Beneath, Between, Behind the Scenes: Absorb the Obstacle

M. Francis Enright
3 min readApr 1, 2024
Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

M. Francis Enright is a filmmaker. His first short film, HR, was accepted into zero of the 23 festivals to which it was submitted. His second short film, The Routine, was nominated for Best Dark Comedy at the Georgia Comedy Film Festival. His third short film, Say Your Name, won Best Drama and Best Director at the Top Shorts Films Festival and has been selected for the 2024 Boston International Film Festival.

In March of 2020, I was in pre-production for my short film, Authenticity, which was to be shot in July. The script is about a young woman of color who is trying to make a short film. She is smart and well-educated but has problems communicating her vision to the crew and the actors. She is trying to find her identity.

Then the Coronavirus reared its head; we were being told to wear masks and stay home. Public venues closed: restaurants, bars, gyms etc. Schools turned to remote learning. Gatherings of more than ten people were banned.

Lockdown. My timing really could not have been worse.

Throughout April and into May I held out hope that things might calm down and we could pull it off but, by the beginning of June it had become apparent that the project was not going to be feasible. It would be very difficult to get locations in which to shoot. Even if we could get a location, having 10–15 people in one space was going to be a problem. Obviously, when we were shooting, everyone would be in close proximity to each other; the actors would have to take their masks off and many people were going to be uncomfortable with that. We had put out a casting call and barely anyone responded which gave us a pretty clear indication that people just didn’t want to be on set at that time. In addition, I’m sure that people were too preoccupied with their jobs and financial situations to think about acting in a short film.

I had worked hard on the script for Authenticity. It had gone through at least nine drafts and I was very proud and excited to shoot it. Now, the rug had been pulled out from under me. Since my job as a teacher had pretty much halted I had a lot of time to write a new script but it was hard to switch gears since I had invested so much time and energy into “Authenticity”. I felt like I had lost all the energy and momentum that had been building over the previous few months.

The guitar virtuoso, Steve Vai, played with Frank Zappa, who is regarded as one of the greatest musical innovators of modern times. He said that Zappa would experiment with guitars, take them apart and rework them to get certain sounds that he wanted. Vai said that if Zappa ran into a situation where he couldn’t get what he wanted, he would “absorb” the obstacle. He would try new designs and techniques to at least get something new, even if it wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

Absorb the Obstacle: If you can’t get over it, under it, around it or bulldoze your way through it, make it work for you. Absorb it like a sponge, make it take on a different form, like water cutting rock in the Grand Canyon.

It’s not like I was the only one in this boat. Many people’s creative plans had been derailed. A former student of mine, Liz Campanelli, is an actor and she sent me a link to a play she was in, The Importance of Being Earnest. She and her acting troupe had been in the midst of rehearsals when the pandemic hit and closed all the theaters so they were doing on Zoom. I have to say that the performance was tough to watch because the actors are all in different locations and there was no music and everything was static but the costumes and background looked great and the actors did a fine job delivering their lines. And, bottomline, they did it. They had absorbed the obstacle.

Obstacles are just excuses.



M. Francis Enright

Co-creator and cohost of The Working Experience Podcast. We explore what people do for work, how they do it and how they feel about it. Twice a week!