Earl’s Gotta Die

Earl’s Gotta Die takes us on a trip through memory and perception, all while running from the police with a charming flesh-eating monster in the back seat.

Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Production
Writer/Director: Heather Shapiro
Writer/Co-Executive Producer: Amanda Hinkley
Producer: Faoileán Cosgrove
Cinematographer: Cece Chan
Editor: Nailah Robinson
Email: faoilean@juniperprod.com
Website: juniperprod.com/earlsgottadie
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After having her bright and spunky spirit beaten down one too many times by her abusive husband, Earl, Frankie accidentally kills him. Her best friend Ava Mae helms the escape, and in their police chased mad dash to ditch the body, Earl transforms into a loveable zombie. Breaking up really IS hard to do… But one way or another, EARL’S GOTTA DIE.


This short film is a proof of concept for a feature by the same name.

FRANKIE (30s, once full of moxie, now browbeaten into anxiety) drives her husband’s prized Mercury through Tennessee backroads with her ride-or-die AVA-MAE (30s, Smug as hell) at her side. Frankie is wracked with guilt, but Ava-Mae insists he deserved it. The “he” is actually tied up in the trunk, moaning, banging, making a real fuss. The women careen down the dark highway, and the law shows up. Lights, sirens, and Earl’s racket fill Frankie’s head. She can barely steer the car; this was a terrible idea. Ava-Mae reminds her of all the ways Earl did her wrong, including making her get rid of her cat, Chompers. Frankie pulls them into the woods, landing them literally… in the thick of it. A gun tumbles out of the glove box as they crash and pop a tire.

The officer finds them and conducts a “pat down,” groping Frankie. Ava-Mae quietly slips her the gun and Frankie turns it on the officer. He pulls his gun in kind and notices the noises coming from the trunk. It’s none other than a zombified Earl. The officer tries to shoot Earl, and when a stray bullet damages the precious car, Earl’s eyes glow red. He feasts on the problematic officer. Convenient!

Ava-Mae changes the spare, and Frankie watches Earl eat; he offers her some. Very sweet! Just then, in superhuman or super zombie strength, he picks up the car and swaps in the new tire. Helpful! Frankie is torn; maybe she could live with this flesh-eating but copacetic version of her husband. Ava-Mae presses the gun into Frankie’s hand, reminding her what’s at stake. Frankie raises the gun and points it at Earl. Cut to black. A gunshot sounds.

Meet the Filmmakers

Heather Shapiro – Writer/Director
Director’s Note: I am tired of seeing two-dimensional bad guys who bully a simpering, helpless lady. There have been stories of abusive men, but these stories fail to consider the gradations of emotional abuse and trauma survivors must confront. The abuser invades their victim’s mind and contorts their thoughts, making them doubt reality. That would bring any person to their knees. I was just such a person, and I’d never seen an authentic example of my experience on film. Earl’s Gotta Die is my remedy.

Heather Shapiro is a swiss-army-knife creative who makes dark comedies about big issues told in small snatches of time. She wrote, directed, and starred in the semi-scripted series El Kimberley Proyect (Funny or Die) filmed in Montevideo, Uruguay. In 2017, she moved to Chicago and completed the Second City Film program with her short Sitting Shiva (Fargo Film Festival). She now works as a story producer for docu-series like De La Calle (MTV, Tribeca 2023). In 2023, her feature script Earl’s Gotta Die was selected for the second round of the Sundance Development Lab. 

Heather graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. She trained at Second City and The Groundlings. heathershapiro.com

Amanda Hinkley – Writer/Co-Executive Producer
Amanda Hinkley loves toeing the lines between absurdist situational comedy, psychological deep dives, and fart jokes. Amanda graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism & Digital Media. She then honed her comedic voice at the Harold Ramis Film School. Her short film, Uncertainship, has won awards at festivals like Los Angeles CineFest, International New York Film Festival, and Golden State Film Festival. She has co-written the feature version of Earl’s Gotta Die and will be on set to support the director in any way she needs. amandahinkley.com

Faoileán Cosgrove – Producer
Faoileán Cosgrove is a New York and Los Angeles-based producer focused on producing female and BIPOC-led content. Her narrative shorts have premiered at festivals such as Newfest, Academy Award Qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, Vortex Film Festiva, Chelsea Film Festival, Cannes RTF, and many more. Faoileán formed her company, Juniper Productions, in 2022 and has produced several shorts, music videos, and pilot presentations during its first year of operation. She is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. faoileancosgrove.com

Cece Chan – Director of Photography
Cece Chan is a New York–based cinematographer. She graduated from Tisch School of the Arts in 2020 with a BFA in Film and Television. She is a 2023-2024 ASC Vision Mentee. She has shot internationally, in Colombia, Canada, and the Czech Republic. Raised in Hong Kong, she’s proud to bring a global perspective to her work. Sean Baker recently shared a music video she shot (“Sole Obsession”) on Twitter.
She has graciously offered the project her complimentary camera package from Panavision, which she won earlier this year. She is also eligible for equipment package support and $10K in color grading through an AbelCine and ASC grant. She’s excited to bring her cinematic sensibility to this project.

Nailah Robinson – Editor
Nailah Robinson is an editor passionate about intersectional storytelling from North Carolina. Robinson has worked on shorts, music videos, and documentaries. She has an MA in Filmmaking from The London Film School, where she specialized as a writer-director and editor. She was named a Film Independent Fellow in 2020. Currently, Robinson is wrapping posts on three shorts and an array of television shows for Disney+, NatGeo, and others. Her fervor for stories has led her worldwide because she believes experience and interpersonal interaction are the foundation for all great stories. Her editing work can be seen here: LINK 1 LINK 2 IMDB

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