A Conversation Between Cinema Femme Founder Rebecca Martin and Filmmaker Laura Moss
I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Moss, NYC-based filmmaker. I met Laura last year at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, where I saw her short film “Fry Day.” I was immediately drawn to her as a female filmmaker and her unique filmmaking style of beauty in the horror genre. I wanted to interview Laura because of her passion for film and filmmaking. Below are highlights from our conversation.
LAURA MOSS: I went to NYU [as an undergraduate]. I was a sophomore when 9/11 happened. I studied directing for theater and design and I knew I was interested in the arts. Then September 11th happened and we were evacuated. I went through a period where I was like, “This is not important. I need to do something that’s important, or something that’s immediate and helpful to people.”
So that informed the rest of college for me. I ended up finishing school in Egypt, with a Middle Eastern Studies concentration. Then I ended up working as an EMT with the Red Crescent, which is the Muslim Red Cross in the West Bank. It was a period when—I mean, I love the arts and it’s what I’m best at, but when they evacuated us, they were like, “If you have medical treatment, stay. If you don’t, you have to leave. You’re not going to be helpful.” I think that stuck with me. I need literal medical training, because I don’t ever want to be in this situation again.
Then I came back, and I just basically needed a job, so I got a job as a PA. ... And on the side, I was playing around with Brendan O’Brien, who was my collaborator. Actually at the time we were married. We are no longer married, but we are cowriters and we do every project together. He and I were developing this silly zombie documentary (“Rising Up”), but neither of us knew what we were doing, so we shot it over like three hundred weekends, it felt like.
We submitted it to festivals and despite it being way too long—it was like twenty-five minutes—it got into a fair number of horror film festivals and got into the Boston International Film Festival and won an award. So we were like, wow, we might be onto something.
“Rising Up” was my first film I directed, and it seemed like a synthesis of all the skills I developed in life: my writing, my EMT training—which is very much about triage, and prioritizing different emergencies—and working with actors at college. It just felt very right. I was like, oh shit, I might be a director. And I had no idea how to go about doing that. So I made a deal with myself: I was going to apply to only the East Coast film schools because I was married at that time, and I only applied to NYU and Columbia. If I got in, I would be a director, and I was lucky to get into both schools.
MOSS: The great thing about NYU grad film school is that they make you work every position. So in addition to making your own films—you make around seven in the course of the program—you must work in every capacity on everyone else’s movies. I was a bad assistant director, a bad assistant camera, sound mixer, but what I loved about that was it really made me understand and respect every position. And I think it really helps the directing. It really helps because you can confidently speak someone’s language when you’re working with them.
MARTIN: So “After Birth” is the film that’s in the works right now?
MOSS: It is, Fangoria Films picked it up. We’re currently developing it in hopes that it’ll be shooting in January of next year.
MARTIN: That’s great. I will definitely be on the lookout for that one! Can you tell us a little more about “After Birth”?
MOSS: It’s not quite a Frankenstein adaptation, but it’s inspired by the Frankenstein story. For me, it’s very much about my own personal fears about childbirth. Basically it’s the story about female “Dr. Frankenstein,” who is very estranged from her body and interested in creating life in her mind.
MARTIN: Oh my! That is really interesting. Can’t wait to see it!
MOSS: Me too!
BEING A WOMAN IN FILM
MOSS: I feel like there needs to be more diversity in general. There needs to be more representation across the board. I think that’s because people’s perspectives are very valuable. I was asked recently in an interview what would be different if you were a male director. I was sort of like, I’m not a male person, I’m a female person, and so much of my perspective is based on my life experience. My life experience is moving through the world as a woman. So I don’t think of myself as a female director, but essentially I am.
MARTIN: Thank you Laura for taking the time to share your experiences.
MOSS: Thank you. I’m so excited about this. I think Cinema Femme is really important, and I’m really glad you’re doing it.
Laura Moss is a director and production designer from New York City whose work has screened at MoMA, SXSW, Tribeca, Sundance, Telluride, Berlin, and Cannes. Her most recent short film, “Allen Anders – Live at the Comedy Castle (circa 1987)” premiered at SXSW 2018. Laura is an alumna of NYU’s graduate film program. She was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film.