the actors close-ups and reaction shots were captured seamlessly.