Slamdance 2015 Interview: Britni West

As part of our continuing coverage of the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival, we sat down with filmmaker Britni West to talk about her lyrical look at life in rural Montana, Tired Moonlight.

Dork Shelf: This movie has very free flowing feel to it. Can you walk me through the process a little, from writing, to shooting and editing it? 

Britni West: I started out with a script that was a little more narrative. I wanted to go home and shoot in the town that I grew up in. I think there’s a really nice feeling there and a really interesting way of life that isn’t really seen a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a film the way that I experience it so I thought it would be nice to go home and shoot this sort of natural portrait of all these people that  I’ve met. Not people, per se that I’ve met, but the ideas of people that I’ve met along the way. So I scripted it and then I went home and I shot in a lot of locations that I like and care about but we’d be really open to adding things along the way and meeting new people. 

DS: How did you go about casting a film of mostly non actors? 

BW: I put up a bunch of flyers in my hometown. I put casting notices in the newspapers and told people I was making a movie and just asked people to audition. I had some small auditions and I started thinking that everyone was so excited about being a part of the film that I would just find a place for everybody that auditioned. 

DS:  How did Alex Karpovsky become involved in the project?

BW: Alex is an old friend of ours and I told him about the project when we first started it and he thought it would be cool to be a part of it so I waited until I felt like he would really fit into the world. I didn’t want him to just come and be in it so that he could be in it, I wanted him to fit. I met this Russian woman Galina who we shot with and thought it would be nice to have Alex play her son. 

DS: You shot on 16mm so you had to be economic with what you shot, but it seems like you would want a lot of footage for something like this. What was your shooting ratio? 

BW: I think it was a seven to one shooting ratio approximately. I used most of what we shot in the film. It’s a little tricky shooting on film, especially in this style because we were dealing with a lot of unknowns. So it was a little bit tricky but I think having a DP that I trust and have worked with a lot helped a lot. My friend Adam Ginsberg who I’ve worked with for eight years or ten years now, he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He knows me well so he knows what I’m looking for I think. 

DS:  Do you see yourself working in a similar style for your next film?

BW: I would hope to keep shooting film for as long as possible. I don’t know if will turn out the same, I never really wanted a style. I wasn’t shooting for something that I was forcing onto the project. I didn’t say like ‘oh it would be really cool to make this weird broken narrative’, it was more something that arose naturally from the project so I’d hope to shoot like that again but not force it to be something that it’s not. 

DS: What’s on your ‘Dork Shelf’? 

BW: I’m like a hoarder of things so I collect a lot of things that remind me of home. Everything I have is very sentimental but very small, so I have weird collections of rocks and weird jewellery from my mom when she was fifteen and probably my teddy bear that I carried around with me. 

You can read our review of Tired Moonlight here.

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