The Egg and the Hatchet
Chris Skotchdopole (2016 Short, 13 min, 1:85, color)
Jeremy Gardner, Taylor Zaudtke
A girl’s surprise for her boyfriend turns into a night of uncertainty when neither dares to say what the other is thinking.
In Skotchdopole’s deft and spontaneous world, this pas de deux is pure magic
Skotchdopole deftly eschews clichés of the romantic genre and succeeds in finding the balance between spontaneity – and therefore reality – and his constructed, imagined vision for his short. In doing so, he also manages to masterfully capture and convey the energy between his protagonists and that is precisely how he puts a spell on his audience.
TARA KARAJICA 11/4/2016
Oldenburg 2016. Review of “The Egg and the Hatchet” by Chris Skotchdopole
“The Egg and the Hatchet”. This is the perplexing and yet somewhat comforting title of Chris Skotchdopole’s first film that had its first festival bow in the Sunday Shorts program at this year’s Oldenburg International Film Festival.
“The Egg and the Hatchet” is the story of a dance between a boy and a girl; a dance around a decision that will forever change their lives. In fact, the girl has a secret and the surprise for her boyfriend turns into a night of uncertainty as neither dares to say what the other is thinking.
What makes Skotchdopole’s world of magic and spontaneity is his liberated vision of it and its sense of reality, nimbly achieved by nonprofessional actors (Taylor Zaudtke and Jeremy Gardner) and their natural and exceptional performances, improvised lines and a story we can all relate to. “The Egg and the Hatchet is breezy, light, wonderful and very easy on the eye, for the camera is a character here, an inherent part of this magical pas de deux to which it lends its enchantment. Skotchdopole deftly eschews clichés of the romantic genre and succeeds in finding the balance between spontaneity – and therefore reality – and his constructed, imagined vision for his short. In doing so, he also manages to masterfully capture and convey the energy between his protagonists and that is precisely how he puts a spell on his audience.
With a fairytale-like title and a wondrous plot, “The Egg and the Hatchet” is, for all intents and purposes, a modern fairytale, a young, fun, sexy and smart gem of a short film. And, if you ever have to something to tell your significant other, just do it the “Egg and the Hatchet Way”!
TARA KARAJICA 11/4/2017
Oldenburg 2016. Short Talk with Chris Skotchdopole
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!
From the director
Nonprofessional actors. Improvised lines. Natural performances. That fast-paced, low budget style of filmmaking that makes you feel connected to your subject. With The Egg and the Hatchet, I wanted to live in that world of spontaneity, but at the same time retain a specific visual style.
The first step, rehearsal. Lots of rehearsals. I wrote out scenes that were never going to make it into the movie. The point was to get Jeremy and Taylor comfortable with one another, especially given that Taylor was a first time actor. I shot all of the rehearsals on a 5d and started figuring out how the camera was going to work between the actors. I never wanted to be a fly on the wall, looking at them through a pair of binoculars. The camera needed to be a part of the dance.
On set, I let the actors improvise, but there were always boundaries, especially when dealing with blocking. We did take, after take, after take. Around Take 20, they no longer had to think about hitting their marks. It was just embedded in the performance. I would tell them, “go crazy, do whatever you want!” The performance would change, but Taylor and Jeremy would hit their marks without having to think about them. It was at this point that I really felt that I had control. All of the physical elements were synced and I could just focus on performance. It became about shaping the tone of the scene to my intentions for the story.
Finding a balance between spontaneity and construction is what made this process invigorating, but also very time consuming. I expected to shoot the film in five days. We ended up finishing in ten, with an additional pickup day after I finished editing. At times it’s embarrassing to admit because friends of mine have shot features in less time, but I believe time is the most valuable currency that you can give your art. Shooting a feature in a week has never been a goal of mine.
At the end of the day, after all of this mastrabatory reflection on process has come to an end, the movie is what it is. A picture of a boy and a girl, dancing around each other- capturing that energy, that weighted question between them, that was always the agenda, from page one. Also, I wanted magic hour.
JEREMY GARDNER – Actor and director, known for THE BATTERY (2012), SPRING (2014) and TEX MONTANA WILL SURVIVE! (2015).
TAYLOR ZAUDTKE – The Egg and the Hatchet is Taylor’s first role.
Chris Skotchdopole, Writer/Director – Writer, director and producer living in New York City. He works with Glass Eye Pix, an independent production outfit lead by director, Larry Fessenden. He most recently served as associate producer on Mickey Keating’s DARLING (SXSW) and Rob Mockler’s upcoming film LIKE ME, starring Addison Timlin. He has produced several music videos and shorts for Glass Eye, including James Siewert’s THE PAST INSIDE THE PRESENT (Slamdance, Flordia Film Festival).
THE EGG AND THE HATCHET is his first short since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2010. Chris is currently developing a feature with Jeremy Gardener (THE EGG AND THE HATCHET, THE BATTERY).
James Siewert, Director of Photography – At the age of 13 James Siewert made his first film, in which the camera enters the main character’s eye. Now at 26 he has directed 3 more films where camera enters various bodily orifices. Along the way certain useful skills were acquired: how to build stuff, how to light stuff, and how to narrowly avoid a psychotic break during a week of shooting overnights. His main goal in life is to be able to keep making weird movies that some people care about.
Larry Fessenden, producer – Larry Fessenden, winner of the 1997 Someone to Watch Spirit Award, and nominee for the 2010 Piaget Spirit Award for producing, is the writer, director and editor of the award-winning art-horror trilogy HABIT (Nominated for 2 Spirit Awards), WENDIGO (Winner Best Film 2001 Woodstock Film Festival) and NO TELLING. His film, THE LAST WINTER (Nominated for a 2007 Gotham Award for best ensemble cast), premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Fessenden directed SKIN AND BONES for NBC TV’s horror anthology FEAR ITSELF and the feature film BENEATH for Chiller films. He wrote the screenplay with Guillermo del Toro of ORPHANAGE, an English language remake of the successful Spanish film EL ORFANATO. He is the writer, with Graham Reznick of the hit Sony Playstation videogame UNTIL DAWN. Fessenden was awarded the 2007 Sitges Film Festival Maria Award for his work as a producer, actor and director in genre film, and he won the 2009 Golden Hammer Award for “being such an inspiring force in the industry.” In 2011, Fessenden was inducted into the “Fangoria Hall of Fame” and was honored by the UK’s Total Film as an Icon of Horror during the Frightfest Film Festival.