For those who follow my curatorial taste with any regularity, it’s obvious I’m a fan of low-key awkward comedy—the type of stuff that deals with real people going through real sh-t, undercut by the uncomfortable introduction of a subversive comedic element.
In that sense, Matt Porter’s Damage is just a perfectly executed little slice of life—short, understated, and hilarious. But, also—and this is the real kicker—it’s still emotionally real. It’s the kind of film that hits my sweet spot, covering a spectrum of highs and lows in just seven minutes. I’ve been a fan of Porter’s work for years, but mostly in the realm of comedic sketch (if you haven’t checked out Good Cop Great Cop, you should). Our curatorial goals on this site can, admittedly, sound a bit highfalutin—we’re after narrative driven short film content that engages and inspires on an emotional level. That’s a lofty way of saying that we tend to avoid sketch comedy material. Damage proves that Porter is capable of more than just constructing a good joke. The premise may start that way, but it evolves to something more.
Of course, for a film this simple in concept (three people in a room), its success is ultimately dependent on the writing and performances, both of which are quite strong here. Porter really nails the script. He gets to the central joke quickly—random dude interrupts this couple at a very emotional and awkward moment. But, the film reveals itself to be about more than the punchline. When you get to Kate Eastman’s monologue towards the end, the film sneaks in some real honest and emotional stuff. Her speech serves as a well-performed and well-written climax about love, loss, and moving on, expertly juxtaposing the heavier material with terrifically timed cutaways to a clueless internet bystander (Patrick Noth). The third performance in the trio is Ryan Creamer. Creamer, a terrific comedian in his own right, does strong work here—playing the straight man in this triangle. In a way, his job is the hardest as he can’t ham it up, forced to be the grounding presence that supports the jokey stuff.
As Porter relates to Short of the Week:
“I’ve spent many years predominantly writing and directing sketch comedy, and as a result, I rarely find ways to feel my feelings through my films, to really work through and exorcise pain while still somehow finding the deep humor behind it all. This is my first attempt in my adult life to do that, and I hope it is somewhat successful at doing so.”
Porter is currently working on another short film starring comedian Chris Gethard. He’s also writing a few original TV pilots and he is hoping to write and direct more television work in the next few years.