In Conversation with Film Director Oren Moverman – Sarasota Film Festival 2015: Day Two

In Conversation with Oren Moverman

On my schedule for The Sarasota Film Festival’s second day was an afternoon In Discussion with Film Director Oren Moverman who had directed the festival’s opening night feature film – Time Out of Mind. The venue was the John C Court Cabaret Theater which is a part of the Florida Studio Theater located at Coconut and First Street, within a few blocks of the Sarasota Opera House.


It is an intimate setting with tables and chairs, rather than theater style seating.

You can see how close I was to the stage from my photos.

Moverman was going to be interviewed by Mike Dunaway, the Festival’s Creative & Programming Director, which would be followed by a short Q & A.

Oren Moverman seems to be on the fast track in the movie business. He was born in 1966 in Tel Aviv, Israel, His father worked for an Israeli bank, and in 1978, the elder Moverman was transferred to work for the bank in New York. They settled in Brooklyn. Oren was 12 years.

Dunaway is in the white shirt and beard. Moverman is clean shaven and wearing dark clothes.

Dunaway is in the white shirt and beard. Moverman is clean shaven and wearing dark clothes.

With some prodding from Mike Dunaway, Moverman told us that the first film he ever saw, beyond that which aired on Israeli TV was The Wizard of Oz. This is the one that captured his imagination, giving him his first clue about what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Moverman went to Brooklyn College and managed to get some non-paying jobs on movie sets – you know like the assistant to the assistant of the Assistant Movie Director. As we all know and have heard repeatedly, some of the most successful people in the movie biz started at the bottom.

Moverman has now directed three feature Films – The Messenger in 2009 was nominated for two Oscars – Woody Harrelson for Best Supporting Actor, and Mr. Moverman along with Alessandro Camon as the co-writers of the Original Screenplay. His second directorial effort was the feature film, Ramparts, also starred Woody Harrelson. And now, Time Out of Mind starring Richard Gere.

But that’s on;y a part of what Oren Moverman has done. He co=wrote the script for the Bob Dylan bio-film called I’m Not There, with the film’s s director – Todd Haynes. Later on in this very festival, we shall see Love & Mercy – a film about the life and times, and of course the troubles, of Brian Wilson, the most reclusive and the most troubled of the Beach Boys. Oren Moverman co-wrote the screenplay with Michael A. Lerner.

The film opens nationally on June 5th.

Moverman’s opening remarks were a big shout out and thank you to The Sarasota Film Festival. He said that his very successful film – The Messenger was launched at the SFF in 2009.

When asked how it was that the films he’s been involved with have always attracted some very strong actors, even if the roles they were cast for were small. Moverman attributed it to luck and hard work.

It seems that Moverman is what you might call an actor’s director. He told us that he writes scripts not for actors but for characters. He said that he is not possessive about his screenplays. He says once the casting is done, he leaves it the actors to interpret the roles.

Moverman also said that he doesn’t believe in rehearsing. Which I guess makes him open to suggestions. He says the actors can improvise if they like, or suggest changes if they like, and are fee to interpret the roles.

He told the audience about the time an actress questioned him: How do I know when a scene is over? Moverman said there are two ways – Either I will call CUT!, or you will walk off the set. He went on – I can’t film you if I can’t see you…

Moverman further made the point that he wants his actors to use what they feel –

Moverman said that early in his career, he was caught up in the aesthetics of film, you know the technical side of film making. But now he is all about just one thing – that he, the director, is in the service of the actors.

He continues that for him, directing was not about leading the actors. Rather it was most successful when I followed the actors.

About Time Out of Mind – ,Moverman talks about the details of the sounds of the film, which was really all about the ambient noises.He said while he did appreciate the art and intrinsic value of the hand-held camera – this time he utilized mostly a locked down camera.

He spoke about the need for obscured shots when they were filming Richard Gere in the streets. The cameras had to be in obscured positions – so much so that the folks in the street had no idea that a movie was being made. In fact, with only a few and very rare occurrences, Gere went unnoticed by all those who passed him.

While this was indeed Richard Gere, on the inside, the external person went unnoticed. – Just another New York homeless man. Having lived in New York myself, I am more than familiar. But what can I do – I am just an individual. In fact ,the panhandling scene, where Gere kept asking for spare change – was the first shot of the production. They got 45 minutes of footage of Gere panhandling on the streets of New York.

All but a minute and a half went unused.

The shooting schedule called for the principal photography to be completed in 21 days.

When asked what was coming up for Oren Moverman, he said that Hunter’s Prayer – he co-wrote the script – is in post production. But beyond that, Moverman said he didn’t know. This is a difficult time for independent film makers. Financing is harder than ever to find.  He said that the inroads by TV has impacted the movie industry. Films need to be able to create some connection to the world that we live in, the world that we are a part of.

Moverman’s closing remarks stated that,  Nowadays we have passed through the Golden Age of Movies, and, we are now in the Golden Age of the Audiences. Forever, the movie industry has been driven by ticket sales, but now, with all the various technologies and methods to deliver film to the consumer, Moverman isn’t sure if he will get ‘Final Cut’ ever again.

And his last remarks were even more telling. He said,  I can fuck-up an entertainment. He said, My films can go from the light to dark to darker, from feel good to disturbing, and from disturbing to demanding.

And that was In Conversation with Oren Moverman.

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