Interview with Bay Area Filmmaker Joshua Moore

ContentImage-2045-31784-_MG_9936copyJoshua Moore is a San Francisco-based writer/director.

His “delightfully freewheeling debut” feature, I THINK IT’S RAINING had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic, in 2011 where it was nominated for the Independent Camera Award and received glowing reviews from Screen Daily and Variety. I THINK IT’S RAINING was also the opening night film for the Cinema by the Bay Festival, San Francisco, in 2011 and has played in many film festivals across the country including Rooftop Films, New York City. The film has been released on digital platforms across North America.

Joshua’s most recent film, KEEP A TIDY SOUL debuted at the Entrevues Belfort Film Festival in France and continues to play across the world, including most recently the Mill Valley Film Festival.

When he’s not making films, you can find Joshua riding along the Northern California coastline on his vintage motorcycle, or in this case answering some film related questions.

Follow the jump to see what Josh has to say on an array of topics including the hardships of making an indie film, and some of his guilty movie pleasures, plus trailers and links to his films.

AC: First of all, congratulations on all the success that both your films have been receiving. 

In your short film, Keep A Tidy Soul, you feature a koala bear. What are some of the challenges you faced, if any, of having a Koala Bear on set?

JM: It was a challenge for performance actually. The lead actress, Claire McConnell had to play off a stuffed bear rather than a human being for some very key scenes, which makes it harder for her to get to the emotional state she reaches by the end of the film. Claire did a wonderful job treating the koala as if he were just another actor and it shows in her performance. Also koala bears are essentially nocturnal, so we had very little daylight to work with.

AC: Your film is very playful and is clearly influenced by the French New Wave movement of the late 1950’s and 1960s. Are you a fan of that particular era?

JM: Yeah I love the films of the New Wave. They have such a free spirit to them in style and tone and a very mischievous rule-breaking quality that makes them so fun watch and get engrossed in a character over plot. Besides the New Wave, I got a lot of inspiration from some earlier Roman Polanski films. Mostly “Repulsion.” It’s a very internal film where Catherine Deneuve is on screen by herself most of the time and gives an amazing performance where we can see that internal struggle slowly seep its way out of her. In many ways Flyn in “Keep A Tidy Soul” has a similar struggle. Both characters are seeking an emotional release.

AC: How does one go about keeping a tidy soul?

JM: Well, I suppose you would build a nice, neat, little box to put all your feelings in and seal that box with heavy tape and place it in a far corner never to open. That would be tidy. I’d advise keeping a messy soul though. It’s more fun. That’s what the film is really about- having the courage to really be yourself.


AC: Both your films, I Think It’s Raining and Keep A Tidy Soul were shot in the city you call home, San Francisco. How important of a roll does this city play in these films?

JM: It plays a big role. Like you said, San Francisco is my home and I have great pride for the city. I didn’t grow up here, and I always wanted to live in a city I could boast about the way New Yorkers always did. San Francisco is that city to me. In “I Think it’s Raining” it was very important to showcase the city in a way that I lived in it, which was how Renata, the main character, lived it. No views of Coit Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge from your living room window. We shot it all on location in places that are rarely seen in films shot in San Francisco. Sadly a few of our locations don’t exist anymore- The Red Vic Theater and Sam Wo’s Chinese.

AC: Now let’s talk about your first feature I Think It’s Raining.

A large part of this film consists of lone screen time by the lead actress and co-writer on the film, Alexandra Clayton, where she is given the burden of having to single-handedly carry the movie. By the way, she did a great job. What was it like working with Alexandra?

JM: Thank you. Yeah it was a tough role for all the reasons you mentioned, but when I met Alexandra for the first time I knew without a doubt she’d be up for the challenge. Alexandra exhibits a fearlessness as an actor, and in that fearlessness is a real vulnerability. It was the mixture of the two that were perfect for playing Renata, a character that is slowly learning to love herself. I enjoy the collaborative process of filmmaking and as a director I like to give my actors permission to collaborate with me in fleshing out the characters they play. Alexandra and I workshopped the script for about a year, performing the scenes and making changes to the script and dialogue. I had her create Renata’s notebook and illustrations to understand her history and Alexandra also wrote some of the songs in the film that Renata sings as another way of expressing herself. We work very well together and have written another feature film we hope to make next year. It’s a brother and sister story set along the Northern California coastline. I’ll direct and she’ll act in it.

AC: What’s the biggest obstacle as an independent filmmaker?

