Forces in a States of Endless Tension

Writer-director Jared Moshé, whose new movie Aporia comes out Friday, on the challenges (and rewards) of combining family and filmmaking.

On December 27, 2010, I stood in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station wearing a straw cowboy hat which was already disintegrating from the snow. Gail waved at me from the metro as she emerged, her black roller behind her. It was the fourth time we’d ever seen each other, and we were about to embark on a 10-day road trip to Austin, Texas.

To this day, I don’t know what possessed either of us to take such a wild leap of faith. But it seemed that winter was one of risk taking. Within a month of that trip, I would quit my career as a producer to write and direct my first feature film.

I was in Park City with two films I produced. Corman’s World played in the Midnight section at Sundance, while up the hill Silver Tongues had its world premiere at Slamdance. Once again it was snowing, and I remember as I hurried down a soggy Main Street, beaming with excitement at all the praise both movies had received, it occurred to me that I had spent years hustling for other people’s visions, and I wanted to start hustling for my own.

The next time Gail came to New York to visit, she found me hunched over my computer, writing the screenplay that would become my directorial debut, Dead Man’s Burden.

Jared Moshé directing Dead Man’s Burden, wearing the suede and shearling coat his wife Gail bought for him.

By the following October, I was directing the film in the high desert of New Mexico. It was freezing in the morning and scalding during the day, and I was not prepared. Gail, who was visiting, took me to buy a suede and shearling coat at the local Salvation Army store in Santa Fe. She also volunteered to make eggplant parmesan for the cast and crew. We were, to say the least, hopelessly in love.

These two moments of profound risk taking changed my life. Concurrently, I would build a family with Gail, and I would build a career as writer-director. As each took root and blossomed, they would exist in a state of endless tension, ever drawing me in different directions. They set forth the question I wrestle with every day of my life: Can I be a successful parent and a successful filmmaker?

Jared Moshé and his wife Gail announce the impending arrival of their son.

My family life and filmmaking life continued to pull against each other. Dead Man’s Burden premiered at Los Angeles Film Festival in 2012. I had gotten an agent and manager and wanted to move to L.A. to build my career as a writer-director. At the same time, Gail’s career was taking off. She had just earned the opportunity to cover the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision for Congressional Quarterly. We were dating long distance, our relationship haunted by hours stuffed on the New York City-to-D.C. Megabus. Replacing those long bus rides with cross-country flights would have been less than ideal. We needed to be fully present with each other. She couldn’t do her job in L.A. I could at least try to do mine in D.C. So, I forewent L.A. and moved to D.C. to be with her.

It’s true that you can write from anywhere. But if you want to get your foot in the door in Hollywood as a young filmmaker, it’s important to be present in the city. There’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality among people in the industry. And when opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t just fly across the country at the drop of a hat. So, I spent three years treading water on my filmmaking career while my relationship with Gail bloomed. We married in D.C. beneath an archway of linden trees.

Jared Moshé directing The Ballad of Lefty Brown, with his son in tow.

We moved to L.A. in January 2015. Our plan was to kickstart my career with The Ballad of Lefty Brown while Gail settled into life on the other side of the country. In February of that year, Gail discovered she was pregnant. Suddenly, everything felt more urgent, more visceral. We no longer had the time to build a community and then figure out how to bring a child into it. We had to do both at once. And I had to get a movie going quick if I wanted to be able to provide for my growing family. Every passing day felt fleeting and precious.

Four days after my son was born, I pitched investors in Santa Monica, bleary-eyed and half-focused. A few weeks after that, I flew to Montana for a location scout. I found myself in some of the most gorgeous country I had even seen, aching to be home with my little guy.

Jared Moshé’s son learning to walk on the set of The Ballad of Lefty Brown.

The movie took longer than I anticipated. I had to borrow money from a friend to pay rent. I would meet with my actors while my son napped on my lap. Finally, we started rolling in September 2016. There was no question my family would be there with me. My son wasn’t even one. My wife was a full-time mom. He took his first steps in Ennis, stumbling across our hotel room. He mastered the skill on a dirt road in Bannack, while the cast and crew watched and cheered. In the moment, I didn’t realize how blessed I was to have this freedom. As time would pass, it would become harder and harder for them to join me on set.

