Making a Short Film: In Between Scenes

M. Francis Enright
4 min readOct 24, 2023
Photo by Warren 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 short film, The Routine, was nominated for Best Dark Comedy at the Georgia Comedy Film Festival. Say Your Name is his third short film.

There was a perhaps not homeless but transient woman outside the cheap motel (one of those pay by the hour places) where we were shooting this scene that yelled and carried on during some of the takes. Did it deliberately. Mad at the world. I would be too. What did she do all day when we weren’t there? Where did she go?

We could fix the audio more easily than she could fix her life.

EXT. AUDITION SPACE-DAY

Marcus exits the building where he just sucked at another audition. Lionel is there on the phone. He hangs up and says hello to Marcus. They talk.

LIONEL

Heard you doin’ that Hamlet soliloquy in there.

Lionel gently chiding Marcus (Haaaammmlettt-very dramatically). Every actor does that piece and no one does it well.

MARCUS

Yeah. I don’t get it though.

LIONEL

It’s about suicide.

MARCUS

Really?

LIONEL

Yeah. (Lionel sits up and goes into teacher mode) To be or not to be. Is he going to face all the problems he’s going through, or is he going to kill himself? It’s about choice. Is he going to be or not be?

Lionel steps back and recites the monologue from memory.

LIONEL

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles…

Marcus is mesmerized. He stares as Lionel as we fade…

All of the above was cut. We shot it outside of the audition space with camera on a dolly and a slow push into Lionel’s face to sell the drama of the moment. He explains the meaning of the ‘To Be or Not to Be’ piece to Marcus and then we would transition into the theater. But the sun went behind the clouds, and we couldn’t use it. It was superfluous anyway. So we just went to a black screen and kept one line.

But before we fade out of the scene, Lionel turns his head away from Marcus, conflicted. Should he tell this young man about suicide? Heavy shit.

LIONEL (OVER BLACK SCREEN)

It’s about suicide.

INT. THEATER-DAY/NIGHT

Lionel stands on the stage in a spotlight.

Marcus sits in the theater and watches. He is the only member of the audience.

LIONEL

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles…

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.

At the beginning of the soliloquy, the homeless man, the one Marcus exchanged look with earlier, enters the theater from a door behind Marcus. He takes a seat but does not watch Lionel. He watches Marcus. Marcus gradually becomes aware of his presence. He turns full and they lock eyes. The homeless man is serene in the reality of the horror, the waste of his life.

LIONEL

The calamity of so long a life.

The camera focuses on the homeless man, in a closeup. A tear drifts down the cheek of the actor. The long calamity of his life. I never told him to do that. It never occurred to me.

How am I going to make it as a director? I don’t even understand my own script.

During a resetting of the lights, Malik, the sound man and some of the other crew were engaged in a discussion about skin color. There are a lot of politics around light and dark and how one acts. Being the only white person there, I didn’t feel like I had anything valuable to add.

Malik and I talked about people who say they want to do creative things and the people who actually show up. It’s not talent. Lord knows I have little enough of that. But I show up, for better or for worse.

Zair was telling a story about some incident in a club where some woman nearly caused a fight between him and her boyfriend. The bouncer got involved. Eddie said he was about to clock that boy. I would not want to see Eddie mad.

I watched the group. Lound, fun. Everyone laughing. That’s the great stuff, almost better than when the camera is rolling.

Lionel finishes and looks directly at Marcus.

LIONEL

Find something that speaks to you and make it your own. You gotta believe it. It’s the only way they will.

I don’t know what I am doing but I have never seen anything like the performance of the three actors in that theater.

So I’ve got that.

--

--

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!