Written by Luke Barnes
I recently had the chance to interview director Ross Munro about his new film The Moviegoer which serves as a personal love letter to cinema and reflects an experience many films fans can relate to. In this interview we discuss home movies, early cinematic memories and the films of Charles Bronson. I hope you enjoy.
Q: What was your inspiration behind making this film?
RM: Around the time of the pandemic first hitting, everyone was understandably bummed (to put it mildly!) about having to be separated from friends and family as well as participating in the normalcy of their favoured activities. In the case of myself and my producer/wife Maria, we really missed our movie going community here in Vancouver. There were a couple of movie theatres that we always went to that showed an amazing assortment of films and we really bonded and shared the camaraderie of our fellow movie lovers there.
So, since pretty well the whole filmmaking industry was on a shutdown as well, I had the idea to make a one-off little cinematic homage to how much we all missed going to the movies. Originally, the movie was intended as a collection of photos of myself as a young kid with my narration about my own movie going memories- a nice little cinematic nostalgic love letter that we could pull off very quickly and get it out there for people to enjoy.
Of course, as we started piecing the film together it started to take on a life of its own as we started to add more and more complicated production components as the film industry and society started opening up more. What started as a collection of photos with narration soon found us shooting several complicated live action sequences with numerous actors, original costumes, green screen fx, and the commissioning of original animation all of which added up to a nearly two year journey to make what is now the final version of The Moviegoer.
Q: What is your earliest cinematic memories?
RM: I’m definitely a product of growing up in the 1970s and going to the movies during this amazing time of films that made their way to theatres. Probably because my parents were such lovers of movies, I really absorbed this love and pretty soon as young kid movies became the most important fabric of my love- even more than playing hockey which I actually loved a lot. My earliest memories wrestled back and forth between which I’d love to win more: an Oscar or the Stanley Cup.
Probably my first memory was our back in 1969 when I was around 6 years old and my parents took myself and all my brothers to see “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”- I don’t remember that much except the image of Newman and Redford jumping off the steep cliff into the waters below with Redford comically proclaiming that he didn’t know how to swim.
Going to movies really took root a little later when my older brother Cam went to see “The Aristocats” in 1971 and snuck me along after my parents said I was too young to accompany him on the bus to the theatre downtown. I remember the dizzying enjoyment of going to the movies as we stayed and watched the movie all day long and ended up coming home at sunset and I got into a lot of trouble with my parents for defying them and sneaking along to the movie with my brother.
The next year- in 1972 when I turned 9- I started going to movies regularly and my first and greatest memories were seeing the films of my first Hollywood idols Charles Bronson and Raquel Welch. I loved seeing Bronson in “Red Sun” and Miss Welch in “Kansas City Bomber”.
Since 1972 seemed like the most pivotal year of my early movie experiences and best represented my movie fandom awakening, I decided to have The Moviegoer focus entirely on my journeying to the movies in that year. And, of course, we filmed a whole montage of scenes based on “Kansas City Bomber” with our homage entitled “Kansas City Roller” where we recreated some of the film’s iconic scenes. This was a huge amount of fun to do and not to mention a lot of work for Maria who also served as the film’s Costume Designer and had to recreate all those early 70s roller derby outfits!
Q: Will we ever see your early Kung Fu films remade?
RM: Ha! Wouldn’t that be cool? Your referring, of course, to the segment in The Moviegoer that details how my love for movies eventually started me down the path of making my own Super 8mm versions of Kung Fu movies when I was 9 years old as well.
I was a huge fan of martial arts movies back in the early 70s and, of course, Bruce Lee was the holy figure of that amazing, action-filled genre. I remember going to see The Chinese Connection back in 1972 and how my friends and I at school would run around trying our kung fu moves on each other in the playground and pretend to swing around nunchuks like the expert Lee himself. It didn’t matter that the Kung Fu movies were badly dubbed and all had the same story- they were so thrilling and unlike any other typical action movies playing the theatres- it’s almost they came from another planet that’s how unique and mind-blowing they were. Another fave of that genre I saw at that time was “Five Fingers of Death”- definitely not for the squeamish.
But to answer your question, it’s not too likely I’ll end up reacquainting myself as a filmmaker making a martial arts movie- I guess audiences will just have to enjoy my early kung fu movies that came from the mind of a 9-year old wannabe filmmaker using my dad’s Super 8mm camera. Although I’m thinking if I made my own version of “Kill Bill” it might be called “Nunchuck Buck”…
Q: In 1972 what was your favourite film?
