Last October, Saturday Night Live broadcast the comedy sketch “Short Film,” set at the fictional “16th Annual Ann Arbor Short Film Festival.” The cast, along with guest host Emily Blunt, poked fun at film festivals as well as at avant-garde cinema.
While this sketch may not specifically poke fun at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, we certainly appreciate the parody that the sketch presented.
We contacted former SNL head writer Chris Kelly, also the writer-director of the Sundance hit Other People, to get his take on the sketch a year later.
AAFF: How did the sketch come about?
CK: The same way a lot of our sketches do. Sarah and I will just sit in a room on writing night and talk about anything thats been making us laugh recently. Big or small, things we saw in the news, or things we personally experienced, etc. It can be anything. I had recently just taken a film around to film festivals that summer, and so that was very much on my mind. And we just started spitballing from there.
AAFF: Were there any personal experiences, specific films or people that inspired the film and filmmakers within the sketch?
CK: Well for me, like I said, I had just gone on the festival circuit which I LOVED. I had the best time, and met the best people. But there were definitely screenings where you'd do a Q&A for like 7 people, and that was always a little stressful. So we used that experience and just exaggerated it for our sketch, and made it so there was just one person in the audience, Vanessa Bayer. There wasn't one specific film or filmmaker the movie in our sketch was based on, but lets just say we've all seen this type of film before, right? One tiny stupid thing that WAS ripped straight from film festivals was the mic passing: I loved when an entire cast and crew would go up for a Q&A, and after a question was asked, they all had to pass the one mic down an entire line of like 15 people before answering the question. Its just such a funny, quiet moment that has to happen over and over again. Thats so small but it really makes me laugh.
AAFF: Did Emily Blunt have any input on the sketch?
CK: Hmm, I can't remember. I mean, she didn't write it with us, but she was so so funny in it. I think as an actor, she has probably done many Q&As like this, so she understood the cadence and the self-seriousness with which to play it. She was so funny in it to me. They all were.
AAFF: Michigan, and especially the University of Michigan, seems to have a recurring presence in SNL. Was former writer Michael Patrick O’Brien an influence on the decision to base this sketch in Ann Arbor?
CK: Unfortunately, no! He wasn't on staff when we wrote this. The true reason we set it at the Ann Arbor Film Fest, was because we didn't want to set it at any film festival I had just been to. Because this sketch wasn't directed at any one place or experience! It was supposed to just be a gentle, fun parody of that world in general. Which I deeply, deeply love. I could spend all day every day at a film festival. Truly.