The 2005 release, Almost Normal, is turning ten this month. Director, writer and actor Marc Moody reflects on the making of the film, his future plans, inspiration, and the growth which was partly enabled by the project.
To watch the behind the scenes process, watch [[Part 1]], [[Part 2]], [[Part 3]], and [[Part 4]].
Conversation with moody:
What inspired Almost Normal?
Confession: I never really liked Cameron Crowe’s screenplay Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I knew Crowe had a story for Rolling Stone or wrote a book; enrolled, disguising himself as a high school student when he was in his twenties. I thought it was fascinating. Yet the movie was nothing like that.
In the eighties I was at this party and he was there. I zeroed in on him. I am sure he was thinking, ‘Who is this guy?’ I asked how the students reacted when they discovered he was not a student. He said some felt betrayed. I paused, then said, ‘That’s your story.’
So I always kept that in the back of my mind: high school, being someone you are not. Graduating film school, I was soon to be turning forty, which depressed me. I wanted to write about that and (my) feelings of what being gay, where I was in life, was like.
I always felt I was a failure as a gay man. I never was ensconced in the gay community. Through the eighties I drank like a fish, then got sober. Most of my friends were in recovery, most were straight. I felt I did not know how to be gay. Regarding screenplays, I was always hammered to think ‘high concept, high concept’.
I had recently written a comedy screenplay about a homophobic womanizer who chained smoke, went to a hypnotist to quit, session got botched up where he now thinks he is gay. So I thought: Gay = 40 = still single = wishing to be normal = goes back to high school = world now gay. Cool!
But that is only situations. What is the story? He goes back in time now normal then meets and falls in love with a girl!
Banzai! I had my story.
You shared many duties on that project, what made you want to undertake so much?
Low Budget. [I] had to. Also it is the only way I know how to make films. At my film school you learned every role in filmmaking. My favorite was writing. I was writing screenplays by the time I was twelve. I was a nut over disaster films, writing my first script called Tornado. My parent’s house was actually hit by a tornado in Little Rock, Arkansas at the time I was writing it where I stood outside wanting to capture the ambience of it all.
So far I have directed everything I have written. Knowing there is no chance of me directing something I am writing, that would be hard. Editing; I cannot imagine making a film without editing or co-editing. It is my favorite part of filmmaking. You see your baby come to life in a little private room. It is the best feeling, ever! And when you start laying down your music tracks? Heaven! However if Hollywood approached ONLY wanting me to write or just direct. All bets are off.
How important would you say it is for you to collaborate with other creative energies?
My first year in film school an independent filmmaker from New Orleans spoke to our symposium class. He said, ‘Look around you and start making your friends. You will need them down the road.’ I scoffed. I thought, ‘I am going to make my films, then go off on my own, back to L.A. and become Spielberg.’ I could not have been more wrong. And incredibly dumb.
My Producer (Sharon Teo), cinematographer, most of the top crewmembers on Normal all went to film school with me. To this day, I depend on them. My cinematographer who has shot all my films I flew out to Honolulu to shoot some scenes from a screenplay I wrote (rather obsessed with) turning a small portion of the campus at The University of Hawaii at Manoa into an 1860s Union Civil War camp.
He met and worked with my local filmmaker friends in Hawaii. I love, love these guys.
What were your thoughts behind the character of Brad in the film?
Many of my friends think he was based on me. I do not think he was. His feelings were the same, but Brad was much more successful than I was. He could retire early at fifty-five if he wanted to. I will be able to retire after I die and still probably have to pay on student loans. Brad owned a home. I still rent, in faculty housing no doubt. Yet my neighbor until recently was President Obama’s sister. So that’s kind of cool.
Mostly, I think I used Brad as a mouthpiece to how I was screaming on the inside. So I guess my friends were right. He was me.
It has been ten years since that project was released, how do you feel about it now that it has grown?
When Normal was released, I did not like it that much. I wished we could have made it on more money. We shot it on film, not video. That I am very proud of. Was very proud to walk in most video stores (I miss them) and see my movie!
But we shot it for about thirty thousand [dollars]. We had to wait a whole year before getting more money to process the cans until the university of Nebraska-Lincoln graciously stepped in becoming our primary investor. And they made all their money back. I felt it was a film that needed to be bigger and in order to do that you needed a bigger budget.
Then last year I went and visited some friends in Sydney; Normal had just been newly released for streaming. They bought it on iTunes. We all watched it. And that was the first time I really liked it. I was so surprised we were able to make a film look that good (I think we had up to seventy different scene locales) for the money we made it on. All that due to really talented people who worked really hard on it.
When Brad tells his mother, ‘I am back Mom, I have come back. … Trying to make things, right.’ It hit home for me. I had recently lost my mother and I realized how personal this film was for me.
I always felt like a f**k up, so did Brad. Yet we both had so much in life, and too stupid to realize it. As Brad says, ‘All my life I have been wanting. But what I want is not necessarily what I need.’ A twelve-step one liner. But very true. So I love Normal. I think I laid down some good bets and won the hand. I thought we would probably get distributed. We did. In 6 other countries not doubt and aired on MTVs LOGO Channel. Never saw that coming.
I also felt the premise would make people interested. Today Normal is still discussed often on YouTube and other sites. At first, hated it when someone would put the whole movie on YouTube. We kept calling our distributors who had to contact YouTube to take it off.
Now, I take it as a compliment. So many people argue about it, debating what I meant with the film’s message. My favorite review was from someone on Netflix. He hated the film so much, he stated, ‘I’ll never see another Marc Moody film, ever!’
I was so proud. Someone out there thinks I am a real filmmaker!
(Part two of interview)
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