Director Bryan Taira and Producer Mariah Hall could not have expected that their thesis film, OUT OF STOCK, would end up being so relevant to what is going on in our current world: a toilet paper shortage.

OUT OF STOCK, a comedy inspired by true events, is about a local grocery store facing a sudden rush of crazed customers buying overpriced toilet paper. When Johnny Carson makes a joke on “The Tonight Show” about a toilet paper shortage, people take the comment to heart. Suddenly, Julie, a people-pleaser grocery store employee and her co-worker Floyd are faced with crazed customers on the first day of the 1973 Toilet Paper Crisis. Julie must deal with both the chaotic customers and her demanding boss, Gary. As Gary begins to increase the price of toilet paper rolls, Julie begins to question the morality behind it. As the store erupts into chaos, Julie and Floyd’s sanity is tested!

We asked Bryan and Mariah a few questions about their film…

What inspired you to make this film?

“My dad inspired me to make this! He told me the story of the original toilet paper crisis that he remembered, and I didn’t think it could possibly be real. After I researched it and found out it was, I thought it would make the funniest short film ever!” – Mariah Hall, producer

“This is a producer initiated thesis which meant that Mariah brought this project to me and spearheaded the development. It was absurd, unique, and definitely was not as timely as it is today. We have been working together on this for over a year and a half.” – Bryan Taira, director

Since development and filming came before our current TP crisis, what was the emotion/reaction you felt as your film was basically coming to life in your personal world?

“Principal photography on Out of Stock had finished in the fall semester and we were in the midst of the post-production process when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Chapman University. This disrupted our post workflow and the film was completed a month after our intended delivery date. We were very fortunate to be able to complete Out of Stock despite lacking significant school facilities. Mirrored similarly in the short film, the toilet paper shortage grew alongside mass hysteria, media influence, and panic buying.

We had spent over a year working on our toilet paper film and to see a similar crisis come to life at the end of our process is still difficult to fully conceive. I felt a bit of guilt as I remember getting messages from friends saying we caused this to happen. Mariah and I would text each other TP shortage articles from around the world joking that we had predicted the future. The craziest thing we saw was a tweet of a woman sitting on a homemade throne of toilet paper which mimicked the climactic scene of our film. The timing of all of this is insane and it really felt as though we manifested the current toilet paper crisis. It was unreal and we wanted to get the film finished and released as soon as possible. I personally had no concern over the actual TP shortage because I had a stash of at least 50 rolls leftover from the shoot.” – Bryan Taira, director

Is there anything we can learn from your film given the current TP shortage/state of the world?

“Our film finds humor in the absurd and almost nonsensical real-life situation of the 1973 toilet paper shortage. Through elevated chaos, the film satirically portrays the exploitation of panic buyers and price gouging in an unfettered system. There has always been an underlying aversion to greed but current relevant world situations have given new meaning to some of the story elements. Notably, we follow the life of Julie, our grocery store employee and essential worker hero. Her undervalued dedication, patience, and friendliness are exploited in her workplace. While her boss profits, she is forced to face the frenzied front lines of the toilet paper crisis.

Don’t hoard toilet paper! It’s a commodity in a system of production that consistently matches our demand on a regular basis. The shortage only occurs because of a spike in demand sometimes through a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s weird that in society during a state of crisis our most frantic necessity is toilet paper. My biggest takeaway is that we are very privileged to have access to indoor plumbing and toilet paper. They help retain some level of normalcy and comfort even during trying times. They are almost synonymous with a developed society so we don’t often quite realize the luxuries we have until they are gone.” – Bryan Taira, director

The filmmakers would like to thank:

All faculty members and advisors involved in this project.

Shoutout to the amazingly talented cast, Ray Connelly-Gonzalez (Julie), Paul Burt (Gary), Jake Frazier (Floyd), and Linda Benedetti-Leal (Mrs. Moore).

A collaborative effort by Mariah Hall (Producer), Bryan Taira (Director), Connie Ticho (Production Designer), Enrique de la Garza (Cinematographer), Alex Joyce (Editor), Tori McJunkin (Sound Designer) and the entirety of the Out of Stock thesis team.

OUT OF STOCK will have its online premiere June 6 on Film Shortage!