Filming DASH: Putting Words on Screen

M. Francis Enright
4 min readApr 20, 2023

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Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash

M. Francis Enright is co-creator with John Brancaccio of The Working Experience. He is also a filmmaker and published author. Listen to full episodes on iTunes and Spotify and visit our website: theworkingexperience.com for videos, merchandise and more. You can also find us on Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, and Twitter.

The crackhead outside the trashy flophouse/motel where we were shooting wouldn’t keep quiet. She was deliberately fucking with us, messing up the sound, yelling stuff while the actors playing Marcus Jones and Lionel Wright, were trying to perform the scene. It was one of the most significant scenes of the film and we had spent hours in rehearsal getting the lines right and figuring out how the actors would move, when they would sit and stand and deliver certain lines and she was deliberately messing it up. I alternated between wanting to go over and yell at her to shut the fuck up and just handing her twenty dollars to shut the fuck up. I didn’t do either. We would be able to fix the audio in post by having the actors do some Additional Audio Recording (ADR) but she was also hurting the performances.

Why was she doing it? What was the point?

We were using the location as the exterior for an audition space. Marcus, played by Zaire De Lyons, has just left an audition having been told, “Thanks a lot; we’ll be in touch”, which he has come to realize is code for, “No way you got this part”. Outside the audition space is Lionel Wright, played by Steven Benneford, an older gentleman whom Marcus has seen at a few other auditions, which we established with Lionel’s shoes, a very snappy pair of tan and white two tones that are owned by Steven, who is a very classy fellow. His character was shot from a down angle where we couldn’t see his face, only the shoes. I thought it lent a nice air of mystery, and I loved the shoes.

Steven came to me through Zaire; they had acted in a couple of plays together. When I initially sent him the script, he said that he felt he might be too old to play the character and he is quite a bit older than the character I had originally envisioned; I had seen Lionel as a Samuel L. Jackson type in his mid-forties, while Steve is in his late sixties. But Steve has this voice, a low, authoritative tone, that embodies wisdom. On a personal level, I wanted to listen to what Steve had to say on any given subject.

Marcus is pretty raw at this point. He has been disrespected by the man in the bunny suit and now has been rejected for this low-budget, short film for which he was not even going to be paid. Lionel can see that he is frustrated and wants to offer him some words of comfort, maybe give him some advice. Marcus is young and trying to get his bearings. Lionel has been on many, many audition, “A thousand and twelve” he says in response to Marcus telling him that this is his twelfth audition. Lionel has to chuckle at that. People in Marcus’s position want everything to happen now. It is the condition of instant gratification. People think that they will be “discovered” and be made a star overnight. That does happen on a rare occasion, but it is not a solid life plan. People do win the lottery, but that is not a sound financial plan. It takes time and effort and if it doesn’t then it really isn’t worth it. Lionel realizes that he needs to offer Marcus something more than the usual, “Keep at it” platitudes. Because in reality, many people keep at it and never make it; they never become professional actors. So Marcus has to understand why he wants to be an actor; does he want to be rich and famous? Or does he love acting?

Lionel tells Marcus that he heard him doing the soliloquy from Hamlet in his audition and Marcus tells him that he really doesn’t understand it, which is why he didn’t do a good job with it. There is a big difference between reciting lines and acting the character. Lionel explains to Marcus that the monologue is about suicide; Hamlet is asking himself if he will keep going through all the shit he is going through, the “slings and arrows”, if he will continue to be, or kill himself, and not be.

Lionel realizes that Marcus needs a dose of reality, but he also needs some love, some encouragement. He tells him, “It’s rough. Actors lined up around the block for these parts that don’t even pay.” The idea that he would be rejected from a job that does not pay any money is a hard pill for Marcus, or any actor, to swallow. “You mean you’re not going to have me in your piece of shit film that isn’t even paying? Go fuck yourself.” But that is the reality of the situation.

Reality always rearing its ugly head. Ironic in an industry that is built on make believe.

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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!