Bryan Michael Stoller is into shorts—loud ones, which he wears, and the other kind, which he directs. At the tender age of 27, Stoller has already shot 97 films, most of them three-minute comedies. He has also won 14 international awards and directed such luminaries as Jerry Lewis (in a 30-minute documentary The Making of Slapstick), the late Rock Hudson (in the one-hour, made-for-cable movie Just Like Magic) and Barbra Streisand (in last spring’s Hands Across America video). Now, backed by Paramount, Stoller is making Undershorts: The Movie, a full-length video filled with bite-size lampoons of big hits. In The Heckling, a takeoff on The Exorcist, his star is Linda Blair, who this time around is possessed not by demons but by the spaced-out comic spirits of Joan Rivers, Pee-wee Herman and Rodney Dangerfield.
How does Stoller manage to squeeze such spacious egos into his little movies? “You listen and let them try what they want,” he says. “Then you convince them to try it your way.”
Stoller has been doing it his way since the age of 12, when his parents, real-estate agents in Ottawa, paid him to shoot houses they were trying to sell. By 13 he was making films for a Canadian TV kids’ series, and by 16 he had written, directed and produced two network commercials. After high school, he headed for the American Film Institute in L.A., and now at last he can afford to think big. “The association with Paramount is worth more than money,” he says. “They’ve already had me reading feature-film scripts.” Appreciative colleagues insist there’s no danger that Stoller’s ego will inflate with his clout. “In two years, when he’s big,” Blair says confidently, “he’ll still return your phone calls.”