Breaking Character

Phoenix, Arizona | Film Short


Matthew Ahearne

1 Campaigns | Arizona, United States

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This campaign raised $6,274 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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Dealing with both physical & mental strain, Andrew questions his ability to father when his partner, Madeline, decides to move on, leaving him to care for their son, Nathaniel. "Breaking Character" explores personal growth, trauma, & responsibility & challenges the conventional ideas of fatherhood.

About The Project

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Mission Statement

With a tight-knit diverse group of young filmmakers working behind it, "Breaking Character" seeks to confront the conventional ideas of fatherhood and everything within it. Our goal is to challenge both others and ourselves to consider new possible realities and inspire change in our current one.

The Story

“Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers and fathering is a very important stage in their development.”

—David Gottesman

“Breaking Character” follows Andrew Lowman, a loving father who does whatever he can to take care of his family. In a turn of events, Madeline (Maddie), his partner, decides to go her own way in life, leaving Andrew to take care of Nathaniel, their son. 

Lost and heartbroken, Andrew turns toward his lifelong dream of acting as a way of coping with the situation. With each passing day, however, Andrew questions himself more and more, wondering whether or a good father and is the one that caused Maddie’s departure. This leads to a manifestation of both considerations, one physically where Andrew fails in his responsibilities as a father and one mentally where he is almost haunted by Maddie’s image. 

As Andrew falls deeper into this state and the scenes he performs, the bond between father and son is jeopardized, and Andrew must find a way to move past the separation to save what he loves most.

“Breaking Character” tackles numerous themes, ranging from fatherhood & its becoming, responsibility, mental illness & trauma, separation, validation, and more. Additionally, it asks hard-hitting and thought-provoking questions such as "What does it mean to be a father?", “What does fatherhood look like?”, “What makes a father ‘good’ or ‘bad’?” and "How do you define a man?".

Some men get excited when they hear the news that they will become a father. Some get a little scared or anxious. 

I fear it.

I have numerous fears, varying in physicality and severity, but the fear of fatherhood has consistently been one of the greatest, if not, the greatest. Now, what I mean is not necessarily the act of becoming a father in terms of having children (though, considering the country’s current climate, that fear is getting there) but rather, the process and role of fatherhood and what it means to a dad. The responsibilities of caring for others, upholding the unspoken social contract with one’s partner, and maintaining one’s personal life (jobs, social engagements, hobbies, health, et cetera) are overwhelming.

As “Breaking Character” manifested itself in early 2020, while I was directing my first short film, I became increasingly aware of the interwoven factors playing alongside my fear. Transitioning into a fully-functioning, self-sustaining adult has been a daunting task to grapple with for me since the beginning of college. What do I do after I graduate college? Will I have a job? An apartment? Will I be in a relationship? Do I choose to move out of my home state? The country? What do I even want to do with my life?

The more I gave it thought, the more it fueled these types of questions and thus, insecurities. I choose to avoid answering these questions and the responsibilities connected with them; as a result, I am very much holding onto my old pre-college ideologies and practices. They act as a way of holding on to the past and chasing all of the wild ambitions and dreams that I still have and know are well beyond me now.

In other words, growing up is difficult and saddening, and I must grapple with that.

From a purely film-oriented standpoint, my inspirations vary broadly, with bits and pieces coming from here, there, and everywhere. However, Jojo Rabbit (2019) was one of the most significant factors in the creation of the story. The relationship between Jojo and his mother, Rosie, managed to strike an excellent balance between funny and crazy (e.g. Rosie pretending to be Jojo’s father) to serious and wholesome (e.g. Rosie and Jojo dancing). Additionally, the aesthetics, framing, and lighting, particularly in dining room scenes, stood out boldly to me, even to this day. I knew, coming into this story, I wanted to make the dining table the centerpiece where most of the action took place for the characters and that these characters were facing every extreme in their relationship.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) was another superb source of inspiration for me. The story paralleled mine spot-on: a father going through a separation, trying to do his best to care for his son on his own. While the responses and state of mind the fathers go through in each other are vastly different, the interactions with the world and their kids as well as the writing in general gave guidelines for what I should strive to achieve. Manchester by the Sea (2016) helped me lock into the emotions and complexities a father dealing with grief and mental illnesses feels, and Her (2008) aided me in finding a visual style to adhere to.

Other notable movies that have contributed in some aspect to the story and its vision are 4 months, 3 Days, and 2 weeks (2008), A Separation (2011), Beautiful Boy (2018), and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018).

The need for better father, even male, figures and support resources for them has never been more prevalent. 

In the past four years, I have become more aware of the destructive men in my life. Stories of my peers committing acts of rape or sexualization have spread like wildfire. Many, pressured by the demands and expectations placed upon them, have turned to a life of alcohol, drugs, and depression. The associations I had with them have me worry for myself and whether I will become like them, especially when considering how unstable my mental health has become since COVID-19.

On top of that, many notable celebrities, once celebrated, have now been condemned to prison due to their sexist, misogynistic, and abusive behaviors. Who are these men, if not, but leaders, pioneers, and influencers in their field and, daresay, examples for their friends, family, and even children? 

On a more academic side, I am entering my final year at university, so this will give me the opportunity to continue learning and growing professionally in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, it will allow me to test my experience and knowledge from these past years on film sets and work with my close film collaborators before we all move on (both metaphorically and literally). Lastly and most importantly, however, it will help to address everything mentioned beforehand and encourage me to move forward beyond my old ways and enter into a brighter, healthier, and more confident future.

The support given will go towards a variety of necessary assets we need for our vision to become a reality. For the next 45 days, we would like to raise about $6,000 to cover production costs, which is broken down below:

While our budget is set at $6,000, we always want to strive for the highest caliber of quality this story deserves. Any extra money earned will be used to expand our departments with better equipment, pay our cast and crew for their hard work, implement comprehensive COVID-19 safety measures on set, and pay for film festival entry fees.

Every ounce of support for “Breaking Character” is greatly appreciated and truly goes a long way. The film’s team is working tremendously hard to make something wonderful and having you spend your time visiting this page means so much. Here are some more ways you can help us:

Thank you once more from the bottom of our hearts. It takes a village to make a film, and we hope you will be a part of ours. 

Matthew Ahearne and the “Breaking Character” team


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Costs $975

We want to film at the most appropriate, aesthetically-pleasing locations.

Production Design

Costs $390

We want to make our locations look right with the best set designs and props.


Costs $455

We want to be able to feed everyone on set. They deserve good food for all their hard work!


Costs $260

We want to use the right equipment to pull everything off while also ensuring safety.


Costs $650

We want to hire more experienced actors so the screenplay can be fully realized.


Costs $650

We want to have some funds on standby in case anything goes wrong during production.

Camera Equipment

Costs $1,300

We want to use the right film equipment so the film looks professional and as we envisioned.


Costs $650

We want to insure all the equipment we use and locations we film at to ensure safety at all times.


Costs $325

We want to have the right sound equipment so that every word and action sounds crystal clear.

Costume Design

Costs $345

We want our actors to look like they are a part of the world while also looking stylish and clean!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

Current Team