Brief interview with the director of Moment Geoffrey Uloth (Canada, 2019, East European Premier).
Moment won Audience award and Jury award for the Best Film, and also awards for the Best DOP, Best screenplay, Best actress and Best editing in the competition of Sci-Fi SPIFF World Cup of Genre Cinema 2020.
SPIFF: What is your most vivid movie memory? Why and when have you decided to become filmmaker?
GU: I remember my Dad taking my twin brother and me to see Raiders Of The Lost Ark at the cinema when we were kids. We arrived early and sat in the hallway outside the theater waiting for the previous showing to end. I remember hearing the incredible music and deafening sound design of the final scene, as the Ark destroys the Nazis, and I was so excited (and frightened) to see it. But then a man who worked at the theater came over and told our father that we were too young. For a terrifying moment I was afraid we would be sent home… but somehow my Dad convinced him to let us stay. The film thrilled me beyond words. Along with Star Wars, Raiders opened my young mind to the limitless possibilities of imagination.I always loved watching films, but in my youth, I didn’t realize that I could make them. My brother and I would go to the library and read all the movie-making books, especially on special effects and the stop-motion animation techniques used in the Ray Harryhausen films. It was only later, when I became a teenager and started filming rudimentary snowboarding videos with a friend that I began to realize that there was such a thing as film language, and that I could study it and use it to make effective films one day. Once I realized that, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
SPIFF: At SPIFF, movies are divided by genre. What is your favorite and why?
GU: I have many favorite genres and picking one is tough (maybe impossible). It really depends on my mood and how well the filmmakers have executed their story. I have most often been moved emotionally by historical dramas, such as Raging Bull, Life Is Beautiful, Das Boot and The Pianist (hmmm, I see a war/fighting theme here…), but I am also drawn to well-executed horror films like The Exorcist, The Conjuring, Alien, The Thing and Hereditary. I’m not into slasher or gore films, but being frightened is fun! I adore dramatic films that explore humanity, like Dog Day Afternoon, The Ice Storm, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, and 8 1/2.My love of science fiction began with Star Wars, and continued with Bladerunner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Terminator. I’ve been a fan of the genre ever since. I love how sci-fi often uses the magic of the science in its stories to pose philosophical questions about human nature, meaning and existence. Overall, what I’m usually most looking for in a film is a great story with characters that I can relate to. That’s probably why my films are often different genres, because I create based on whichever story most interests or moves me at the time. One thing that many of my films have in common is they often contain some element of ‘magic.’ MOMENT is one of those films.
SPIFF: How did you come up with the idea for your film “Moment”?
GU: I was having dinner with a friend when she told me a terrifying true story she had heard about a young woman who had been sexually assaulted by a group of men in a back room at a party. The young woman had ‘sensed’ the attacking coming, but at first she didn’t want to believe it was happening. She became flustered and unable to think straight or fight back effectively. My friend and I discussed how many of us react similarly to sudden aggression. I then said: “wouldn’t it be great if we could stop time in those moments, before things get out of control, just to think about what the best course of action should be? Then we could restart time and really take control of the situation with a clear head.” We both agreed that would be a very empowering ability, though unfortunately real life doesn’t work that way. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea, and I eventually wrote Moment. For me, it’s about empowerment.
SPIFF: Can you please list advantages and disadvantages of working on short films?
GU: Making a short film forces me to really focus on telling my story in the most compelling and efficient way. I like that. It’s a challenge to create a short film that works on all levels in a short span of time, and it’s very rewarding when it all comes together. That said, most of my shorts tend to be longer, over 15 minutes.Another advantage is the shorter shooting schedule. Short films are often easier to schedule than feature films, because you only shoot for a few days.The number one disadvantage is financial. Short films take a lot of work, almost as much as feature films, but are usually made for much less money, and they usually don’t pay a salary, especially for the producers. It needs to be a labour of love. Also, because the budgets are lower, you need to be resourceful in executing your vision, and you need to work with passionate people who will give 100% even when the pay is only 50% or less. For instance, our visual effects artist, Andrew Gene, worked for 5 months on Moment, even though I could only pay him for one month, and his work was fantastic.
SPIFF: Please, list your favourite directors and films. Why do you prefer them?
GU: My favorite directors are Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers.My favorite Martin Scorsese films are Raging Bull and Goodfellas, though I also love Taxi Driver, The Aviator, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street, the list goes on…. He is the master of the “rise and fall” story, and his characters are almost always unforgettable. His stories are always propelled forward by the characters, their ambitions and especially their flaws. It’s rare that Scorsese spends time following characters who are reacting to a situation that they did not themselves create. I enjoy his explorations of humanity’s darker side.The Coen Brothers are very similar, even if their tone and style differs from Scorsese. The characters are also supremely important in their films, and their characters’ flaws always propel their stories forward. They have a very special tone to their films, a kind of studied, absurdist realism, which I love. My favorite films of theirs are O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men, though I also love Barton Fink, True Grit and Raising Arizona.
SPIFF: What would you like to tell the audience of your film in Russia at SPIFF?
GU: On behalf of myself, my co-producer Holly Uloth and our whole team, thank you all so much for coming out and supporting short films. I hope that you have an incredible cinematic experience, and that you enjoy our film, Moment. Behind the costumes and visual effects, it is a very personal film that many people worked very hard on. And I would like to thank the Saint-Petersburg International Film Festival for inviting us. It is an honor to have Moment play in your beautiful, historic city.