Number One With a Bullet

2010 · 19:42 · written by William R. Coughlan & Bjorn Munson · produced by Joy Haynes · directed by William R. Coughlan

Jack Reade is a mild-mannered academic who finally has a chance to publish his own Great American Novel. But just as he thinks his tome will see print, Pete Willoughby, a smug and influential editor, informs Jack that the book will remain locked in publishing purgatory. After an accident befalls Pete, Jack forges a desperate alliance with Carrie Singer, a disgruntled employee who also happens to be the book’s number-one fan. Together, they concoct an insane scheme to cover up Pete’s death and greenlight the book. Unfortunately, the publishing process is chock full of required approvals, and before long, other denizens of Dennison Publishing begin to fall prey to “accidents.”

The team that brought you the popular and award-winning shorts “Screening Process,” “Quite Contrary,” “Machinations,” “You Pay Your Dues,” and “All Roads Lead Away” is back with “Number One With a Bullet,” a fast-paced black comedy short. At the 2010 TIVA Peer Awards, the film took home a Bronze, a Silver, and two Gold Awards, as well as garnering a nomination in the prestigious “Best of DC” category.


Number One With a Bullet — Original Trailer

Number One With a Bullet — Teaser Trailer

Number One With a Bullet – VFX Showcase

‘Number One With a Bullet’ started life as a more modest piece, one of two scripts I wrote with the intent of making a short with principal photography occurring over a single weekend (to take advantage of a rare window of availability for our regular troupe of cast and crew). This particular tale was inspired by a casual conversation about the bizarre little fiefdoms that existed in the publishing world, and the quirky personalities that ran each of them. But when both scripts proved problematic — or at least enough so that I wouldn’t be able to finish them before the scheduled weekend — I reluctantly shelved them. (I ended up making the short film ‘The Big Lie’ instead; it remains to be seen whether or not the second script I wrote during that period, ‘Some Kind of Hero,’ will ever see the light of day.) Over lunch a few years later, Bjorn Munson asked if I’d mind if he took a look at ‘Number One With a Bullet’ to see if it might be worth reviving, with an eye toward producing what he termed a ‘signature short’: something to serve as a Tohubohu calling card. To this day I’m very glad he did. While keeping the overall beats of the story intact (not to mention the dark-comedy tone and rapid-fire banter), he expanded the script significantly, refining characters and providing a clearer sense of motivation for our protagonist. (A staged reading hosted by writer/director Barry Gribble also gave us substantial additional feedback for revision.) Ultimately, the production proved far more expansive than we’d originally anticipated — this would be our first film shot in HD (though a few other HD shorts would be released first, given this film’s extensive postproduction work), and our first produced under a full SAG Low-Budget Short Film contract. But with experienced producer Joy Haynes on board — and a stellar cast assembled by Bjorn in his casting-director capacity — we ended up with a film that was about as close as we could have expected to the original intent. Filmed at the actual offices of The Atlantic in Washington, D.C. (thanks to Atlantic Media owner David G. Bradley), the film went on to win special acclaim at the 2010 TIVA Peer Awards, and continues to make appearances on the film festival circuit. A fun, entertaining film — though (as my writer friends will no doubt point out) it bears little resemblance to the real world of book publishing… I think…
— William R. Coughlan

Official Selection

2017 Central Michigan
International Film Festival


Official Selection

Movie Night at the Evening
Star Cafe • May 2018

TIVA DC Peer Awards