I Wrote and Directed a Short Film: Here is What Happened and Here is What I Learned

M. Francis Enright
5 min readDec 31, 2022
Photo by Avel Chuklanov 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.

Scene 9

INT. KITCHEN-DAY

Ann and Sarah talk at the kitchen.

This scene was meant to establish the relationship between Ann and Sarah as more than mother-daughter. Sarah is pretty much a grown up at this time and Ann leans on her because she feels essentially alone since her husband is in the basement telling jokes.

I’ve seen this dynamic play out with the kids I teach and their parents. On more than one occasion I have emailed a parent that their son/daughter was failing or missing assignments and received a reply along the lines of, “Well, her grades are her business.” I feel like saying, “Yeah, but you’re the parent. Shouldn’t you maybe at least talk to your kid about it?”

Some parents text their kids all day long. I think, “What the fuck are you doing that you need to text a sixteen year old?” I recall telling one kid to get off of his phone in class and he said, “Wait, I need to transfer $80 to my mother’s bank account so she can get an Uber.”

Is that dysfunctional? I don’t know. What passes as functional these days?

In the scene they are watching a video on YouTube that shows the Korean stadium that had sex dolls filling the seats. I thought that this sort of conversation would establish a sense of intimacy between them; they are comfortable in their relationship to joke about sex. At one point, Sarah asks her mother, “Do guys really have sex with those things?”

Ann replies, “God, I hope not.”

Sarah is sympathetic to the fact that her mother has to work another twelve hour shift at the hospital and tells her mother that she will pick up dinner and also ask dad to go get some toilet paper, since everyone was freaking out about not having any.

I had originally envisioned this scene with Ann and Sarah standing at the counter, looking at a laptop. However, Steven and the gaffer suggested they sit at the table because there were these huge windows looking out into the backyard, which made for a great background. It was very woodsy with interesting stone work in the yard and big soccer net, which lent to the story line of Sarah being a soccer player. Basically we got some amazing free art.

I was resistant. I do not like anyone telling me how to shoot my film. My antennae for disrespect instantly goes up and I am on the defensive. I do not like the feeling of being pushed around and out of control. I do not like being talked into things.

But Steven is a well-regarded professional, a known quantity. He has an excellent reputation among filmmakers. He has shot and produced and directed multiple films that have been accepted into festivals.

I have no credentials. I’ve made three shorts and not one of them has ever been accepted into a festival. One didn’t even get finished. My last short was submitted to 25 festivals and was not accepted by any. Not one.

I mean, you’d think it would just get into one by accident.

I can never resolve it: my need for control and my need for advice, guidance and collaboration.

But, I think I did have a legitimate gripe with some of the decisions that Steven made.

Two days before we were to begin shooting, call sheets were sent out to the cast and crew. Call sheets contain information such as which cast members are needed; what the weather conditions will be for the day; the scenes to be shot; the call time and other sundry information. The call time was set for 9am. This would give me time to rehearse with Brian for his basement scenes, which were extensive. While we were doing that, the crew would be setting up.

I checked my email one last time before going to bed and saw that Steven, for reasons I still cannot understand, pushed the call time to 12pm. He did not give any reason and had not consulted me.

What the fuck! This was cutting into everything I had planned. I was paying for this movie and he was completely ignoring me. Why?

I still do not understand his motivation for this move. Was he trying to let me know that he was in charge? Was this about ego?

I immediately texted him and said that this was throwing me off and I did not understand why he was doing it and why I was not asked. Seriously, what the fuck? I don’t recall exactly what he said in response but it had something to do with lighting and a night scene. Once again night and day didn’t matter BECAUSE WE WERE SHOOTING IN A FUCKING BASEMENT! Why couldn’t I make this clear? What was complicated about it?

The next day he sent out a new call sheet with the call time at 10am.

There is quite enough stress making a movie. I didn’t need that.

So the problem for me became about trust. If Steven was making a suggestion, what was his motivation?

However, in this case (and in many others), they were right. The windows in the background looked great. He also pointed out that there was a scene in which Ann and Brian were fighting in the kitchen and it would make more sense if they were standing at the island because it would be more confrontational.

Am I going to reject quality suggestions just because I need to be in charge?

  1. Be confident enough to know when you need help and ask for it.
  2. You do not have to accept every suggestion; know when to stand your ground.
  3. Trust is essential in any collaboration. Find people you can trust.

4. Balancing ego and reality is challenging. You need to have a certain amount of ego to believe you can direct a film or open a business or take on more responsibility. But ego can blind you. Know when to listen.

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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!