It's never easy for "Saturday Night Live" stars to make the jump off the small screen, but Oz Rodriguez (one half of the venerable sketch comedy show's very popular directing duo Matt & Oz) seems to have the right idea. The filmmaker is now behind the camera on the charming short film "Darby Forever," written by fellow "SNL" talents Chris Kelly and Aidy Bryant (who also stars in the film), a canny move that marries his short-form sensibilities with the freedom of going long as part of Vimeo's new original programming initiative.
The short centers on Bryant's eponymous Darby, a clerk at a mostly boring fabric store, who wiles away her time dreaming about a brighter kind of life. That's not to say that Darby's actual existence is awful, after all, her boss is played by the incomparable Retta and her customers include a literally rocking Natasha Lyonne. It's a sweet, smart little slice of everyday life that shines because of the unique perspective its entire team brings to the table. And could it also be the start of a brand new web series? Here's hoping.
Indiewire recently hopped on the phone with Rodriguez to talk about making the move into longer shorts, the brave new world of Vimeo's original content and what's next.
You seem like a natural fit to direct this, given your work experience with Aidy and Chris. How did you come on board the project?
I work with those guys at "SNL" and we see each other a lot. Some of the things I’ve been able to do at "SNL" are narrative shorts. I work with Mike O’Brien a lot on short films, and those are the things I like to work on. In between shooting one of the crazy things we do up there, I went up to Aidy and said that I though it’d be fun to do something with her. This was like a year ago, and she had an idea for a character she had been mulling about and thinking about for years now, which was based on this lady in Chicago she’d met.
That was the first time we’d talked about it and, this summer, the producer of the short, Jason Carden, who a friend of ours on "SNL," asked me if I wanted to do it. And I said yes, which is always the answer if it involves Aidy Bryant. It was pretty easy. I was excited for this challenge of doing something different.
You said that Aidy had been thinking about Darby for a long time. Did the character change at all while you were making the film?
I never met the original person that Darby was based on. Once Aidy sent me the script and we talked about it, we sort of talked about visually what we wanted to do, and from that conversation we sort of locked in on that. From then on, it’s been kinda faithful to that conversation. We both started sharing images and started talking about it and I think we got pretty close with it.
"SNL" works on a very rapid schedule, did you have significantly more time to make this project than you're used to?
Most people think we shoot [pre-taped segments] weeks in advance. It’s usually shot the Friday before the show, so the production time is pretty impressive.
It wasn’t that different as far as time, it was a pretty rapid production. It was pretty crazy. We did have more time to edit. Shooting it, probably because of our work at "SNL," we were able to accomplish it in the very short time that we had. The important part is knowing what we needed to get to make to tell the story. One thing about the time and pacing of the short was, we could take our time with it and we didn’t have to tell it in the usual three minute set you get average for the show.
We liked the ideas of having different moments there. We have some emotion there and some heart that we don’t get to do much of on "SNL." We can have moments that don’t necessarily have a laugh, they just show how boring this store is, and you get a glimpse at Darby and that character.
The short seems to really lend itself to being a regular web series. Is that something you're thinking about?
Well, that’s good that you want some more! Right now, we wanted to concentrate on making this the best we can. We’ll see, I guess. We’ll see how it goes.
How has your partnership with Vimeo unfolded?
Aside from them being great and loving them, [laughs] it’s exciting to see the ground floor of them getting into original programming. We’re already big fans of "High Maintenance," so we’re trying to join in this partnership and they’ve been great to work with.
They give us creative control. All the suggestions they’ve had have been great. I’ve liked Vimeo even before we collaborated. They’ve always been home to interesting shorts and interesting filmmakers, so it’s super exciting to be an official Vimeo production. They don’t rely on advertising or censorship that would put us in a position to adjust to another third party. That’s really exciting. They want to support and put out the best possible.
You've got a strong working relationship on "SNL" with your frequent co-director Matt Villines and writer Mike O'Brien. How have those relationships shaped your work?
Matt and I met in film school in LA and sort of fell into doing sketch comedy. We graduated from school, both in debt and trying to do music videos. Music videos are a cool thing again, but back then bands wanted us to pay for music videos, and we were broke, so we weren’t really doing much. A friend of ours had an idea for a sketch and from there we ended up doing a bunch of sketches online, got into Funny or Die and got us into "SNL."
Then on "SNL," we met Mike O’Brien and connected with his sensibilities and really loved his sketches. The first thing we did with him was maybe the fourth or fifth show. It was in our first season. It was "Sad Mouse" and that’s still one of my favorite things we’ve done. We had a really great time on that one and from then on we started collaborating.
Then Mike joined the cast, and we did "Monster Pals," we did "Grow a Guy." We connected really well with his sensibilities and were big fans of his comedy. There is always a little bit of emotion to his sketches, it’s not just joke joke joke.
Mike’s working on a project and I don’t know how much he wants me to tell. He’s working on a project, at TV show I guess, that we would love to help him on.
One of the craziest things about "SNL" is how different people are hired and come together and then seem to automatically link up with other people who have their same sensibilities.
It’s really cool for us. Every week you get a different assignment as far as a sketch. One week you’ll work with Mike O’Brien, the next you’ll work with Chris [Kelly] and Sarah [Schneider] and maybe a piece that Michael Che wrote, so we get to work with all these people.
You get to develop a working relationship and sort of figure out what the best way to proceed with those sketches is. For us, it’s great because we get to work with so many people and not just one partner, so the whole cast and crew. It’s pretty great.
"Darby Forever" is currently available for rent or purchase on Vimeo.