There’s a reason Karen Allen hadn’t directed a film: It’s exhausting.
But the actress best known for her long-ago roles in “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” just finished directing her first film and, despite the long hours, she found the experience very gratifying.
The short film — “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” — was shot entirely in the Berkshires, where Allen has lived for several years. It screens Sunday at the Woods Hole Film Festival, and Allen will speak after.
Now 65, Allen continues to act — last year, she starred in “A Year by the Sea” — but because there aren’t many good roles written for women her age, she’s been pursuing other projects, including directing plays and, now, a movie.
“It’s a big undertaking, directing a movie, involving a lot of stress and hard, hard work and requiring a clarity of mind and purpose,” she said. “As an actor who watched films being made for years and years and seeing what directors go through, I had a natural resistance to diving into it.”
But when she finally relented, Allen knew what she wanted to do. She’s long been a big fan of the southern writer Carson McCullers, and the author’s short story “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” was a particular favorite of Allen’s. (The story is about a transient who stops at an all-night cafe and bends the ear of the owner and a paperboy about the science of love.)
“The story just grabbed me,” she said. “People would come to visit me and I would pull it off the shelf and say, ‘Can I read this to you?’ ”
Allen just screened the film at a conference in Rome devoted to all things McCullers, and the response was very positive. That doesn’t mean, however, that she’s ready just yet to direct her next film.
“It’s quite a consuming process. I’ve been singularly focused on this for three years,” Allen said.
Still, she is happy to add her name to the growing list of women filmmakers.
“I made my first film in 1976 and the number of women directors has really grown since then,” Allen said. “Could we do better? Yes, and I’m very interested in keeping that conversation going.”