Shit Girls Say, the serial Twitter-joke-turned-YouTube show with the self-explanatory handle, was a defining meme of December, 2011. "Can you pass me that blanket?" "I can't talk to you right now." It was humour not of overstatement or understatement, just of … statement: recognizable and decontextualized for max absurdity.
For Internet kids (who loved it) and feminist bloggers (who often hated it, but also maybe secretly loved it), it was an early Christmas present.
For Toronto creative couple Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey, it was a huge break: Juliette Lewis appeared in their third episode, Perez Hilton blogged about it, and Harlequin gave them a book deal.
At TIFF, it's Christmas again. Episode four of Shit Girls Say airs in the Short Cuts Canada program, where no viral video has aired before. Plus, Sheppard and Humphrey appear in the Mavericks lecture series alongside Jackie Chan, Johnny Depp and David Geffen. Who needs a blue checkmark on Twitter when you've got this kind of validation?
As for the ineluctable haters, Sheppard – who was directing for years before Shit Girls Say happened – makes clear that, yes, this is a proper short film.
"I directed this the way I would have directed anything else," he says. "It's not necessarily a narrative screenplay, but it's what you might call a portrait."
A portrait of ladies, perhaps, one with which many women would rather not identify. "I cared [about the critiques], for sure," says Humphrey, who was also responsible for a hilarious fashion blog about Roseanne, Third and Delaware. "I grew up with a single mom and have surrounded myself with women my entire life. The best barometer for me is how the women I am close to feel about what we're doing, and everyone has loved it and been really supportive."
Adds Sheppard: "We also totally understand that not all women feel represented by this. It's been interesting to see so many other videos come up in which people made films about their demographics." He's talking about Shit Fashion Girls Say, Shit Black Girls Say, Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls … the gift goes on. Having just watched the fourth episode, though, I can vouch that the original Shit Girls Say is still the best-directed, best-acted of them all.
"I feel like I was trying so hard to be a dramatic filmmaker," says Sheppard, "but all along I just wanted to be funny."