Todd Sklar

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Synopsis: Brothers Jim and Dave sort out their differences in extreme fashion when their father dies.

Where did the idea come from for the film?
I had always wanted to do something on family, more importantly something about my brother and me. Alex Rennie, who played one of the guards, co-wrote it. He also had an interesting relationship with his brother. James Humphrey, who played the older brother in the film, has a relationship with his older sister. His father recently passed away. Between the three of us there was a lot of good stuff to dig from.

You get the feeling watching this film that there’s an ensemble of people that have known each other for quite a while. Is that correct?
It’s kind of is and kind of not. I made a film in 2007 that had a few of the same crewmembers as this one. As far as in front of the screen, it’s just me and Alex that had a relationship and we cast the other actors. I’m really into getting people comfortable with each other, getting people into a place where their environment is not a movie set but just a friendly place. A lot of producers get frustrated with me. I like to take a lot of time in between takes and moreover between setups of scenes. Even in prep days, I do less rehearsal and more hanging out and getting people extremely comfortable. There’s something to that shows on the screen.

What was this shot on and what was the budget?
The budget for this film was less than $1000--probably more like $500. Mostly, it was just for food for people and for beer afterwards. We shot it on a 7D and a 5D cam.

This film festival used to get films from wherever Panavision was available. Now, when I look at entries, I’m thinking: “Man, they’re shooting it on anything, anywhere, and it’s looking very good.” We’re just getting such a wider variety of stories. The way you shot this, I can see a feature shot the same way.
That’s true. For me that’s the best way to work. You want the flexibility at all times. It allows you to schedule around last minute problems or coming up with a new idea, or it allows you to do something better, keeping things organic.

This year there were 5229 short film entries to the Sundance Film Festival, from which it selected about 100 short films. What is it about this film that’s better than the other 5129?
I don’t want to be too undiplomatic in my answer but the reality of that situation is that at the end of the day, when it comes to festival programming, especially Sundance, which has been doing this for a long time, most of them are of that same top tier quality. It’s all about programming. We just got very lucky. Family, coming home, personal relationships and how internal things manifest in external ways. A couple of those themes were more noticeable than in the other shorts that we saw in the festival that year. At the end of the day, that has everything with this film being any better than another one.

Has winning the Sundance Film Festival impact anything, change anything; what did that do to you as a filmmaker?
I’m still as broke as I was the day before but it elevates you to a position to get more opportunities. We were both kind of lucky and kind of cursed. We made a feature length version of this short which hopefully will be coming out this fall. In a lot of ways, the next step for a lot of short filmmakers is that you make a feature. I had already made one and had another in the can. If anything, the new goal is to try to maintain people’s interest post-Sundance until the next film comes out. I think you just have to keep chopping wood and carry on whether other people are interested or not because at the end of the day, when they are, you want to be as prepared as possible. If not, you should go to a corner and feel bad for yourself.

There is a certain style to the way that the film’s written, the way that it’s shot, the way that it’s edited, and the way that it comes across. You’re a director that doesn’t need a star in your film. You aren’t going to make those films that are going to need a “name” actor to make the film what it is possibly. Actors can be “found” through your films.
A great compliment. I hope I can live up to that. That would be a dream come true as a movie lover who loves stars in movies just as much as anyone else. It’s always best when you can cast organically and make the story the most important part of that process. If you can do that, you’re not hedging your bets and putting everything on one name in a financial sense and a character sense. I think that’s a difficult thing, especially with comedy which seems to need a recognizable face because it’s a way to get people to come out and see the movie. That’s a level that’s necessary in a larger comedy. You can do things in an ensemble. Plenty of people have had success with that, just not enough of them for it to become a way of making and marketing a movie. I hope that’s something we can do.

How many short films have you made and where did you study?
I never actually studied film. I went to college for theater and English and didn’t graduate in either. I went to the University of Missouri and then I made a bunch of really bad short films. The first one that I made was kind of halfway decent. Right after that I decided I was going to make a feature film. I hadn’t made anything since then, but I just went out and shot this short, then a feature afterwards. So there’s a big break between that.

Tell me about the feature film version of this film. Is that happening?
We’re editing that right now. Hopefully, it will be done in time. We’re aiming for Sundance. Who knows if we will get in but we would love to be entered. After that, take it on the road. Then who knows?

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