Making a Film: Screening at the Coolidge Theater in Cambridge, MA

M. Francis Enright
4 min readNov 30, 2023
Photo by Merch HÜSEY on Unsplash

M. Francis Enright is co-creator with John Brancaccio of The Working Experience. Listen to the podcast on iTunes and Spotify and watch videos on Tik Tok. 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. Say Your Name is his third short film.

Say Your Name was screened for the first time at the Coolidge Theater in Cambridge MA as part of the Sights Unseen showcase. Malik Williams, founder and creative director of the Secret Society of Black Creatives asked us to show the film along with six others. I’m not black but hell yeah.

It was not a festival, meaning that there was not a selection process among submissions (Malik just asked us if we wanted to screen the film), but it gave us a chance to see it on a big screen and see what needed to be tweaked (mostly sound issues.)

It also gave us a chance to see how the audience would react to the film and specific points in it. After Marcus’s first audition my voice is heard saying “Thanks, we’ll be in touch” which got a big laugh. It had felt like a throwaway line at the time and the reaction surprised me. However, the audience was mostly made up of actors and filmmakers so I guess it resonated.

The scene with Sadiq answering the door in the bunny suit also generated some laughs, as I was hoping it would. I was afraid it would come off as cheesy but it landed and provided some comic relief. When films keep beating you down it can be hard to take.

There wasn’t much of a reaction, but Rui pointed out that that is the way it is supposed to be with a drama. It’s not like comedy, where you are looking for laughs at specific points.

The Coolidge Theater is a retro spot. Very old, old school seats, none of the massive reclining seats like they have in all the new theaters. I won’t lie; I like those big comfy seats but retro feels good sometimes.

It’s very red in there: the seats the walls. Lots of old movie posters. It’s the type of place that shows old obscure movies at midnight and they serve odd foods. It is really is for cinephiles, people who value films, who get really excited for the 4 hour version of Apocalypse Now and cannot understand why other people do not.

It was not a packed, sold-out extravaganza but I enjoyed standing on the stage with Rui and the other filmmakers and answering questions from the audience. Someone asked if we had experienced any major problems and Rui mentioned the downpour when we were filming the scene on the basketball court, which turned out to be more than a blessing. It’s amazing how problems turn into salvation.

The day after the screening, Rui sent me the below review from a critic in the audience:

Even with solid encouragement from his girlfriend, Lizandra Gomes, recovering alcoholic and aspiring actor Marcus (Zair Silva) struggles to succeed in auditions. Attending AA meetings and delivering food are barely enough to dissuade him from the temptation of swigging a nip until another actor, Lionel (Paul Benford Bruce) mentors him. If Sights Unseen was awarding Best Actor Awards, Benford Bruce would win. He disappears into the role of an affable actor with an infectious love for the craft then transforms into a thespian by showing Lionel performing the dialogue that Marcus was butchering in earlier scenes.

Director and writer Matt Kerr’s use of common narrative techniques was deft and hidden throughout the short. His sculpting of the story generated genuine surprises with a redemptive arc that implies one chain of events until the end reframes everything that came before. Marcus and his girlfriend felt underwritten and archetypical. The financial reality of their situation made her unwavering support seem Herculean and his career choices feel idealistic and overly optimistic. More background was needed. Women viewers are less receptive to narratives of strong women unconditionally supporting their partner while doing everything so there needs to be a solid foundation to make her choice relatable, not foolish. Also it would help to give her a name. Kerr’s collaboration with cinematographer/editor Rui Canvasking Lopes succeed in visually telling the story by creating dissonance (not matching the audio with the scene) showing time lapses with dissolves and evocative nighttime shots. Also, loved the surreal bunny shot.

I get her point about Christina, Marcus’s girlfriend, but I did not have enough time to develop her character or their relationship. The film had to be no more than 15–16 minutes, so I had to make choices and maintain the focus on Marcus.

I don’t know what to make of my use of “common narrative techniques”. It sounds like I was relying on cliches. I won’t read into it.

It was pouring rain when I left the theater after all the group photos and I got lost trying to make out of Boston and onto the highway in the dark but sometimes I like being lost.

It’s good for the soul.

--

--

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!