A no-nonsense funeral home director and his unflappingly buoyant protégé get to know one another through their daily routine.
Three years ago, I was ready to make my film directorial debut so I asked my immensely talented college friend Gregory A. Noël if he had a script. We had our first production meeting the next week, in March 2020, not knowing, of course, that the world would be shut down the very next week. Two years and some change later, in May 2022, it felt like the time to pick it up again so we had our second official production meeting. What I didn’t expect was that I would have so much more passion for and understanding of the script as a result of the years since we first met about the film. In late 2021, one of my best and oldest friends passed away from cancer and my grief process included a lot of writing and creating around that grief; this, added to the context of the previous one and a half years of Covid-19, only added to my sense that we all had collectively entered into a shroud of death. It was everywhere. And yet, our relationship with death and grief had largely remained the same – it is to be a solitary process, dealt with in private, not shared except for perhaps singular Instagram posts in memoriam. Over the course of pre-production, I watched countless interviews with morticians and Funeral Directors. I even established a relationship with the Funeral Director at the Mortuary where we filmed, consulting him on logistics (his name is listed in our credits under “Funeral Advisor”). And what I found is a collection of people who exist in stark contrast to the caricatures we so often see on film: a morose, emotionless creep with greasy hair or a swindler upselling coffins to grieving families. What I found were people who chose this profession out of a desire to usher folks through some of the darkest moments in their lives. And so again, almost accidentally, I found myself even more passionate about bringing this short film to life. What I love about Dead Serious is that it pulls back the curtain on a portion of the death two-step that we rarely get to see and does so in a way that re-characterizes Funeral Directors as regular people – people who have annoying coworkers, who feel passionately about their job. I love to call this “a workplace comedy” because that’s exactly what it is, the workplace just so happens to be a morgue. In the course of my own grief, I found a lot of comfort in a quote by Andrew Garfield who said in an interview with Steven Colbert that, “grief is the unexpressed love,” that you have for the person who you’ve lost. Death, of course, is hard. Grief, of course, is hard. But I sometimes wish we treated grief this way; as something beautiful born out of something hard.