Seven filmmakers from Dallas are bringing films to this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which kicks-off on January 17. We caught up with them, and over the next week, we’ll share their thoughts on their movies, filmmaking, and Dallas. Click here for all the profiles in the series.
Actor and filmmaker Frank Mosley is set to have a great 2013. After completing his 2009 feature, Hold, he is finishing up his second feature film, Her Wilderness, an “elliptical” narrative about a child’s wanderings in the wake of his parent’s affair. A prolific actor, Mosley has parts in two of this year’s local Sundance films, Shane Carruth’s much-anticipated, eight-years-in-the-making follow-up to Primer (2004), Upstream Color, and David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
Name: Frank Mosley
Films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (Actor: “Lt. Carson”), Upstream Color (Actor: “Husband”)
How did you become involved with the production of these two films?
Upstream Color came about as mysteriously as the film itself. I got an email from a friend of mine, who was the A.D. on the project and who nudged me into auditioning because apparently Shane and his producing team had been looking to fill this small, but pivotal role for a while. I didn’t even know Shane had been working on another film. Somehow my name had come up, and they had already taken the time to investigate my previous work and research me, which was quite surprising. I remember being impressed by Primer back in college, and being a huge fan of low-fi sci-fi, I decided to audition. It’s one of the best decisions I could’ve made. Not 48 hours later, I was driving into Dallas from Austin on a crisp New Year’s Day to shoot my first scene with very elliptical, minimalist dialogue scenes that made it all the more exciting because I didn’t even have the whole story to this thing. And without giving anything away about the plot, it ended up being one of the most interesting acting experiences I’d had in a while. So I consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to be a part of such a beautiful project with such amazing people.
As for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, I’m only in the movie very briefly, and it was a blast. I’ve been collaborating on films with David Lowery and James Johnston for almost ten years, so it was great to watch your buddies do such a huge movie. And nice of them to throw me into a shootout scene as a mustached cop, which, I think, just might have fulfilled the yearning eight year old boy fantasy in me I’d had for so long. Plus, they put me next to Ben Foster. That can’t hurt.
There are a lot of Dallas filmmakers in or with films at Sundance this year. Does this say anything about the state of filmmaking in Dallas?
I think it says that Dallas has been doing the right thing, and that it needs to continue to do that. I don’t think it means Dallas is getting better, per se, because I’ve always advocated that Dallas has always had these amazing, talented people that were just under the radar of L.A. and just under the shadow of Austin. It’s about damn time that Dallas is getting some recognition all at the same time at the most well-known festival in the country. If anything, it might hint at, too, that many of these filmmakers, through longevity alone, have finally started bonding together more frequently to make films. I think that’s the key that was missing here. Austin always had quite the elaborate, “7 degrees” web of actors and filmmakers, and now, I think this is the year that’s showing off the interconnectedness of DFW.
Are there any advantages to being a Dallas-based filmmaker/actor?
I think it’s great because Dallas is big enough to foster friendly competition and offer a variety of resources, but is small enough for you to really get to know everyone very well and to not have to deal with a lot of red tape that you might get trying to make films in larger cities. Plus, Dallas-Fort Worth is in an interesting spot. Just an hour or so away, you have the countryside, but then you have the city landscape, and then beyond that, you have lakes and hills and valleys….lucky to have a little range for locations.
What are the biggest challenges facing filmmakers/actors working in Dallas?
The fact that nobody still seems to realize there’s a community here, but that’s all changing now — Sundance 2013 being the biggest flag of that change in the wind. I love Austin and I love the people working on films in Austin, but there’s definitely a draw there that Dallas doesn’t have. There are amazing resources here, but we could still use the help. It’s just good to know that, every year, the Texas Film Commission and TXMPA are slowly making amendments that will only nurture filmmakers, like tax breaks and location assistance. It’s a wonderful start. But we still have a long way to go.
Where do you see Dallas filmmaking in ten years? Do you think there is a progressive nature to the growth of a film scene? In other words, is Dallas becoming a stronger city for filmmaking, or is this just a singular moment when a number of people from here happen to making good films?
Again, I think Dallas is becoming a stronger city because of the recognition that will only incite more growth, but I think it’s always been a strong place for filmmaking. Hopefully it will only expand and circles of collaborators will only expand. I think movements happen because of a collective subconscious that’s propelling everyone forward to the same goal, to do the same thing. I think that it was strong enough in 2011 that a lot of people made a lot of really good films. At the same time, it’s a lot about luck. There are a lot of great, collaborative films that come out of the area every year that no one sees. And that is up to festival programmers. So we’re very lucky that this year, Sundance happened to embrace so many from our home.
Is there a filmmaking community in Dallas, and do you consider yourself a part of it?
Absolutely. I’m fortunate to have amazing friends, colleagues, collaborators, from whom I’ve learned so much, and with whom I couldn’t imagine doing projects without. And most people I know here wear a lot of hats. Which is helpful on the low-budget standpoint when you can’t always afford a lot of crew members. Plus, it keeps things simple and intimate. I’m always trying to walk that tightrope balance of filmmaker and actor myself, all while being an obsessive editor and infrequent writer. And my friends lately have been pulling me into producing their films more, so there’s that. There are actually so many good project opportunities in town, with quite a range of genres and styles.
Be honest, do you see yourself continuing to stay in Dallas working on films, or do the coasts still have too strong a pull?
I’ve been leaning toward the east coast move for years because I like NYC more than anything. But Dallas is my home. And the amazing part about technology and transportation is that you can live anywhere but can go all over the world to work on things. Even now, most of the projects I’ve done this year have been out of state. That’s just how it turned out this year — just who I happened to collaborate with. Doesn’t mean anything about the nature of work in Texas. No matter where you are, you can SKYPE out meetings, have character dissections over the phone, and fly out to wherever you need to work. All the world’s a stage, eh?
Image at top: Frank Mosley in Eric Steele’s short Cork’s Cattlebaron (2011)