Bad Things

: Narrative Short
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Post-Production


When her teenage sister gets suspended, an 8-year-old girl on scholarship at an elite private school starts to doubt that hard work is all it takes to get ahead.


When her older sister gets unjustly suspended from school, eight-year-old Sue Ellen starts to doubt that brains and hard work are enough to keep her out of trouble. Bad teachers, prejudices, a bully: there are impediments to success. So Sue Ellen takes a drastic, violent step to take control.


In the tradition of 400 Blows, An Angel at My Table, Moonlight, and Big Little Lies, this film will portray injustice alongside visual beauty and loving relationships. While the primary themes of Bad Things -- privilege, unfairness and bullying -- are ugly and mean, they are matched with a respect for the beauty and wonder of nature, sisterhood, and family.

Our visual strategy emphasizes our eight-year-old protagonist’s place in the world. On one hand, we build our view of the world alongside her subjective experience of it. We linger on the moments that fascinate her: the light through the trees on her way home from school, her sister’s anger, her mother’s disappointment. We keep our distance when she’s unsure: what is the teacher saying as he turns away? Is he an ally or a villain? But alongside this intimacy with our protagonist, the camera reminds us that we are interlopers in someone else’s story.

In one of the first scenes of the movie, we are driving through the strange, marred landscape of South Austin when we happen upon our protagonist and her family. The camera pans to keep them in frame as we pass them by, reminding us that we aren’t them - we are diving into their lives.

The extra-wide 2.35 aspect ratio adds to this sense that our protagonist lives in the world; in each frame, she must be placed in context. With our visual strategy, we demand that the audience believe Sue Ellen Carriway exists. She is the driving force behind this film.

Sue Ellen is strong, bullish, determined in the way only an 8 year old can be. At the beginning of the film, she believes the world is fair. By the end she knows it’s not. That’s what Bad Things is about.

When I began the script, I was trying to find the anger I feel as a woman living in a world in which being a female is a handicap. As the script evolved, that anger took form in the shape of an eight-year-old black girl on scholarship at an elite private school. And her anger is not about being a woman. It’s not about being black. It’s not about not having money. It’s about realizing the world is unfair and realizing that the perpetrators of that unfairness will never have to realize the world is unfair. Sue Ellen watches her sister beg for forgiveness from a teacher who harassed her as he just walks away, untouched by the repercussions his actions will have on her life. That’s the act break. That’s the moment we slow down, stay with her, allow her to be angry. From there, we slam into the final act, watching and dreading our protagonist’s drastic action. That’s why we’re making this movie: not to replicate the unfairness of it all or condone our protagonist’s violence, but to demonstrate the necessity of drastic action.


Mira K. Lippold-Johnson - Director, Writer, Producer

Mira K. Lippold-Johnson is a writer/director/producer whose films center around the internal struggles of courageous women. Her last short film, The Letter E, won a Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Bend Film Festival in 2016, and is now a part of the University of Texas showcase, which screened at SXSW 2017 and is distributed online and on Blu-Ray. Her films have screened on ESPN’s Longhorn Network and at various festivals around the US.

While pursuing her MFA at the University of Texas, she has worked as a cinematographer (e.g. Joel Fendelman’s Game Night, Tribeca Film Festival 2016), producer (e.g. Rachel Bardin’s Lavoyger, Austin Film Festival 2016), and editor (e.g. Ching Wang’s Dolly, upcoming.)

Before attending graduate school, she was the Supervisor of Digital Media Content at Smithsonian Channel and worked as an editing assistant for Ross McElwee. She holds a degree in linguistics from Harvard University and expects to earn her MFA in Film Production from the University of Texas in August of 2017.

Rachel Bardin - Director of Photography

Rachel is a well-respected cinematographer and documentary filmmaker with an interest in striking naturalistic lighting and graphically composed frames. She has collaborated with this director on many projects, including as the director of photography on Mira’s previous short narrative The Letter E.

In 2016, Rachel’s cinematography on Nocturne, one of her short documentaries, was a finalist for the American Society of Cinematographers’ Student Heritage Awards. Her most recent documentary, Lavoyger, premiered at Austin Film Festival, received an Austin Film Society grant, and won best short documentary at Flyway Film Festival as well as IFFBoston. She has also worked as a photojournalist, gaffer, and surf videographer.

Sarah Hennigan - Producer

A Dallas-born Cherokee filmmaker, Sarah grew up on-set and backstage, and has been involved in the arts ever since. Her directorial work has been seen in festivals such as LA SkinsFest and the Green Bay Film Festival. She now focuses on documentary and narrative cinematography. She is also passionate about Native representation in popular culture, and telling Native stories on screen.

Sarah earned her B.A. from Vassar College as a Film Studies major with a correlate sequence in Native American Studies. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Film Production at the University of Texas at Austin. She now works as a freelance filmmaker in Austin, TX.

Huay-Bing Law - Creative Producer

Huay-Bing Law is a Taiwanese-American director and cinematographer based in Austin, TX. He was the recipient of the Spike Lee Student Filmmaker Award at the Denver Film Festival in 2011. Benny, his undergraduate thesis film was a finalist for a 2012 Student Academy Award. His short documentary, From Tonga, was awarded the AT&T Student Filmmaker Award at CAAMFest in 2016.

Professionally, Huay has worked as camera assistant, digital utility technician, grip, electrician, production assistant, research intern, and post-production PA. He worked in various capacities on multiple Terrence Malick projects, including To the Wonder (2012) and Voyage of Time (2016). He was an assistant to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C, A.M.C on Knight of Cups (2015) and Weightless (2017). He also worked in the camera department in Robert Rodriguez's television series From Dusk Til Dawn (2014).

Huay is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Radio-Television-Film Production at the University of Texas at Austin.


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