ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, which will be released on VOD and On Demand on October 11th, probably by all rights shouldn't exist. An indictment of consumer culture and Middle America right in the heart of the Happiest Place on Earth, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW already had several aspects going against it. It's hard enough to just make a movie, but to make a movie ducking security at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and examining one of the largest corporations in America? George Orwell got the ideas right, but the specifics wrong - Big Brother doesn't come with iron boots, but with smiles and cotton candy.
That may be overstating things a bit, but it's strange that we live in a world that doesn't seriously examine our relationships with the people who sell us these things we consume. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW is funny, biting, weird in all the best David Lynchian ways, and it's amazing it got made at all.
Director Randy Moore has crafted, with the help of countless others, a unique American story, and a pretty important statement on our values and where we're at as a country right now. I'm amazed I got to see it at all. Thanks to Fantastic Fest for screening the movie and for helping set this interview up. You really need to see ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW.
Nordling: First, I want to congratulate you on your movie. It's brilliant.
Randy Moore: Thank you. (points at recorder) That's what we used for our park sound.
Nordling: Oh yeah? I was about to say some of that had to be looped ...
Randy Moore: Some of it was, but I think we had a little bit smaller one, but they were Olympus and they had the USB thing that flipped out, they would run for 18 hours on one battery. We had lots running through them. We didn't have wireless because they thought that might be a problem in the park, so we wired all the actors and spent a month and a half synching the sound without synch points after we shot the movie.
Nordling: It was a uniquely American film. It was really brilliant.
Randy Moore: Thank you.
Nordling: The very genesis of the idea, nobody would have ever thought to have shot there. I guess the American mind set, Disney is sacrosanct, even though we all know that they've done some really crazy stuff in the studio, just the genesis of how it all began. What made you all decide this is something that we should try?
Randy Moore: I guess, like a lot of people, when I was a kid I would go on the rides and I wished I could make a movie there. I loved the park when I was a kid, I went there every summer with my father. When I got older, I went back with my own kids and I still enjoyed it, but it was different, you start to see cracks in the veneer, you start to look around and see things you didn't notice when you were a little kid. There some really strange people here, too. That was one thing about it that I didn't realize, you really see a slice of America there. If you want to know what America looks like and really is, go to Orlando. That is more American, I guess like Heartland America.
Nordling: It's kind of like a sample of America. It shows how weird our country is, too. We're all weird. You're looking at a slice of the entire country. I went on my honeymoon, weirdly enough, and I took my daughter a few years back, and it's just the aggressiveness of it.
Randy Moore: The aggressiveness of being happy and you see it in the employees, how they have to be so happy and slightly demented.
Nordling: How can anybody keep it up? It's overpowering. Some of the shots you got in the film obviously got under the radar, some of the shots with the empty places. How did you all do that? Nobody jumped the fence.
Randy Moore: No, no. I wish we had a really good story behind that, but the truth is we just got there really early in the morning, with the crowd, got tot the front of the line and when they opened the gate we ran ahead. We did this every day for a week. We had about 10 to 15 seconds of empty parks. I was operating a camera, Lucas was operating a camera, AC was operating a camera, we all had stations that we went to. Today we're going to get Spaceship Earth and you're going to go get the Universe of Energy or whatever. We just did, we had 15 seconds before the whole crowd would rush into our shot from behind us, and that was it for the day. We'd go on and do the rest of our stuff. It's like the fireworks scene, we shot the scene where he's running around the lake with the fireworks every single night while we were in Orlando. That was the closing of our night, every night. Obviously the fireworks are only 10 minutes, but we had a lot of shots and angles to cover.
Nordling: How many times did you all end up having to go to the parks? Both Orlando and California.
Randy Moore: With the actors we only went once, to Orlando, for 11 days. Without the actors, just me and the camera guys, we probably went at least five or six times. Then I went a bunch of times before and after, too. I always had my camera with me so stuff that I shot early on, some of it slipped in here and there, then stuff from our scouting trips are in there. Then we went back and got B role stuff. The hardest thing was though. we had a ticking clock going because we forget that they change the park for the holidays, and we wanted it to have this very neutral summer feel to it, so that it could be any time. We didn't want a giant pumpkin or a Christmas tree in the background, which there are. I think you see in one shot where we couldn't frame it out because we had to go back for a B role shot. We had to get it done before a certain date in October. Then we ended up having to go back after the Christmas decorations were taken down in February, so we could resume getting a few background plates and stuff like that that didn't have holiday things going on.
Nordling: Is that part of the decision to film in black and white, so it would have that neutral time frame?
Randy Moore: Not for that, there were a lot of reasons we shot in black and white, but that helped, that was just a bonus of shooting in black and white that we realized, oh that Christmas tree doesn't really stand out as much as it might if we were shooting in color.
Nordling: Making a movie, you had to be thinking at the same time, who's going to see this? Are we going to be ... Is this every going to see the light of day?
Randy Moore: It was really a personal obsession, it became an obsession for me. When I first talked to John Sloss, our distributor now, he started off as our sale agent and then really took to the film and said, "I want to distribute this through my distribution company." The first thing he asked me when I spoke to him was, "What were you thinking?" and I was like, "I think it was like my Field of Dreams moment." I didn't think it was going to have such a big reaction. I never thought it would go to Sundance. I thought maybe it would play at a few small festivals, and I really just thought of it as an exercise. It really for me, was an experimental film in the truest sense because it was an experiment in terms of I didn't know if we would be able to make the film. It could have very easily been a failed experiment.
Nordling: It's very funny. The humor in is, you're laughing and you can't quite believe you're laughing at this. It was a really wonderful script; tell me about the process of writing it.
