I had the chance to talk with Karen Moore, who is making her directorial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this year with Volcano. This short is set in a Toronto area tiki bar and focuses on two friends. If you are at TIFF this year it is definitely something to check out. We also chatted about some of her previous short film work and a bit about her work on television. Thank you again to Karen Moore for answering all of my questions.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Hello! I’m Karen – I’m originally from Alliston, Ontario (home of Sir Frederick Banting AND the Potato Festival) and have been living in Toronto since attending Ryerson University for Radio + Television Arts. I’m primarily a screenwriter (Workin’ Moms, Mary Kills People) and have recently directed my first short film entitled Volcano which is premiering at TIFF ’19.
How would you describe your short film Volcano?
Two friends, Hannah and Jess, meet up at a tiki bar, seeing each other for the first time since Hannah’s romantic Mexico trip. Hannah has a lot to say about it, except what really happened. I describe the film as being funny until it’s not — it’s a ride that hopefully makes you laugh, cry, or (jackpot) both.
What inspired this short film?
I wanted to do something from a personal place for this project, and without getting into spoiler-y details, this film is about as personal as it gets. That and I live close to the The Shameful Tiki Room (the amazing bar we shot the film in), and I was determined to shoot something there before my partner (and director) Joe Kicak did. Pettiness wins!
While you’ve previously worked on a number of other short films, this was your directorial debut. What was that transition like?
I’ve been fortunate to have had very close collaborations with the directors of my shorts in the past as well as having spent a lot of time as an on-set TV writer, so being in the director’s chair myself wasn’t an insanely radical transition. It is, of course, different, but I think I was expecting to feel more out of place than I actually did.
Are there any moments from filming that stood out to you?
One big moment that stands out is when we played the voicemail that’s in the film for the first time out loud to get Jess and Hannah’s real reactions on camera. Because it’s very personal, it was also me seeing the crew’s real-time reactions to something true from my life. I’m proud to say I held it together emotionally at the monitors, because it could’ve gone the other way for sure.
Volcano is debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, what do you hope viewers take away from seeing the film?
Aside from laughing/crying/both, I hope people see themselves in that friendship and connect to being the Jess or Hannah. I wanted to communicate that I think there’s a danger in the way we project onto those we want to be close to that can make us miss what’s really going on.
Could you discuss some of your other short film work?
I wrote and co-produced a dark comedy entitled Must Kill Karl (dir: Joe Kicak). You can watch it here: https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2018/08/06/must-kill-karl/. It’s about how everyone has that one friend in their lives that they can’t seem to get rid of — the “Karl” — and one night, this particular group of friends decide the only way to free themselves from Karl once and for all is to kill him. Fun!
You have also worked on some well known shows including Workin’ Moms, could you share a bit about your TV writing work?
In terms of TV writing, I’ve been on half-hour comedies (Workin’ Moms, What Would Sal Do?), one-hour dramas (Mary Kills People, Rookie Blue, Caught, Saving Hope), and was an Executive Producer & Writer on a tween adventure series (Detention Adventure). I like to say I’m the least funny person in a comedy writers room and the most funny(ish) in a drama writers room.
How did this work benefit Volcano?
In some ways very directly, and probably in almost every other way indirectly. I met the lead actors (Jess Salgueiro and Hannah Cheesman) through Workin’ Moms. Much of the crew I know from those sets and have worked with on and off for years. And obviously the knowledge that comes from observing much larger sets bring things to life.
Where can our readers keep up with you and your work online?