Chadd Harbold

chadd harbold photo 2

by Joanna Orland

Director Chadd Harbold’s latest short film George and the Vacuum is a sweet and sentimental story of letting love go.  Written by Charlyne Yi and starring Fred Armisen and Sophia Takal, the film makes its London debut at this year’s Raindance Film Festival.  Chadd was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about George and the Vacuum:

How did you and Charlyne get together to make this film, and what inspired you to direct it?

A mutual friend introduced us a couple of years ago and we worked together on some YouTube sketches. Then I showed her some of my short films, and she wanted to write one for me to do. I love Charlyne’s work – it is unique, funny, melancholy, personal.

How did Fred and Sophia get involved?  Did you always have them in mind?

Charlyne and Fred became friends when she started sending him fake SNL auditions. I think they are still on YouTube. She wrote the film for Fred. When I read it, I assumed Charlyne was going to play Lacy, but she didn’t want to. She said we have to get a “real actress.” So I sent her some clips of different friends of mine who are New York actresses. There’s a clip of Sophia silently eating a hamburger that Charlyne loved. I’ve known Sophia for a long time and always wanted to work with her. It ended up being a great fit. She and Fred compliment each other.

Have you ever personally been in George’s situation, stuck in a loop whether it be in love or in life?

Sure, of course, but more so when I was younger. I was the lovelorn mopey type.

What advice would you give to George to help him move on?

He has to not talk to her for a while. Delete her from his phone, social media, etc. He’s gotta forget her before they can maybe be friends again down the line.

Can you talk a bit about the look of the film and how / why you decided to film in black and white? 

The script had a melancholy and surreal vibe that reminded me of some of the Eastern European cinema I love. When I sent (Director of Photography) Adam Newport-Berra some reference images and clips they were all in black and white or at least very desaturated. I hadn’t done anything in black and white since college, so it was a good opportunity.

What are some of the challenges of telling a story in a short film vs feature length?

I was very impressed that Charlyne’s script was able to do so much in so few pages. Obviously, it’s about establishing things very quickly. But I also think you can get away with more ambiguous / less conclusive endings with shorts, because people have invested less time into it, so they don’t feel robbed if you leave it more open.

What kind of techniques do you use for short film to get the audience engaged from the start of the film as you don’t have the luxury of time to get them on side?

A good opening line helps. Ours is “Do you ever wake up crying from a dream?”

Are there any further plans for George and the Vacuum or these characters?  ie a feature, another short, etc?

No. It’s not a short version of a feature. It’s just a short story. I do want to direct more scripts Charlyne writes though.

What’s up next for you?

I just wrapped my new feature called Long Nights Short Mornings that I wrote and directed. We’re in post now; it will hopefully be at some festivals next year.

If there were only one word to summarize George and the Vacuum, what would that one word be?



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