Alexander Payne's first short film: Carmen (1985)

by ScreenCraft Staff on April 16, 2014

Alexander Payne is best known for his auteur films ‘Election,’ ‘About Schmidt,’ ‘Sideways,’ ‘The Descendants’ and ‘Nebraska.'  Below is his first student short film, Carmen (1985) which he made while at UCLA Film School.  It is a silent comedy about a mentally challenged gas station attendant who falls in love with Carmen (from Bizet's opera of the same name).  Payne's comedies are quintessentially American, dealing with the unique disappointments and frustrations at the heart of American family life. While comedies are usually very culture-specific, and short films are especially conducive to comedy (see our comedy short script contest), this student short from Payne shows his facility with physical comedy which often transcends cultural limitations of comedy to reach a more universal sensibility; people from all cultures and languages can access physical comedy.

Below: a 1996 photo from a private screening of ‘Citizen Ruth.’ From left: writers Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne with the star of the movie, Laura Dern. Image courtesy of's Archives: That time Alexander Payne returned to Omaha to make his first movie



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