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.
But was this all worth it? I think we were stretched too thin; I was trying to do too much. But the details sell; I wanted the film to have a rich life. In a behind the scenes documentary about Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese gets irritated at the wardrobe person because in the scene where the young Henry Hill is dressed up in his gangster suit, the collar to his shirt doesn’t have ‘stays’ (little triangular pieces of plastic that hold the corners of the collar in place).
“Teresa, no stays?” he says to her with raised eyebrows.
Who would ever notice that? Would the audience ever say that the scene or the movie didn’t work because two little pieces of plastic were missing from a shirt collar?
Yes, they would. They wouldn’t know they were missing it, but they would.
The days were color coordinated. David wore a yellow tie on day one; orange on day two; red on day three. The move from yellow to red was supposed to signify David becoming increasingly frustrated by his lunch being stolen. We had to make sure that he wore the proper color in each scene because, like most movies, the scenes were out of order. It was difficult to keep track of which tie he should be wearing in each scene. I liked the concept, but the execution fell flat.
We needed stuff for the kitchen, food for David’s lunches, and for the office. Carl has a series of ailments that required jars of Vaseline, creams, ointments, and medications like Pepto-Bismol, antacids, aspirin, etc. We had a hemorrhoid cushion and an enema kit. The list seemed to go on and on.
For a sight gag, we had about twenty-four Tupperware sandwich containers stacked in the office refrigerator. They all had the same color lids and were labelled with the same color sticky notes.
Then there was Carl’s car.
In one scene, David is in the bathroom and hears Carl’s voice calling to him from the stall, where he is having some difficulty on the toilet. He asks David to go out to his car and get his cushioned ring because he is having a flare up. David really doesn’t want to do this, but he cannot leave this poor man in distress. He goes out to Carl’s car, which is an utter wreck and filled with all kinds of gross refuse. Using two fingers, David gingerly picks Carl’s ring from atop a heap of discarded newspapers and carries it back into the office building where he gives it to Carl in the bathroom.
The props/art person, Michelle Potts, had gotten the car from someone with a junk yard and it had been towed to the parking lot, where she and her assistant filled it with trash. It really looked great, but it did end up costing about $500 for the day.
The scene played out well; the shot of David walking to Carl’s car was shot from the angle of a surveillance camera, as were some of the other scenes in order to let the audience know that someone was watching these human dramas play out. I don’t like bathroom humor, but I wanted the audience to know that David real was willing to go the extra mile to help those around him. I thought it would make the audience sympathetic to him and his plight of having his lunch stolen by the office asshole.
The short was rejected from all twenty-three of the festivals to which it was submitted. Why? What was I missing?
Heart. There was no heart. No one cared about these characters. And that was my fault.
A film can have all the props and wardrobe gags money can buy and no one is going to care about it if they cannot identify with the characters and care what happens to them. Everyone loved all of the characters in Goodfellas. Even though they were terrible human beings, we rooted for them. Paulie cutting the garlic with a razor, Billy Bats telling Tommy to go get his fucking shine box, Henry keeping his mouth shut after getting arrested for selling cigarettes, Jimmy Burke murdering everyone he knew…Why do we love these people?
Because of those stays.