Brokenness - Director's Commentary & Behind the Scenes

Hey everyone!  I'm happy to share with you my latest short film Brokenness.  At the beginning of my Spring semester (January 2011), in one of my healthcare college courses, our final project was to do a creative project that illustrates our philosophy of healthcare.  Among the suggested selections (writing a poem, short story, song, book, etc), I saw that making a short film was among the choices.  Obviously, I went for that choice and went straight to the writing process.  But it took me weeks to think up what my philosophy would be.  But after weeks of contemplating and learning, 2 weeks before the final project was due, I finally came up with my philosophy and a story.

Brokenness is something that all of us face at a point in our lives.  It can tear us apart but it can also help us.  By understanding the pains of brokenness at a physical, emotional, and spiritual level, we learn more about ourselves and how such circumstances affect our well-being.  In turn, these experiences of brokenness can help strengthen us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Brokenness is prevalent in the healthcare field.  Every patient has his or her own story of brokenness.  Learning from our pain and suffering from brokenness helps to better equip us upon entering a role of service for other people and overall, makes us more effective healthcare providers.  It's our responsibility to care for our patient, not just physically and mentally, but also emotionally and spiritually.  A kind act performed by a provider to a patient can piece back together a life that was once shattered by brokenness.

The story talks about a couple wanting to adopt a child of their own.  They go to a local orphanage in town, met with the orphanage manager, and toured the place meeting the orphans.  But there was one particular child that caught Mr. Boykin's attention.  It was a girl who is all by herself piecing together a puzzle which Mr. Boykin himself worked on when he was once a child.  He then reminisces a tragic event in his childhood, where he lost his parents in a car crash.  After regaining consciousness, he salvages a piece of the puzzle that he worked on while in the car.  Back in the present-time, he pulls out from his wallet the piece which he saved all these years.  He then notices that the orphan girl is lacking one more piece to the puzzle.  The piece which Mr. Boykin saved from the crash years ago is the exact piece the child needed to complete the puzzle.  He gives the final piece to her, the girl completes the puzzle, and the couple adopts her.

There is a major symbolic significance in the puzzle portrayed in the story.  The puzzle represents our life.  As we go on in life, we may hit tragic circumstances which shatters the puzzle (our life).  But with the help of other people (friends and loved ones), we can slowly piece back together our life that was once shattered by brokenness.  The outline of the pieces of the completed puzzle represents the painful moments that we will forever remember.  But overall, those scars (memories) of brokenness serves as a learning tool to help us grow stronger and helps us to better understand and empathize with other people's experiences of brokenness and what we can do to help piece back together their life.

To successfully execute the feel, tone, and mood of the story, the following ideas must be taken into account.  These include: depth of field, color, lighting, and emotions in acting.  Depth of field is what gives the point of the view through the ability of focusing.  You can definitely see it playing its role in the film.  For instance, a shot where the camera focuses from the orphan girl to Mr. Boykin shows that there is a change in the point of view from the orphan girl to Mr. Boykin.  Depth of field can also illustrate clarity.  For instance, the scene where Mr. Boykin opened his eyes and moan in pain after the crash is focused out to illustrate the sense of gaining consciousness.  Color and lighting is another important aspect in the film.  It describes the mood and time in the story.  For example, rich color and lighting represents a positive and hopeful mood.  Less saturated colors and lighting can represent a sad mood but also can portray a flashback back in time.  Acting is, by far, the most important in achieving the feeling and look in the story.  The right emotions must be portrayed in acting.  In this film we had to properly portray emotions of distress, suffering, hopefulness, and giving.



  • Project was shot in three days.  The third day was shot on the day before the project was due.  I know, procrastination.  Just kidding... It was due to the availability of the actors and actresses.
  • On the 3rd day of the shoot (which was shot indoors), it was raining, but I adjusted the exposure of light coming into the camera to compensate for the dark clouds outside.
  • Over 30 people helped contribute to the making of this project.  It became the project with the most people involved.  Thank you to everyone who participated in the making of this film!  :)
  • The puzzle was made by printing a picture from the internet and cutting it to puzzle-shaped pieces.  The pieces were then super glued to cardboard paper to enhance its durability and stiffness.
  • Used mostly natural lighting for the film.  No extra film and lighting equipment was needed, except for a dolly and a steadycam.
  • Film was shot on a Canon 550D (T2i) equipped with an 18-55mm and 50mm lens.