Lily Zepeda - Director/Producer/Writer
Lily Zepeda’s passion for exploring unconventional stories began with a career in journalism, interviewing subjects ranging from Grammy award-winning musicians to Olympians. She went from TV production to embarking on a 5-year journey to make her first feature film, Mr Toilet: The World’s #2 Man. She’s a Diversity Fellowship and Accelerator Lab grantee from Chicken & Egg Pictures as well as a Hedgebrook Lab finalist. She has also has been selected to pitch at film festivals, including Big Sky, Hot Docs, Sheffield and Doc NYC.
Tchavdar Georgiev - Producer/Writer
Tchavdar Georgiev is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and a member of ACE (American Cinema Editors). “The Desert of Forbidden Art,” (Independent Lens) that he produced and directed together with Amanda Pope was nominated for two Emmys and won international accolades. He edited the two times Emmy-nominated "Valentine Road" (HBO) as well as "Finders Keepers", both of which premiered at Sundance. He wrote, co-produced and edited "Off The Rails" (Hot Docs, Full Frame, Sundance Channel) that won many awards including DOC NYC FF. He edited “Skidrow Marathon” that won numerous awards including LAFF. He directed and edited together with Dana Berry for Nat Geo "Finding the Next Earth" and edited the Emmy-nominated "Alien Earths”. He also edited on “The American Meme” (Tribeca FF, Hot Docs, Netflix Original), “Served Like A Girl” (SXSW, Independent Lens), "One Lucky Elephant" (Best Doc Editing at Woodstock FF) and "Bite Size" (Best Doc at Cinequest). He has also written, produced, directed or edited for BBC, History Channel, USA Network, STARZ and Amazon Studios.
Making The Film
As a kid, I always thought I’d grow up to be a mix of Diane Sawyer and Jeff Corwin – a world renowned reporter who travels the world breaking news stories, and a childlike host who enthusiastically skips through rainforests and desert landscapes in search of the unusual. The story of Mr. Toilet strangely embodies both of these dreams.
One fall afternoon in 2012, I was sitting in LA’s rush hour traffic when I had to pee. As I quickly pulled off into the nearest store front, a DJ on the radio announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had launched a toilet competition. Yes, a TOILET COMPETITION. I was all ears and stayed in the car a little longer to learn that Caltech, a university right in my city, had won first prize for their sustainable toilet model. This seemed random, yet funny and somehow very important—all elements of a great story. As I dug even deeper into the details (on my iPhone while finally peeing), I learned some shocking statistics: 2.4 billion people lack access to a safe, clean toilet. That means more people in the world have access to a cell phone than they do a toilet. That’s crap.
In addition, it’s the women who suffer the most. They must hold their bodily urges ALL day and when they finally relieve themselves at night they are at risk of rape. And, girls often do not go to school past menstruation age because they have no privacy during their time of the month. This was a big turning point for me. As a woman privileged enough to have a safe place to go, and as a teenage youth mentor at the time, I was moved to tell this story in a big, bold way.
After the prize-winning toilet engineers at Caltech realized how obsessed I had become with their story (and toilet) they introduced me to sanitation pioneer Jack Sim, better known as Mr. Toilet, who on our first phone call said, “I am going to turn poop culture into pop culture.” I was sold. Mr. Toilet’s fearless humor and disregard for cultural norms was the magic potion for a character-based film about a taboo subject. Nobody was willing to talk shit like Mr. Toilet, and humor was the way I felt most comfortable expressing myself. When people laugh, barriers come down and we become receptive to information or ways of thinking that weren't there before. Mr. Toilet’s childlike demeanor and wild ideas act as a magnet for drawing audiences into a platform that tackles urgent and sensitive issues.
As I look back on the film’s five-year journey – which was shot in four different countries, incorporates five languages, and weaves in both verité and animation – I realized not only did this story revive my sense of wonder for strange worldly subjects, but it also provided an opportunity to tell a heartfelt and funny story that intends to build bridges across cultures. I hope that this intimate access into the life of The World’s #2 Superhero will reveal the #1 struggle that a voiceless community faces in getting the world to act.