Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meet Curtis James Salt, Independent Filmmaker

Curtis James Salt is a independent filmmaker in Boston, MA. For samples of his work, check out his page on Vimeo. His credits include directing/producing the New England Film award winning documentary The Reality Behind Closed Doors. Most recently, his feature length script Adonis is currently in the top 100 scripts (for Drama) at the Filmmaker's International Screenwriting Awards. His newest endeavor is the fantasy Mosden that is currently in pre-production.

For information about the crowdfunding campaign to help support the production of Mosden, please see the IndieGogo site for the project. See also the Facebook page for Mosden.

1. What is the meaning of Mosden, the title of the short film you're working on?

The title "Mosden" actually refers to the name of the fictitious language that all the characters speak. Early on in the script, the main character Canvas (played by Matthew Eriksen) discovers a mysterious note left for him alongside a box of colored pencils and a mirror. The note's message reads "Mosden" and that's the first time you actually hear Canvas speak. So it seemed appropriate to name the language after that message. Some of the language is made up from scratch while the rest is a mixture of Latin, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Cantonese, French, and more; all sliced up together so it feels somewhat universally familiar in nature, but also very organic. Currently I'm working with each actor on tailoring the vocabulary of the language and finding what sounds most natural for them to speak; then translating the words on the page from English to Mosden.

2. In exploring the experiences of a character named Canvas, how does your film work with the idea of creating art as a metaphor for creating other experiences/meaning in life?

[Laughs] Your question is incredibly close to being "on the nose." You follow Canvas from his inception, or what some of us refer to as his "birth." He has to teach himself how to walk and talk. Eventually he acquires the box of colored pencils and learns whatever he draws on the walls becomes real. This is where the audience can start to dissect the metaphors hidden within the story if they choose. For example, the first character Canvas creates is RED (Olivia Moriarty) who he has to then teach everything he had to teach himself. Red in return falls in love with him. The next character created is GREEN (Harry Aspinwall), who is very bitter and envious of their relationship. It quickly becomes apparent that the art/characters Canvas creates represent either an aspect of the human psyche or characteristic of how we perceive things. Eventually he creates his opposite, BLACK (Cezar Constantine) who is the literal definition of malice; who in return creates his own art/characters that conflict with Canvas until the climax of the story. The ensemble of this cast remain very "one note" and true to their color(s), whereas Canvas becomes fleshed out and whole, learning from each of them. In the end I hope my intended message becomes very clear; nothing in life is ever just black and white. (I also promise this movie doesn't end as a dream or an acid trip!)

3. What would you say distinguishes experimental fantasy film from the more narrative filmmaking that viewers may be used to seeing?

Knowing that you're creating a project with a macro budget practically forces you to be experimental in order to achieve your ultimate vision. This can hinder a lot of filmmakers and tends to make them play it "safe," which I feel nine out of ten times results in an end product that's all too familiar to today's audiences. I think embracing the notion that you have to get creative allows you to start to think outside the realm of more conventional storytelling.

With Mosden, I gave myself the challenge of trying to create a short film that appeals to a worldwide audience. So I watched a lot of movies that I love and inspire me (The Cell, The Fifth Element, Moulin Rouge) and examined what made them so appealing. Hopefully, if I did my homework correctly, you're going to get something extraordinarily unique. It's much simpler to summarize Mosden as an experimental fantasy, then to also add it's a comedy, musical, drama, fairytale, and did we mention that it's very abstract? [Laughs] Once again, I swear it's not an acid trip.

4. What are some of your personal goals as a filmmaker?

Never to compromise. Always collaborate. Remember that you might not always be right and to listen to your actors and crew. It might sound ambitious of me to say, but I always want to work on a project that I'm passionate about, opposed to doing it just as a job. I would love to get discovered (as I think most do) and be able to make movies that can appeal to a much broader audience and someday hopefully work with the people that inspire me. Regardless if a movie I work on is seen by 10 people or 10 million, I always want to provide an experience that makes people forget that they're watching a movie. Any filmmaker that is able to achieve that is a true master at their craft. Thirty years from now I hope someone can tell me that I inspired them. My all time favorite quote (from Moulin Rouge) represents my love and approach to filmmaking the best, "Why live life from dream to dream and dread the day when dreaming ends?"

5. In addition to contributing to crowdfunding campaigns, how can viewers help support independent filmmaking--and why is it important that they do so?

I think filmmakers today are both blessed and cursed by influence of social media. Crowdfunding didn't exist when I was a kid, unless you went door to door. Thanks to sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and more, your voice can either be heard or lost amongst the sea. I compare crowdfunding to playing the lottery. People gamble on playing the odds, and you just hope that they're in your favor. When a person is lucky enough to "win" because of people who believe in them, people get discovered! Amazing stories get told! Original pieces of art get created! A majority of the movies, directors, writers, actors you see and love, would not exist today if it wasn't for independent filmmaking and the support for it.

Thanks, Curtis!