Randy Moore: I'd thought about it for a while. I went to Orlando with my wife, she's a nurse. At one point she turned to me when we were at some princess fair and said, "This is more insane than working the Psych ward at the hospital." Sometimes she floats between floors. Then I started observing more than just enjoying, and seeing weird stuff. I kept thinking about it. Like you said, most people don't go, "Oh I'm going to write a movie about this and set it here." I think it started off as just an exercise just to keep the writing juices flowing. I was writing other stuff at the time, and when I would get bored, I would put that stuff down and write this. I think because I was so familiar with the location, it was fun to write, because I could see everything. When it was done, like you said, it's a pretty strange thing to go, "Okay now I'm going to go make a big movie there." It was like why don't I just take some friends of mine in and shoot some scenes and then I'll feel a little more comfortable when I go do one of these other scripts. That was where it started, then it just snowballed, and snowballed, and snowballed and became my entire life. Just consumed me completely. Then I became paranoid towards the end, like the character in the movie is.
Nordling: The Disney police are going to catch me.
Randy Moore: Which is ridiculous to be scared of the Disney police. You realize there's such a large empire with ABC and now with Marvel and with Star Wars, especially in Florida where everyone is in some way connected to them.
Nordling: I didn't find the movie thumbs its nose at Disney so much, but it's not so much an indictment of Disney as it is just-
Randy Moore: The experience of going.
Nordling: The experience of Disney and, it's kind of an indictment of middle America in a way. It's like the Mecca-
Randy Moore: It is the Mecca that Americans go to before we die.
Nordling: We all have to go before we die and it's like a bastion of capitalism, strangely enough. Getting your crew together to film it, tell me about your most difficult day.
Randy Moore: Obviously the first day was the scariest, because we didn't know if this was going to work or not. A friend of mine said to me, "Do the absolute hardest shots first, that you can't get anywhere else." I think that first shot we did in the park was when the family is walking up towards the giant geodesic ball, the sphere. We had Lucas, our DP, on a wheel chair holding a camera. We had his AC pushing him, we had the family walk in in front of him, I was directing from the side. It's not really showcased in the shot, which is much more complicated than it ended up being in the film, but we had the man on the scooter with his family coming in over on this side. So we had to coordinate all of this, and this is basically in the entrance where there is a visible presence of security. And the kids, this is the first time we were acting on location with the kids.
Nordling: You got good performances out of them, by the way.
Randy Moore: They were great. They were really great.
Nordling: It's hard to wrangle kids, especially in Disney World, that must have been a little difficult.
Randy Moore: It was, especially for the boy, because imagine being told you're going to Disney World for two weeks, but you can't go on any rides. Or you can't enjoy the rides that you're going on because you have to act. The girl, she's actually older than she looks and she's just such a consummate actor. The boy's just a natural, amazing actor. That girl is just a professional, she would be easier to work with than some of the adults, she's so good.
Nordling: Speaking of the geodesic ball, I think I'm going to be frightened to see that from now on, it's kind of frightening now. I know there's obviously some computer animation done in post, the one shot where it explodes, what was the genesis for that? Where did that come about? It was so edited, so well, it felt like you blew it up.
Randy Moore: Are you asking how we did it technically? After we locked the edit, it was always in the script that that was going to happen. We took it to this company in Korea, called Forth Creative; they do special effects for all the big Korean movies. I think they wanted to work on an American film and they gave us a great, great deal. They had a subsidiary company that did color correction; basically all of our visual post production was done in Korea, which was nice because I didn't want to farm it out to all these different VFX places.
Nordling: It would have been difficult.
Randy Moore: I knew some of them might say no because they wouldn't want to hurt their relationship with the Mouse or whatever. I also wanted to just keep it below the radar for as long as possible. I think we did a fairly good job, because before Sundance, no one had any idea. Which I was surprised at, because there were people that were in a position that could have gotten the word out.
Nordling: Just the project and how it got before them at Sundance, how did that really work?
Randy Moore: That was a blind submission. Sent in a CD, and I think we just got lucky. The film made it to a programmer who understood it and enjoyed it, saw it for what it was.
Nordling: It's a perfect film for this festival.
Randy Moore: I know, I know. This is amazing. This is my first time here and I want to come back every year now.
Nordling: It's great. Well I do want to ask you, the actor who plays Jim-.
Randy Moore: Roy Abramsohn and he's going to be here on Thursday for the second screening, I'm sure if you to interview him he would love it.
Nordling: He was really, really good.
Randy Moore: He's one of those great actors who's been doing character parts and everything from Weeds to Desperate Housewives and the Parkers, just for years, and years and years. He couldn't be here for this screening because he's driving a limousine for the Emmys this week. He's a real actor, and it's tough to make a living doing that.
Nordling: Obviously all of the post fallout with Disney and everything, I'm still surprised I actually got to see it. I guess the idea is, my theory is they actually don't want to bring that much attention to the film by doing any lawsuits or anything like that. Thank you, Larry Flynt for the satire protection and everything. Have you unofficially heard from anybody...
Randy Moore: No, not even unofficially. The only thing that I heard was that Hollywood Reporter story that came out two days ago, where they said, unconfirmed sources, or something like that, have said that they're not going to do it, but I don't know if that holds any water or not.
Nordling: Yeah. I think it would be too much. That would be bullying, practically. This is our country and it's important that we have these examinations as to what we are as people, to me that's what the movie's about.
Randy Moore: Like you said, it's the mecca of America, it's a universal rite of passage that every parent and child, most go through. I just felt morally it's wrong to say that it's off limits to examine it.. Because it's like you said, people think it's a sacred place.
Nordling: It's weird. It's really strange how we build these places up. It's just consuming money is what they're about, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's weird that we've built them up into a moral place, it's just strange.
Randy Moore: I think it's probably, in many people's hearts, the real capital of America.
See ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, and know that in great cinema, nothing is out of bounds.