At this year’s Oldenburg International Film Festival, Yellow Bread sat down with U.S. director Chris Skotchdopole to talk about his (first) short film, “The Egg and the Hatchet” as well as the short films in general and the shorts scene in America.
Can you talk about your background?
Chris Skotchdopole: I work with Larry Fessenden at Glass Eye Pix and I just made this movie [“The Egg and the Hatchet”].
How did you get into filmmaking?
C.S.: I was raised in the industry. I grew up on sets and it was the thing that I wanted to do from a very young age.
“The Egg and the Hatchet” is your first short film?
C.S.: I’ve made other ones but it’s the first one that I am sort of offering to people.
How did it come about? What inspired you to make it?
C.S.: I had a longer movie that I wanted to make and then just found that I didn’t want to be fighting with everyone else, trying to get a whole bunch of money to make a movie. So, I was like: ‘Well, I just wanna prove myself and make a short.’ I didn’t want to give up the other idea… One of the families that were in the longer movie, they had this child and you kind of saw their relationship… I just thought they’re my favorite part of the movie and I wanted to see what happened on the night when they found out this news. So, I just sort of took these characters that I’ve been thinking about, went back and tried to figure out what they were up to then.
You said you rehearsed a lot with the actors and that you let them improvise. How does this way of working actually fit within the tone of the short and what you wanted to make? Did you want people to identify with it, because it can happen to anyone and most of the people go through that?
C.S.: Well, I had a certain vision of what it was going to be and then I sort of started working with the actors and became so inspired by what I saw. I introduced them. I was like: ‘Oh my God! They’re so beautiful! And now I have to figure it out…’ And then, I just sort of chased my tail in the process. But, as far as the improvisation is concerned, it’s more like we have a set up beat like ‘This happens, this happens, this happens in the scene. Now, how are you gonna get there? So, you have to hit this, you have to hit that…’ And, we did lots of takes – for each of the scenes maybe forty takes – so by the end of it, we would sort of lock in exactly; let them do what they wanted to do and then I’d say ‘No… Yes… No… Yes…’ and we’d arrive. And then, I just feel it makes them who they are; not something that I wrote down on a page.
So, the film made them a couple?
C.S.: Now, they’re together, living together… Yeah!
That’s a nice love story, actually! Completely movie-like…
Can you talk about the title?
C.S.: Sure! I thought it just sounded nice. And, I wanted it to feel like a fairytale, like “The This and the That”… “Beauty and the Beast”…
But, why the hatchet?
C.S.: I like how it is gentle and aggressive at the same time; like a fragile egg and an intimidating hatchet. I just felt like the way that the girl is – she’s like this hatchet, you know, and she’s also like this fragile little egg. That’s where that came from. And also, the play on words, to hatch… Which I thought was fun.
Can you talk about shorts and your opinion on them? Because a lot of people think that shorts are just the way to prove themselves to later make a feature film, like a showcase of talent for “the big thing”…
C.S.: I don’t know! I mean, I think, in some ways, it’s about proving yourself. But, I think it’s about finding your rhythm and finding how you want to create. And, it’s nicer to do a little sketch and make something small and then move on to something bigger. But, also, I felt that with a short film I could have complete control over the parts because it is a smaller thing I am dealing with. So, it’s nice as a stepping-stone to just know that ‘OK, I was able to do that and now can I grab a bit bigger chunk?’
How do you see the short film scene in the U.S.?
C.S.: I’m a little annoyed because I just feel like it’s this amount of time a short movie is – 10 minutes – and it’s this nice little piece of candy that just sort of feels digestible; it has a ‘1, 2, 3 and a nice wrap around it. OK! Get ready for the feature!’ And, I’m just like: ‘No, I don’t actually…’ I feel you can’t put these sort of limitations on it and it’s great I came here to Oldenburg where all of the shorts are 20 minutes long – or a lot of them are – whereas when I’ve gone to other festivals in the U.S., it’s a little like ‘the 4-minute one; the 5-min one and then there’s a really long 12-min one’ and you’re like: ‘But….?!’ Yes, I guess that’s all I have to say about that!
And now, are you working on a feature film or a longer short?
C.S.: No! I’m working on a feature – a couple of them… One of them is something that I thought of when I was on the set of this movie. I’m writing it with Jeremy Gardner, who’s a talented writer and a really great actor. We’ll see what happens!