I Wrote and Directed a Short Film: Here is How It Went and Here is What I Learned

M. Francis Enright
4 min readDec 12, 2022
Photo by Chris Murray 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.

“Hey, you know what would make an awesome movie? A guy wakes up in a motel room with a suitcase cuffed to his wrist and a dead woman in the bed beside him. No idea how he got there.”

“Yeah, that sounds awesome!”

“Right? We oughtta shoot that!”

“Totally!”

They down their beers, have twelve more each.

That’s usually as far as the project gets.

I’m not a very good filmmaker, but at least I make films.

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On the first day shooting my short film, “The Comic” the Assistant Director asked me if I wanted to call action or if I would be more comfortable having Steven Groh, the Director of Photography, call action.

I had written the movie. I was directing the movie.

I was paying $30,000 for it.

I found the question insulting. Yeah I was going to fucking call ‘Action’! What the fuck did she think I was doing there?

Ego. It’s a killer.

Because let’s be honest, my first short film, HR, cost me about $40,000 and it was accepted into zero of the twenty three festivals it was entered into. So there really is no reason for me to think I am any good at making films and that I actually should be calling “Action!”

Did the fact that I was paying for the movie give me the right to make decisions? Yes. I was the client. However, did it give me the legitimacy? No, I would have to say not. You get legitimacy through success, and I had not had any. I’d never had a film accepted into a festival or had a book published or even any of my short stories. My greatest claim to fame was that I had had the lead in a short film called Gowanus, Brooklyn which win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. That was in 2004; I really couldn’t ride that wave anymore.

Maybe I’m no good at making films. I’m too weak, indecisive, not smart enough.

I’d rather not dwell on that.

I did not have a good time shooting The Comic. I was frustrated and felt undermined the entire time, like no one listened to or respected me. And I am not satisfied with the finished product. Maybe I am misguided, delusional even. But what do you do when you’re forty-seven and you want to make films?

Scene 1

EXT: WAREHOUSE-DAY

A man exits a warehouse carrying a box. He is dressed in coveralls, wearing a black baseball hat. Sunglasses and a medical mask obscure his face.

He loads the box into the van and turns. He looks around, like he is hearing something.

He gets into the van and drives away.

We shot this scene on August 20th, 2021. It was hot and humid as hell. The location was the back of an industrial building, rather creepy and overgrown and abandoned, pretty great for what I wanted. The van and the driver are supposed to provide momentum for the story that something is coming. The pandemic had created such a sense of randomness that this unexplained opening seemed to speak well to that. There was such an air of not knowing what was coming that we needed to have something coming. Essentially, the driver is the pandemic.

We tried to shoot it on the 18th but the fucking van broke down. I had paid the gaffer $400 to use his van. He had managed to get it to the warehouse and then it wouldn’t start, so I had to pay the actor, Mike Steadman, the $100 that he had been promised for the day and then another $100 to come back and shoot again. Things happen. It wasn’t the gaffer’s fault that the van wouldn’t start. However, I did resent the fact that he did not even offer to pay me back $100 to offset the cost of paying Mike twice.

Mike is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, which meant that he technically should not have been acting in my movie, since it was not a union movie. Mike could have asked me to file the proper paperwork and meet certain demands that SAG would impose, such as breaking for meals at certain times, but he is a good guy. More than that, he really loves to act. We did a film together in 2018 called HR and I never once heard him complain about the low budget conditions, waiting around in the heat, not much food, etc., etc.

  1. If you have a real and genuine passion for something, you’ll do it. If you don’t, you won’t. If you just want to be rich and famous, you might as well play the lottery.
  2. Creativity is hard work. Most people are not willing to do it.

3. If you are doing good work, or at least trying to, good people want to be a part of that.

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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!