When the pair of ex-lovers in It’s Been Too Long reunite in a log cabin, past-traumas are regurgitated and the heat dials up to eleven. Director Amber Schaefer delivers a cinematic interpretation of Krista Jensen and David Ebert’s comedy sketch about revisiting a couple’s days long gone. It’s a hilarious and totally unexpecting short film, packed with quotable one-liners and performances you won’t be forgetting. DN spoke with Schaefer about her approach to Jensen and Ebert’s script, and adding her own flavour to it.
What did the beginning of making this film look like? What were your inspirations, how did the idea form?
Krista and David came to me with this fully baked script after they’d already lived in these characters for a long time. They performed this as a sketch at UCB and probably a thousand times in their living room. In real life, it hasn’t been ‘too long’ for Krista and David. They’re married and get to smooch whenever they want!
With such solid characters already fleshed out, it was my job to think about what we could do cinematically to add to the tone and to the visual execution. Something about the ‘will they or won’t they’ tension of the script reminded me of 90s erotic thrillers, like Poison Ivy and Basic Instinct. I find the dead seriousness of neo-noir innately funny and thought it would add to the humour to parody the genre. Good satire requires you to honor its tropes. So, we did just that, with beautiful, moody cinematography, thanks to our DP Jordan Parrott, and epic orchestral music, thanks to Pond5, that helped give Krisa and David’s super weird script some ground to stand – nay, twirl upon!
I loved the humour so much, it reminded me of Anchorman in parts, there were so many one liners that caught me off guard. How long did Krista and David’s script take to put together and how did you construct the humour?
I don’t know the exact origin of how this twisted tale came into their demented brains. But I think they really zeroed in on the copy after performing it as a sketch a number of times first. Of course, we did make a few refinements for the silver screen, mostly for brevity and clarity, not everything that works on stage works on camera. But, I like its theatrical origins and wanted to lean into that.
I see a lot comedy these days that is muted and lifeless, perhaps because it is often more conceptual and writerly and less character driven. Anchorman works because of Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy. It’s Been Too Long works because of Bufinda and Chaniel. Real people are really weird and I think a lot of contemporary filmmakers forget that.
Cinematically we constructed the humour by, firstly, allowing room for the characters to breathe, secondly, adding ridiculous visual punch-ups that honour the script, like a photo wallet of 100s of babies. Also, by adding sound design that helps bring the audience along emotionally, and, finally, keeping the genre tropes grounded enough to leave us room to get weird everywhere else.
Real people are really weird and I think a lot of contemporary filmmakers forget that.
Performance-wise, how did you get across to Krista and David what you were after from them?
Krista and David were really involved from the top to bottom of the process, so it was very much a collaborative environment. It helps that we like and respect each other. Ultimately, we made this because we like making things, not to win Cannes. Day of, I made sure we had enough time to experiment with the performance tone a little and try different things, but also get enough takes to glue it all together into something cohesive. It was important to me that each of us was happy before moving on to the next set up. It’s not my baby, it’s our baby, and I think this kind of filmmaking, where we are all cracking up and investigating what the funniest approach is together, is why I got into this crazy business.
A24, if you’re listening, if we add a teenage boy, murder, and something otherworldly, do we have a deal?
Lastly, what are you working on now?
Making comedy commercials, developing some episodic content, toiling away at a screenplay, and looking for a dog to adopt.
‘It’s Been Too Long is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.