Chadd Harbold is an independent filmmaker, a producer and director working in film since 2007. His latest movie, Long Nights Short Mornings, is currently in release and we recently had the chance to ask him about the film and the independent filmmaking process.
TMI: Hello Mr. Harbold. Thanks for answering a few questions for us. Let’s start with your new film, currently in release called Long Nights Short Mornings. Tell us about the project and any inspirations for how you came to write and film it.
Chadd Harbold: Long Nights is about young people and relationships and sex in New York City. It’s raw and emotional, unsentimental but vulnerable. I wanted to make a movie that was all of those things at once, because I hadn’t seen one.
The main character, James, played very well by Shiloh Fernandez, is a beautifully-crafted character that I think many will relate to. With the intriguing and diverse women he encounters, you manage to keep him well-balanced, which I think might have been a challenge as he could have easily fallen into an unsympathetic role. Could you tell us about him and how you (and perhaps Fernandez) worked to develop him?
I’m glad you feel that way but not everyone would agree that he is relatable and sympathetic, but that’s okay too. I think what keeps him grounded is that he is clearly searching, and clearly in pain. He sleeps with a lot of different women, but he isn’t callous, he isn’t cruel, and he isn’t a liar. We see his better angels in the micro, he is just making bad choices in the macro.
Naturally, we want to see an arc in the main character of the movies we watch, and I think it’s one of the more difficult aspects in storytelling to get that right. With James, it’s less about the arch I think than the triggers that motivate him to act. Without spoiling that powerful ending, was there always a sense of ambiguity you wanted to maintain with James and the story itself?
Yes. James doesn’t so much change in the end as make one small step toward change. And I think for a character like him, that is a lot.
The film has this great city vibe to it without being a “landmarks” tour. There’s great authenticity to it as we follow James from woman to woman. How important was establishing a sense of place and tone in the setting?
This film could have only taken place in New York City. Because there are so many people, there is an ability to lead different lives here. I have best friends who have never met each other. James is living many different lives.
Let’s talk about the amazing women. First off, what a great cast. Each of these women are so clearly defined in their brief appearances, and yet none feel like tropes. I’ll give you free reign here to just tell us whatever you’d like about the characters, their inspirations, and the actresses who played the parts.
Thank you. The women are the movie – that was always the intention. Some of the actresses I knew or had worked with, and some were found through auditions and meetings through our casting director, Eve Battaglia. All of them are very talented and smart. All I had to do was showcase what makes them attractive (both physically and personality-wise) to James and the audience.
I want to talk about that sensational opening. Truly, if there is a hook in play to get viewers attention, you found it. Aside from the mesmerizing performance of Ella Rae Peck as Katie, it’s how you frame that entire conversation of just her in close-up as she goes through this distressing breakup. You never leave her face and it’s very affecting. Again, not so much a question here as more anything you can tell us about this directing choice and Ms Peck as well.
Ella did that in her audition and I tried to do everything I could to not screw it up. We did 15 takes, and number 13 is what is in the film. The idea was to show the audience right away, “this is what this lifestyle produces.” I also wanted to communicate that I would be playing with the idea of the male gaze, and was aware of it.
As an independent filmmaker, what are some of the larger challenges you face in producing a full-length feature and conversely, are there advantages?
I’ve been making independent films in New York for a little while now, and there are always challenges, but you roll with them. This was one of the best experiences I’ve had because my company Last Pictures (producers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, along with Mott Street Pictures’ Alex Sagalchik) were in charge of it. No one was watching us. I was making a movie with my friends. Some crazy things happened, like having to fire a department head two days before shooting for showing up drunk, and an actor fighting off a crack head who tried to attack us, but it was all in a day’s work.
What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I’m currently in the process of casting my new movie, and writing some other ones.
Our site devotes a lot of writing to ‘moments’ in movies, considering their importance and influence in cinema. What are some movie moments, or movies in general, that have helped shape your career in filmmaking?
For an inspiration for Long Nights, I’ll mention Keith Carradine singing “I’m Easy” in Nashville. Geraldine Chaplin, Cristina Raines, Shelly Duvall, and Lily Tomlin all think he is singing to them. I stole that scene directly.
Thank you again for taking the time to talk about your film. Best of luck with Long Nights Short Mornings and we look forward to seeing more from you soon.