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Directors and writers Marcia Fields and Mike Spear recently discussed the creative processes behind their first short film, Moving On, which screened last week at the Whistler Film Festival. In this comedy, Ross (Mike Ivers) is awakened one morning by professional movers (Robin Lord Taylor and Ryan Farrell), who deliver the news of his breakup and are ready to move him out of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. In part two of my interview with them, Marcia and Mike talked about casting, gender inequality, and next steps for Moving On.
The dialogue genuinely captures all the stages of Ross’s breakup. How was the process for you on solidifying your script ideas?
Marcia: The idea came together when I was trying to ask Mike politely to do the dishes.
Mike: It got a little heated. We got to the point where [it was] ridiculous. If we break up because we don’t want to do dishes, we can’t tell our friends and our family that’s what happened.
Marcia: We’re writers. People will think this is the most uncreative way for a couple to break up. We need to come up with something better, so we started joking about hiring professionals to do it. That’s when—
Mike: The dialogue and jokes just started flowing. She got out her phone and we started dictating. From that moment, we knew the tone of the script.
Marcia: Taking something that can be depressing, sad, or heartbreaking for somebody and trying to find the humor in it … That’s definitely the style of writing that we really like. We respond to that mix of comedy and drama and reality really because no one is happy or sad all the time. Everybody gets a giggle every now and then, too. We wanted to bring that to this idea. It was such an organic process and the idea came together so naturally for us.
Mike: It’s the kind of thing where people can’t help but laugh at a funeral. It’s uncomfortable and if you’re with your family and your loved ones, it’s funny.
Marcia: For the audience, you’re in the frame of mind where you can think of a time where broke up with someone that you wished it had gone in this way: the sort of speed with which [Ross] was able to grieve for his relationship and go through the stages.
Mike: We also mined from our own romantic histories. The character Ross is in the bathroom talking about ex-girlfriends and how one of them wouldn’t take his phone calls when his grandfather died. She thought it would be too depressing. I actually dated a girl who wouldn’t even talk about my grandfather passing away because it depressed her. These things are real and I can sit and laugh about it now. That’s important.
Marcia: It helps it feel genuine.
Mike: I ended up doing the dishes when we had that argument.
Marcia: It’s worked out. Mike is very good at doing the dishes! I think he deserves some recognition there.
Mike: I appreciate that.
You both have quite a versatile cast here. Was there anything that you were able to pull from them after they came on board?
Marcia: We really did luck out because we had a very fast pre-production period. We went out to them specifically and we were very excited to get yeses. They were cast for the roles that we thought that their personalities were best for. I think when you have more time and a longer script—
Mike: You can work with the actor to make it feel more organic. We did not have the luxury of time. To their credit, they were amazing. They had never met until we were on set that morning getting ready. We let them start to get some rapport those couple of minutes before we said, “Action.”
Marcia: Doing rehearsals just once or twice through.
Mike: Robin Lord Taylor is an amazing talent.
Marcia: It’s so exciting to watch him having such a good year on Gotham. He deserves that recognition. I think he helped elevate everything else because of the attitude he brought to the role and in general.
Mike: We’re based in L.A., but we were on a job in New York, so we relied heavily on our producers to find local New York actors. We can’t thank them enough to recommending those people. We happened to get the best of the best.
Marcia: I want to take full credit for the script, but during the credits, that scene where Mason and Nick are knocking on the next guy’s door… The last line of the script where Robin goes “Boom,” he did that himself. That is one of the funniest lines. When he did that, we were like “Keep doing that! That was hysterical.”
Mike: That was the first scene that we shot. It was very early. We were scrambling to find the actor who was going to play the guy who opens the door. He showed up and he was great. Then Robin killed it with that line. At that point, we could breathe a little bit.
Marcia: It was a great starting note.
In assembling your team, you really strive for gender equality, an issue that’s starting to receive more attention. What can the industry-at-large learn from your production?
Marcia: We were lucky to come off a show that had incredible people working on it. It wasn’t like we were hiring from scratch. We knew everybody on our team except for one person from before. Having witnessed a lot of gender inequality in the business over the last decade, whenever I meet a powerful, capable woman, (which is, thankfully, often), it just stays in my head. I want to work with her again. I want other people to work with her and see what she can do because it hasn’t always been my experience. Mike was raised by a single mother and has been around powerful women, so he’s the guy who is intimidated by it. It doesn’t stop him from showing what he can do. He sees talent, period, and respects it.
Mike: I think at the end of the day, we hired the best people for the job. They happen to be women.
Marcia: I think some people have a preconceived notion when it comes to women on set, especially behind the camera. It’s their loss, honesty.
Mike: Our director of photography, Bianca Butti – Basically Marcia and I share a brain and Bianca moved in there. She was a part of us for a little bit. That sounds a bit weird.