JM: There are many obstacles! Probably the biggest one is funding, because without the money you can’t make your film. Even for low budget indie films like I’ve made, they still require a fairly large chunk of change, but technology is cheaper than ever before and there are more and more creative ways of seeking funding, so it’s possible, but sometimes just more time consuming than I’d like it to be.

AC: Off the top of my head I can only think of a few bigger budget movies that have attempted a mostly one-person act that have succeeded, Moon, Cast Away, Frances Ha, and most recently, Gravity. Being that it doesn’t seem there is an audience for that style of heavily character-focused cinematic storytelling (at least in big budgeted Hollywood’s eyes) were there any moments when you second guessed how this film was going to be received?

JM: I like all of those films you mentioned. Yeah, it’s always a challenge to have your lead actor fill almost every frame of your film and often times doing so without anyone to play off of, but when the actor really connects to the character and delivers an honest and emotional performance it can be very rewarding to the audience because they literally get to walk in that character’s shoes and experience what they experience. I’ve been lucky having worked with both Alexandra and Claire so far in my films, and both have been terrific in the roles I cast them in.

I actually do think there is an audience for character-driven films, and Gravity, like you mentioned is a huge hit, which is really fantastic. It’s a beautiful film. I’ve always preferred characters over plot. Give me an original character that I connect with and I’m in. I’m invested in the person. Whatever happens next will be interesting because they are interesting. With “I Think it’s Raining” I knew Renata was a somewhat polarizing character, so there is always the chance that you alienate a certain section of the audience, but I’m okay with that. It’s hard to risk having the audience’s disapproval, especially for an actor, but I believe they’ll respect you more for it than throwing them a softball. Renata’s a complex and flawed character that can be very unlikable in some regards and also very charming and sympathetic in other ways. I think most people would agree that we’re a lot like that in life- we show different sides of our personality at different times, especially when we’re young and still discovering who we really are.

AC: Do you think it’s raining now?

JM: I hope so. I love the rain. It’s funny that you ask that though. In all the places the film has screened, no one has ever asked me about the title. It’s kind of a metaphor for Renata’s state of mind, like being able to address the obvious conflict in your life… or not being able to. It’s either raining or it’s not. She’d be the one to add “think” to the statement.


AC: If you could work with any actor/actress who would it be? 

JM: Human or animal? I’ll go with Sean Penn and Kermit the Frog.

AC: What’s next for Joshua Moore?

JM: Well as I mentioned, I’ve written another feature with Alexandra that we hope to shoot next year. It’s an ensemble piece and pretty different from my other films so I’m really excited to make it. It’s been a long journey writing it and I can’t wait to bring it to life. I’d like to do more shorts too. It’s a great way of staying creative between longer projects that take more time and money to do, and I’ve got a pretty good one up my sleeve now.

AC: Okay, now it’s time for Three 3s, in where I ask you three questions involving the number 3.

What were the last 3 films you saw?

Rush (Dir. Ron Howard – 2013)
Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón – 2013)
Simon Killer (Dir. Antonio Campos – 2012)

In 3 words, what advice would you give to a first time director?

Just do it. Wait… isn’t that the Nike slogan? How about: Take the plunge. It’s a huge endeavor making a feature film, but sooner or later you just have to dive in and decide to do it no matter what.

What are your 3 favorite “guilty pleasure” movies?

Hmm… off the top of my head I’d say:

Joe vs the Volcano (Dir. John Patrick Shanley – 1990) – I know the title is ridiculous, but it’s not as bad as you think.  It’s movie about waking up, plus Meg Ryan goes all Peter Sellers and plays three, yes three different parts!

The Poseidon Adventure (Dirs. Ronald Neame, Irwin Allen – 1972) – This was a big one from my childhood. My mom loved disaster movies and we watched this film a lot. For an ensemble piece it’s got an unusual cast of mostly older actors, but I dare you not to cry during Shelly Winter’s final scene.

Peggy Sue Got Married (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola – 1986)- Of all the great films Francis Coppola made, this one is never mentioned. Yeah, it’s a little cheesy on the nostalgia, but it shows a lot of heart and Nicolas Cage gives one of his weirdest, yet most endearing performances ever.

I Think It’s Raining (Trailer)             Keep A Tidy Soul (Trailer)

Ways to watch I Think It’s Raining (Go ahead, click one): GooglePlay   Amazon   Youtube Movies   Cinema Now   Sony

Want to visit Joshua Moore’s website? Of course you do! JOSHUAMOORE.COM


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