Making a Short Film: Loving the Process

M. Francis Enright
4 min readNov 9, 2023

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.

Photo by Patrick Perkins 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.

The Process

Six years ago I wrote a novel, Bromides, about Brian Stiglitz, a recovering alcoholic who was trying his hand at stand-up comedy, working as a substitute teacher, not doing well at any of it. He tries his routine out on the kids in the classroom, but they are not into it. In fact, they make of him and his Rodney Dangerfield-esque comedy, going so far as to infer that he is an overweight loser. (Yes, it is somewhat autobiographical.)

No one was willing to publish it. (Jesus, the more I think about all the failures I’ve experienced I wonder why I keep doing it. Don’t read this. I have nothing to offer.) It wasn’t until page 148 that I realized what the book was about. And actually, that is enough for me as far as that project is concerned. Because I learned something valuable.

EXT. AUDITION SPACE-DAY

MARCUS

I’m driving for Door Dash.

LIONEL

It’s hard man, it is hard.

Marcus looks away and ponders this. Lionel regards him from the corner of his eye. He puts his phone away, realizing that this young man needs some advice, some validation, some acknowledgement of his struggle, some light at the end of the tunnel, a reason to keep on, to go to the next audition.

LIONEL

I love it though…being on set, working with everybody, the lights, the crew, you know, the process. You got to. Otherwise, why would you put up with all this shit?

Marcus might not land the next audition. It may never happen. So what is the point? Going Having people tell you, “Thanks, we’ll be in touch” when what they really mean is “You are never going to hear from us.” Going to networking events. Going to workshops. Sending out endless headshots and resumes. All for the privilege of maybe landing a role as an extra in some shitty short film for free.

Why would anyone want to do that?

Does Marcus want to be an actor? Or does he want to be rich and famous? They are not the same thing. It is one thing to love music, or dance, or art, or sports. It’s another thing to just want to be rich and famous.

Anyone can create a You Tube channel, a Tik Tok account, an Instagram page. You can have a friend record videos of you acting out scenes. You can write a short script and act in the movie. No one is stopping you. If you want to be a musician, you can buy and instrument and play it.

If you want to be a singer, you can sing a song and record yourself and put it on Spotify.

But that is not what most people mean. They want to be rich and famous. You’d be better off playing the lottery; it’s a lot cheaper and takes a lot less effort.

Paul and Zair are serious about their craft. They talk about taking workshops and acting classes using the Meisner method and the Stanislavsky method. They put on a play called Smoked Oysters just to do it, just because they love acting. And it shows. That is why their performances were so powerful. They live it. I paid them a little bit of money but nothing much. Will my film make them rich and famous?

I hope so.

But there must be something else. Something beyond riches and fame.

The revelation, the epiphany, the process.

While we were shooting the opening scene, a kid rode by on an ATV and yelled, y’all ain’t about shit! Maybe not. But we were out there doing it.

It wasn’t until page 148 that I realized what the book was about. It came out of the process.

Brian Stiglitz is lonely. At the age of forty, he has crash landed and is trying to get his life back on track, if it ever was on track in the first place. He is not a good stand-up comedian, but he needs to do it, to get up in the morning.

At that time in my life, writing the novel gave me a sense of purpose that I desperately needed. I looked forward to sitting at my desk and trying to carve it out. I was struck at how it spoke to me as I wrote it and how aspects of the character were revealed to me as I wrote.

I needed to write that book because I had nothing. I was scared. I had no idea what I was going to do, what I was, who I was, or where I was or why I was. I need to write to see where my own life might go.

I needed the process.

Marcus has to love acting. He has to love creating characters. He has to love learning new techniques and going to workshops and networking events. He has to learn to love it even if he doesn’t like it. Even if he is an unpaid extra in a low-budget independent movie and it is freezing cold and the food is terrible and the director is terrible and he just wants to say fuck it and go home…he has to love it.

I don’t need to be published to be a writer. I just need to love writing.

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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!