RM: That’s a fun question to answer as it allows my mind to wander back to the halcyon days of my movie going back in 1972. Where to start? Because of my love for Chuck Bronson and Raquel Welch I have to include both “The Mechanic” and “Fuzz”- two more movies that we reference lovingly in “The Moviegoer” by the way. Also, I remember being in awe of the granddaddy of disaster flicks “The Poseidon Adventure” (Gene Hackman as a priest!), “Blacula”, “Hickey and Boggs”, whichever one of the “Planet of the Apes” series was out at that time, the cool Peter Cushing horror anthology “Asylum” (couldn’t find any friends who were allowed to come and see that with me at the time!) and a cool- and now underseen- Western revenge flick with another of my faves Ernest Borgnine called “The Revengers”. Oh, and let’s not forget another of my faves Chuck Heston trying to save terrified passengers from a deranged plane hijacker in “Skyjacked” which I saw on a double header that year playing with “Kelly’s Heroes”.
Of course, I could go on and on. We tried in our film “The Moviegoer” to mention and create some kind of homage to as many of these films as possible- it’s fun to see how many of these cool 1972 films people who watch the film pick up on. As an added bonus to making the film, it would be nice if people will go out and try and discover these films for themselves- they definitely won’t be disappointed.
Q: Do you have any funny stories from production?
RM: I don’t really have too many stories about anything funny going down during production but while building our film’s main segment of recreating what it was like to see a movie back in 1972 we originally created a spoof of a “short documentary” that was to play on screen while my 9-year old self attends a typical Saturday afternoon at the movie theatre. The mock short detailed the attempts of a teenaged girl taking her driver’s test and devolved into the eventual destruction of many cars as a crazy police chase also ensued- we had to remove this segment late in the editing game of the film as it felt almost right out of the movie “Airplane!” with its over-the-top humour. It actually hurt a little to remove it- I know our film’s editor Julia took the news a little hard when we had to make that eventual request.
Also, I just remember having tons of fun with all our talented cast shooting both the homage to X-rated sexy stewardesses trailer and “Kansas City Roller” women’s roller derby sequences- lots of great authentic costumes that the actors really had a blast performing in. I think everyone involved really pulled these sequences off great- lots of campy energy that hopefully transports audiences back to 1972 (or if they never lived through 1972 then taking them on a fun ride there for the first time!).
Q: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
RM: Well, sometimes I wonder why anyone would want me to dispense filmmaking advice and then, upon reflection, I soon realize that, damn, I’ve actually been at this indie filmmaking business for almost four decades! So I guess I’m now on the cusp of getting my home in Malibu and daily film luncheons at Spago in Hollywood…ya, right.
Actually, the main things I’ve learned and am happy to pass along are that you should always follow your dream and vision. Sometimes things might seem impossible to do but there are always solutions and you will definitely find away if you keep grinding it out. You will have many doors closed along the way and though it may prove a temporary setback and cause a little heartbreak, you will soon realize that it will lead to new doors opening and illuminate your path even more as you continue your journey. Because you are definitely on a long journey and definitely not a sprint- you have to keep your mind, spirit and body full of energy and, despite the ups and downs, keep the belief.
And, most importantly, filmmaking is a collaborative effort- try to surround yourself with others who share your beliefs and passion for your projects. This cannot be stressed enough! There were definitely times I felt like giving up but, luckily, I was able to turn towards my wife Maria who, at that time, had just left her job as a graphic designer and didn’t know what her next career path would be. As mentioned, I was on the verge of throwing in the proverbial cinematic towel but I reached out to her and asked if she’d be my producer which, thankfully, she agreed to even though she was not in any way part of the film scene. Now, four films later collaborating together, we are able to strengthen each other and lift the other up as we continue this journey. The point is that she was able to turn her passion to share my vision with me into an amazing collaboration which reinforces my point about surrounding yourself with the right people.
Q: Future film plans?
RM: Having now made two features (“Brewster McGee” & “A Legacy of Whining”) and four short films with the latest, of course, being “The Moviegoer”, we are always on the go with developing several projects.
Right now we are looking at making another feature from an original script I wrote called “The Illuminating Angel” which is a somewhat surreal and comical look at a trio of mismatched office workers stuck in a literal and figurative purgatory whose only escape comes their daydreams. Another project on the docket is Maria’s debut as director with the original short film “La Fiesta” which is her autobiographical look back at her family in early 1970s Caracas and will be shot in Spanish from a script we wrote together. We’re also working on an animated film about the life and death of an historic movie theatre called “The Esquire”.
So, as you can see, we have a ton of things that we’re always moving forward with which- along with submitting our current “The Moviegoer” to film festivals- never puts us at a loss when it comes to keeping our passion and desire for making movies as we go into the future!
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