Marcia: But I understand what you’re saying— [laughs]
Mike: We were on the same wavelength. She’s so talented. You should check out her work online. It’s very artistic stuff.
Marcia: It’s unfortunate that women feel like they have to work twice as hard to be noticed. That is the great thing about making a short film when you’re asking for favors and for people to work for very little. You can give them the opportunity to take on a role that someone hasn’t yet given them a chance before. One of our producers had never been a producer before and she wanted the chance.
Mike: She could do it and she killed it.
Marcia: I’m not saying men don’t rise up to the opportunity, but women absolutely do. You’re going to give me that chance and I will take it and run with it. Whether you were questioning hiring me in the first place, I will show you that you did not make a mistake. And the fact that Mike puts up with it is an added bonus. Especially behind the camera, there are a number of women directors programs, like AFI. You’re starting to see more of those programs. It’s unfortunate that we need them.
Mike: If it brings more talented women, then that’s good.
Marcia: We were in a television festival not too long ago with the short. We submitted it through an independent pilot competition through the New York Television Festival and one of the panels was a showrunners panel. It was six very experienced showrunners with shows on the air right now. They justhappened to all be women. One of the things they pointed out during the keynote speech was how proud they were that the NYTVF did not say, “Women Showrunner Panel.” They said only, “Showrunner Panel.”
We shouldn’t have to say that they’re women and showrunners. They’re all just talented showrunners. You don’t say the “Male Showrunner Panel.” I love that they did that because it was in a way just saying “Here’s six showrunners.” It doesn’t matter that they’re women. I think we’re getting closer to it but we still have a long way to go.
Mike: It’s huge. Why not invest in the best tools?
Marcia: When you limit the people you’re going to hire to “I know this guy has done it before.” You keep hiring the same people and then these doors don’t open to new voices. I think people are getting a little more comfortable with that notion. It’s sad that it has to be pointed out in the first place. I think we’re getting closer to not having to.
Mike: Also, strong female characters are important in front of the camera. Currently we’re working on something in its early stages, but there’s a very strong female protagonist.
Marcia: It’s important to see those characters on TV, because it’s coming into your living room. That makes it more normal to just expect to see strong female characters. It’s a good time for the industry right now, I think.
How are things progressing in terms of developing Moving On into a series? Is there another angle that pops out to you in taking it further?
Marcia: It’s still in its baby stages, but it’s going very well. Part of our plan for December is to finish putting polishing touches for a pitch to take it out into a series by early 2016. It was accepted by the NYTVF for an independent pilot competition. They were like, “This idea has legs.” We believe so, too.
Mike: We purposely made it like that. We made it as a standalone film but peppered in some things that prove that it has legs.
Marcia: And definitely going beyond just breakups. We see it as focusing on a moving company and the movers, how their lives influence the jobs that they’re taking.
Mike: Like Marcia said, not just focusing on romance and relationships but there’s office relationships and families.
Marcia: There are the grown children that have the parent living with them that they would like to transition out to assisted living.
Mike: There’s a lot to mine from.
Marcia: Not to mention, of course, breakups, breakups, and breakups.
The two stories focus on guys being dumped. What about the girls being dumped?
Marcia: You can just imagine one with all tears. There’s just so much comedy to mine from people in that moment when they feel like their lives are falling apart. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that. Even whether they’re doing it on purpose or not, the movers are actually helping people get through a difficult moment. You don’t have to do it alone. The fact that it’s with total strangers just makes it more fun!
Mike: It’s kind of like in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, they were embracing the bad things that people wanted to forget. They were doing this service – a sketchy service – but [our show] would be sort of like that.
Marcia: It would be so much fun to delve into all these different types of relationships and how they come and go in our lives. There are so many different ways Moving On can help people.
Thank you both again for your time today.
This article was originally published on Blogcritics.org under the same name.
Caution: This review contains spoilers.
The latest episode of Doctor Who takes the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) to the hidden streets of London, where aliens reside somewhat peacefully away from the world. Lording over them is none other than Me/Ashildr (Maisie Williams) as an enforcer. Sentencing for crimes is rather strict, resulting in a tattoo that counts down to zero. At zero, the Raven comes in for the kill.
Clara’s friend, Rigsy (Joivan Wade), has the tattoo on his neck, but he has no memory of killing a creature the day before. Clara and the Doctor seek to clear his name through their investigation. They speak with the victim’s son, who really turns out to be a girl (Naomi Ackie). The situation turns out to be a trap for the Doctor, laid by Ashildr and presently unknown enemies.
Ashildr promised her personal protection to Clara at the Doctor’s insistence. However, Clara gets Rigsy to transfer the death counter to her. It’s reminiscent of the Doctor’s willingness to take risks, like the time he took the 60 seconds on the Orient Express to figure out the mummy. However, Clara’s gamble backfires, since another one of Ashildr’s deals only extended to Rigsy.
