The Purse: A Dream in Two Acts

In this award-winning surreal film, siblings Jackie and Jill clash after Jackie escapes from prison. Worried that he will be pursued by the jurisdictators, Jackie has disguised himself in Jill's clothes. Armed with a purse, Jackie is ready to set out into the forest to dig up their buried loot the moment his sister arrives, but Jill isn't playing ball. Aided by the voice in his head, Jackie must question Jill to uncover the truth.

Meanwhile, Tom P. Bellbottoms, Esq., shoots a documentary about Selby O'Nolan, the eccentric inventor of the purse, exposing information about its long-forgotten nefarious roots.

  • Emily Woodworth
    Director
  • Emily Woodworth
    Writer
    The Barista Times
  • Nathan Woodworth
    Writer
    The Barista Times
  • Emily Woodworth
    Producer
    The Barista Times
  • Nathan Woodworth
    Producer
    The Barista Times
  • Nathan Woodworth
    Key Cast
    "Jackie/Tom P. Bellbottoms, Esq./Norman Detweiler"
    NCIS, The Librarians, Tutu Grande, The Barista Times
  • Emily Woodworth
    Key Cast
    "Jackie/Voice/Dr. Bridget Hatjaw"
    The Barista Times
  • Wayne Newcome
    Key Cast
    "Selby O'Nolan"
    Tutu Grande
  • Project Type:
    Short
  • Genres:
    Surrealist, Absurdist, Dramedy, Dark Comedy, Mockumentary
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 34 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 7, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
Director Biography - Emily Woodworth

Emily Woodworth (writer/director) grew up in Sisters, Oregon, where she developed a love for nature and the psychological pathologies that permeate small towns. Currently, Emily is attending CalArts on a Lillian Disney Scholarship, pursuing an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Image+Text.

Her work in filmmaking began when she and her brother hijacked the family camera to shoot parodies of their favorite films, but has grown into a passion concurrent with her love of writing and critical theory. In 2014, she and Nathan wrote, produced, and starred in their sketch-comedy series, The Barista Times. The Purse: A Dream in Two Acts is Emily’s directorial debut.

As a screenwriter, Emily was honored with a Best Screenplay award for "The Purse," shared with her brother, Nathan, from Maverick Movie Awards in 2020, along with a win for Best Supporting Actress and nomination for Best Picture. As a prose writer, Emily’s short fiction and nonfiction essays have earned her two Pushcart Prize nominations, and a Notable mention in Best American Essays 2018 (ed. Hilton Als). She is the recipient of the Amy M. Young Award for Creative Writing (nonfiction).

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Director Statement

Beneath the playfully uncanny surface of "The Purse: A Dream in Two Acts" lies a deeper questioning of the ways in which female identity in America is constructed through the use of fashion objects, drawing on theories of Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler for inspiration. Obviously, the purse itself—as construct, as concept—is central to the film. Through humor and intentional denaturalizations, this nodal point of constructed femininity is redeployed both as a way to reconstruct a man as “woman” and as a means of violence invented by men, but appropriated by the ever-mysterious and ultimately unrealizable “ideal woman.”

I have been interested in themes of identity and gender construction in film since taking a critical theory class in my undergraduate years. After reading Flann O'Brien's masterpiece comic novel "The Third Policeman," I began wondering how his blend of surreal and absurd narratives might be evoked through film. These two fascinations came together after my brother and collaborator, Nathan, finished reading "The Third Policeman."

On one hand, we attempted to echo O'Brien's persistently strange construction of dialogue as we built our own "first act" that incorporates gender construction. On the other, we pulled inspiration from Monty Python for our absurdist "second act," which is really an echo of the incredible, fictional "footnotes" that play an uncannily doubled role throughout "The Third Policeman."

The result was a bisected, yet infinitely doubled and resonating, script that created interesting challenges from a directorial mindset as I attempted to create two distinct worlds that still managed to have repeated visual motifs. The result is as strange as I could have hoped.