In this interview with Close-up Culture, Karen Moore talks about her debut short film, Volcano, ahead of its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Q: I understand ‘Volcano’ comes from a personal place for you. Can you expand on that and what inspired this short film?
A: Volcano is a deeply personal film – I’ve been both women in the story at different points in my life, and without giving away the ending of the short, the big reveal is also based on my own experience.
Essentially, it’s all personal, which was very intentional with this project. It’s the most vulnerable and exposing thing I’ve done in my career, and I wanted to go there in my first effort as a director. If not now, when, y’know?
Q: I’m sure many people can relate to meeting up a friend and it quickly turning into a one-sided therapy session. What is the dynamic between Jess and Hannah? And what does this particular interaction say about human relationships?
A: Right? I think with most of my own close friends, we organically take turns with this dynamic. One hangout I’m the therapist, the next I’m the talker. With Jess and Hannah, Jess is normally the talker and her friend has been away for a few weeks, so she’s itching for her regular vent session with her trusted confidant Hannah. But Hannah’s challenging that dynamic in the film and it’s up to Jess to figure out why.
In terms of what it says about humans, I wanted to explore how much we project our feelings/experiences onto even our closest friends and the distance that can creep into our relationships as a result.
Q: What did lead actresses Jess Salgueiro and Hannah Cheesman bring to their characters and this project
A: I wrote the film with Jess and Hannah in mind for these characters. I met both of them when I was a writer on Workin’ Moms and am a fan of tons of their projects.
With it being my first time directing, I knew having these experienced, funny, contemplative, empathetic women in the film would make everything okay. They both got the story and the characters straight away and we worked together to refine the dynamic between the friends to balance the comedy and the believability of their relationship.
Q: You are an award-winning writer who has worked on shows such as ‘Mary Kills People’ and ‘Workin Moms’. Why did you want to try your hand at directing?
A: I always thought I’d try directing one day, like in the distant, unknowable future. As a teenager with a deep MuchMusic/MTV obsession (Google it, children), I dreamed of directing music videos. But once I honed in on screenwriting as an actual career option, I felt like I should stay in that lane and get really good at one thing before trying to do multiple things. And now I’m really good! Jk jk.
The truth is that now I feel like that attitude was more than a tad fear-based and that honestly, there was no good reason not to try directing.
Q: You worked with a strong female cast and crew on ‘Volcano’. What was the atmosphere like on set?
A: I think our set felt calm, safe, and fun. At least, that’s the vibe I was hoping to create with the women and men on the floor.
My illustrious producer Alona Metzer and I very much so wanted a female cinematographer on this and found Gabriela Osio Vanden, who totally killed it. Our first AD, David Lester, was such a calming and supportive presence and is a director in his own right (he actually directed a short I wrote a few years ago called Frozen Marbles). My partner, Joe Kicak (also a director of multiple projects I’ve written on including Must Kill Karl and Detention Adventure) edited the film and did a bit of everything on the day.
I essentially stacked the room with friends or people that came highly recommended for both their skills and demeanor.
Q: ‘Volcano’ will have its world premiere at TIFF 2019. What does it mean to screen at this festival as part of this year’s Short Cuts programme?
A: I’ve lived in Toronto for the past sixteen years and been working in the film and television industry for well over a decade – screening at TIFF is bucket-list level! To be a newbie-director embraced by the festival means the world. These are the highs that you need to carry you through the inevitable lows of a fickle and often arbitrary industry.
Q: What do you hope audiences leave ‘Volcano’ thinking about and reflecting on?
A: This is a tricky one to answer spoiler-free, so let’s just say I hope they enjoy the ride (smiles).
Q: What are your hopes and plans for the future? Is ‘Volcano’ a good indicator of the type of films you’d like to make in the future?
A: Making Volcano was all about trying to make something that felt like me in every way. I’ve had incredibly collaborative relationships in my career both with writing/producing short films and writing/producing TV series.
Volcano was obviously also a collaboration with many other people, but it’s the first time I’ve had the sole and final creative say on everything. In that way, it was very new. To that end, I think it represents exactly the kind of films I’d like to make in the future.