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"Who The F*ck Is Jeffrey Gurian?"

"Who The F*ck Is Jeffrey Gurian?" is a documentary short that focuses on the career and life of Jeffrey Gurian, a fixture in the comedy world for the last 40 years. Jeffrey has worked with and around the biggest stars in comedy since the 1980s. From Dangerfield to Burle to Dice, Jeffrey has written jokes for them. He accomplished all of this while also running his own cosmetic dentistry practice. 

The contradiction between his two professions and passions drew attention from all of the news media in the Big Apple. While he has since retired from his dental practice, he is still very much pursuing his childhood dream of being a famous comedian. This film takes a deep dive into his ceaseless pursuit on an intimate level.

Pursuit of the Unattainable

Derek met Jeffrey when he first moved to New York to pursue his filmmaking dreams. He scoured Craigslist applying to everything he saw that looked somewhat related to video production. A few days later, he received a response, "RE: Nationally Known Comedy Writer Seeks Intern." The next thing Derek knew, he was in Jeffrey's Upper East Side apartment being interviewed by Jeffrey to be his intern. The walls were filled from ceiling to floor with pictures of Jeffrey alongside seemingly every celebrity on the planet. 

Years later, Derek met Jeffrey at an Upper Eastside diner and Derek asked if he make a film about Jeffrey. It’s safe to safe, Jeffrey left a lasting impression on Derek. 

From a technical perspective, Derek utilized a kinetically paced editing style, leaned into Jeffrey's repeated acknowledgment of the camera — illustrating his yearning for the spotlight — and actioned stylistic needle drops to construct a film structure that embodied Jeffrey's personality and life. He heightened his stylistic approach by partnering with Rich Schemm to create animated sequences that straddle the line between reality and surrealism. 

Derek also explored his deep interest in archive footage. He digitized Jeffrey's own extensive archive of VHS recordings. Jeffrey would record the entire day of a particular channel when local news would have a few-minute segment featuring himself. Derek relished watching 80's daytime television and commercials, and stylistically injected them into the film to provide historical context to the era of Jeffrey's rise for the viewer. 

Above all, Derek saw himself in Jeffrey. He saw parallels between his own work and Jeffrey's lifelong pursuit of comedy fame. He knew he had to reach within himself and face the possibility, and likely reality, of not reaching the heights that he aspires to, much as Jeffrey does in the film. Ultimately, the question that he strove to raise, but perhaps not answer: Can a person find fulfillment in the pursuit of a goal even if they don't achieve what they view as success?

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 Brown’s film is a stellar example of the form—beautifully shot and kinetically edited, slickly marrying polished “talking head” set-ups with archival and person-on-the-street b-roll.

Ivan Kandar, Short of the Week 

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