The Doctor suffers major losses here: Clara’s death and surrendering his TARDIS key. It’s not clear who contracted Ashildr to go after the Doctor and teleport him away. The Daleks, Missy, or even the Gallifreyans could easily fit that role. If Clara’s echoes are around, there’s a chance that we’ll be seeing her again as well.
Unfortunately, season nine has been rather disappointing so far. The two-part format has been largely unnecessary with weak scripts and only a mere flicker of excitement by the end of the second part. Here, we’re back to the single episodes, but again, the stories are not particularly strong. There’s an opportunity in next week’s episode ‘Heaven Sent’ to retool things and get back on track.
One of the other larger questions for the series is the identity of the next companion. Ashildr is not a likely candidate, given that the Doctor wants her to stay out of his way. For now, River Song (Alex Kingston) is coming back for the Christmas Special, which should be interesting to see. There’s already an amusing promotional photo circulating through social media, depicting an uneasy River holding onto the Doctor’s shoulder. What trouble will they be taking on together and what sort of dynamic will their relationship have?
Reunions Weekend was in full swing recently as hundreds of alumni descended upon UVa Grounds to reconnect with classmates. It was also a wonderful opportunity to learn about changes that have occurred in the city of Charlottesville, home to Mr. Jefferson’s University. How do local Wahoos continue to serve the community as well as national and international clients at large?
Professor Hector Amaya, chair of the Department of Media Studies at UVa, endeavored to address that very question at the “Hoos in Media” seminar on Saturday morning. He brought on Jenna Dagenhart of NBC29 and Blake Sirach of WillowTree Apps to explore their expertise in media. Dagenhart debunked the “misconception that broadcasting is dead,” pointing to gains through technology, social media, and continuing collaboration across stations. Technology has also been instrumental in the building of cutting edge mobile apps, utilizing information from Sirach’s research and meetings as VP of User Experience at WillowTree.
Media vehicles are fairly recognizable with their large and obtrusive satellite dishes on top, but you may be surprised to find that there’s an alternative. As Dagenhart shared, there’s a TVU, a backpack sized device that’s so practical for broadcasting from locations that are difficult to access or assignments on short notice. “National journalism is still healthy,” she insisted. “The biggest challenges are in print.” Reporters can communicate not only with other stations but within as newer web teams focus on getting stories out across multiple platforms: TV, social media, and the website.
Dagenhart’s experiences are also illuminating given her activity in recent stories that broke nationally, such as the now-discredited Rolling Stone article. She recounted her steps to interview people on this highly charged topic in the days that followed, all the while staying mindful of challenges in verbal economy, accuracy on short notice, and concerns about neutrality. “You have to think about what your job is,” Dagenhart reiterated. “Get people’s perspectives out there and let that tell the story.”
Homegrown Apps for a Dynamic (and International) Client Base
Sirach has been with WillowTree Apps since its humble beginnings in Downtown Charlottesville several years ago. Since then, the award-winning company has expanded its staff from four to ninety and operates a satellite office in New York. Sirach listed off some large clients (UVa, Johnson & Johnson, AOL), but more importantly, he was equally excited about the WillowTree staff makeup. “We try to hire a lot of UVa students,” Blake told the audience in the full classroom, as he highlighted efforts to recruit from other schools in the Commonwealth.
Do companies enjoy utilizing the services of WillowTree as opposed to a firm from the app producing centers in Austin, San Francisco, New York, and other cities? Unsurprisingly as Blake points out, “They like working with Charlottesville,” attributing the longer retention of staff as an element that attracts companies. There’s some additional travel required because this industry thrives on face-to-face meetings; but it’s a reality that Blake readily accepts as a trade-off for living in one of the top cities in the country.
A number of alumni left this area following graduation through the years, but Dagenhart and Sirach have shown through their contributions that one doesn’t have to venture far from Charlottesville to execute amazing projects with a widespread reach.
Tickets are finally available for purchase if you are looking to attend this year’s Virginia Film Festival. The big event, in its 26th year, is held in Charlottesville, Va, which is also home to the University of Virginia. Film fest attendees will have a wide selection of movies to view, including a number of local productions. There’s even a screening of “Peter Pan,” the classic Disney film, which is sure to delight families.
A lot of buzz was generated already with an earlier announcement about a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” The film will be followed by a discussion with Tippi Hedren. Hitchcock’s film is not alone in facing a 50th anniversary. It is also 50 years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which will be covered in a screening of “The Kennedy Half Century.” It’s no surprise that Professor Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, will lead the post documentary panel. Be prepared for some valuable insights from Julian Bond, James Carville, Ari Fleischer, Kathleen Kennedy Turner, Ron Reagan Jr., and Bob Schieffer.
If you just found out about the Festival, the good news is that ticket sales opened up today. For more information and the full program of events, please visit http://www.virginiafilmfestival.org.