When laboring to get a film into production, producers and financiers examine tax credits, soft money, location costs and crew availability. School calendars, spousal careers, sports schedules and family commitments don’t register on their radar. For good reason. Every film is a miracle. And bringing one to life takes grit, resourcefulness, sacrifice and luck.

So, if I must go halfway around the world for a four-month production, I need to bring my family with me – if I want to be present in their lives. I wonder, though, is it right of me to ask that of them?

As I write this, my wife is building her home-organizing business. My seven-year-old son loves his school and recently made his soccer select team. My daughter, who’s four, already has a close-knit group of friends. To move, even for a couple of months, would be massively disruptive. For me to not be part of their lives on a day-to-day basis would be massively dysregulating.

Jared Moshé, his wife Gail and their two kids on a family hike.

I often find myself envious of younger filmmakers, who have not yet put down roots and can focus fully on their creative visions. I find myself regretting my choices. Why did it take me so long to take the leap? But then, I don’t know if I would have been ready earlier in my life. I think I needed to find the will to do both, or I wouldn’t have had the strength to do either.

As an artist, I have seized on the friction between filmmaking and family to find inspiration. I wrote a spec script that used the language of action movies to convey the experience of becoming a father. My new film, Aporia, allowed me to wrestle with the uncertainty of parenthood. Through the film, I could interrogate my anxiety and confront my desire to control the world for my children.

We filmed Aporia last summer in El Sereno, right around the corner from my house. The trailers parked in front of my driveway. Actors used my living room and playroom as green rooms. It was as close to home as possible, and yet we decided it would be better for my wife to take my kids to North Carolina to visit their grandparents. Because it was easier for her to have their support than to be a single parent in the midst of production. In retrospect, I selfishly wish they had stayed. The times they visited me at lunch reinvigorated me. One day, amid an emotional goodbye scene, we had to break early for lunch. The light wouldn’t match if we kept going. Stress hurled through my body. Would we still be able to make our day? Would our actors recapture the emotion they had been bringing? Then, I heard two little voices yell, “Daddy!” My son and daughter came bursting down the sidewalk and into my arms. And in that moment, I knew we would get it done.

Jared Moshé on the set of his latest film, Aporia. (Photo courtesy Well Go USA.)

The thing I’ve come to realize is that although the industry doesn’t care about family, the people who work in it do. When I needed a contract signed which would prevent me from losing my health insurance before my daughter was born, the studio business affairs department, production executives and my reps found a way to make it happen. As I move forward in my career, it falls to me and my family to advocate for what we need.

It’s August now. In a few weeks, I’ll be coaching my daughter’s soccer team. I’ve been a soccer coach for three years now. The first time I did it, I leaned on my skills as a director to communicate the game to a group of six-year-olds of wildly different skills and temperaments. I learned from the experience how to embrace the chaos and inspire laughter in the face of difficulty. That’s something I took to heart when directing Aporia. So, it’s fair to say being a director made me a better kids’ soccer coach and being a kids’ soccer coach made me a better director.

And maybe that’s just how my life is supposed to be.

All images courtesy Jared Moshé unless otherwise stated.

Jared Moshés latest film as writer-director, the sci-fi drama Aporia, starring Judy Greer, Edi Gathegi and Payman Maadi, is in theaters from August 11 through Well Go USA. Moshé is an award-winning filmmaker who marked his transition from accomplished producer to the director’s chair with the indie feature Dead Man’s Burden, one of Paste Magazine’s “100 Best Westerns of All Time.” His film The Ballad of Lefty Brown, released by A24, premiered to rave reviews at SXSW. The film starred Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan and Peter Fonda in one of his final roles. He has developed projects with Bad Robot, Village Roadshow, Mad Chance, Permut Presentations and Paramount, and produced numerous films and documentaries, including Corman’s World, Kurt Cobain: About a Son and Beautiful Losers.