Recently I was invited to a screening of The Motion of the Sun by director Marc Taurisano.
I caught up with Marc and talked to him about his experience making the film. Marc began his career as a fiction writer of short stories. He wrote and directed plays for the Players Theater of Greenwich Village then started writing screenplays. The Motion of the Sun marks his first feature.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Jason Godbey: What was the inspiration behind your film, The Motion of the Sun?
Marc Taurisano: It was about people separated by age, race, and social class, but what they have in common is they’re both very lonely. It’s about loneliness and isolation and alienation and the need for human connection.
I wanted to make it different from a lot of the low budget dramas that were out there when I started writing it three years ago. There are three things I thought of: One, I wanted to have at least one lead actor who was a person of color. A lot of the indie dramas have been mocked for being completely white cast. The other thing is I wanted it to have was high stakes. A lot of these indie dramas are about people trying to find their way in life, about their job, “why isn’t my relationship working,” that kind of thing. I wanted to have life and death kind of stakes. I wanted to push into heavy drama. I think if it’s crafted and intelligent enough, you can do that without it being melodrama. The third thing, I wanted it to be expansive and connected to a larger world of history and ideals.
JG: Tell me about the production process.
MT: I set up the goal of writing something that would be very practical to produce, a small number of accessible locations and a small number of actors. I didn’t want to put anything in there that I wasn’t pretty confident I could get.
I was taking the attitude of “I’m just going to do this no matter what, and we’ll see what happens.” I didn’t even share the script with anyone whereas usually I will share it with a lot of people. In this case I just had it, and I just wanted to go forward with it. The first step I took was I decided to cast the the two leads by myself.
JG: How did you find your producing partner?
MT: That was the next step. I was thinking about producing it myself or trying to, but then I just put an ad on Mandy.com. I got a ton of replies, and I interviewed them; from there I found Karen Seol. She brought in her crew, her “dream team,” A lot of them were NY Film Academy Students.
JG: Once you got into production, what was the schedule like? How long did it take you?
MT: I wanted to shoot very fast. The entire movie was shot in ten days. Part of my plan to get higher production value was to shoot it over time, so we could show a change of seasons. We get to see Central Park in the spring and then in the autumn. We also have that summer scene on Coney Island. It was a total of ten days of production from late May to late October.
JG: How did you achieve the look of the film?
MT: When I started planning it, I was thinking this would be like a [Canon] 5D type movie. But Keren Seol, my producer, and Benjamin Murray, my Director of Photography, really wanted to shoot on the RED camera, which surprised me. They insisted on it, and I’m glad I listened to them. Shooting on the Red elevated the overall quality of the film’s visuals.
I wanted it to differ from some of the conventions we see now. I didn’t want anything that felt shaky-cam. The camera shakes once but it’s at a very strategic point. I wanted everything to look very clear and transparent and not be conscious of the camera. I’m not a fan of the fake documentary look or the shaking camera or anything like that. I wanted it to look as composed as possible.
JG: What was the post-production process? How were you able to finish the film?
MT: My excellent and gifted DP was also the editor, so as soon as we shot, in between break, he was already getting started on the edit, processing things, putting things together, seeing how they would look, so it went pretty smoothly. The movie is quite simple. Not to detract from its cinematic qualities, but it does have a stage play feeling to it. It’s a series of long scenes with lots of dialogue. It didn’t have the complexity of a typical movie where there’s so many scenes and so many cuts.
JG: What was the total budget of the movie? Did you have to raise money to finish?
MT: Yeah, we were running low, so we did an IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign for $10,000. We had about 75 people who donated all together, and 50% of our funding came from seven donors, all family and friends.
I think we were a little too optimistic when we started. The initial plan was not to do crowdfunding, I’ll put it that way. We ended up just over the $50,000 mark and that’s with submissions to festivals and printing DVD’s and Blu Rays and doing a screening.
JG: What’s your plan for distribution?
MT: We’ve submitted to a lot of film festivals, so we’re waiting to hear from them, and my producer is taking the next step to find a distributor. We’ll do festivals first and then seek distribution more aggressively.
JG: What lessons did you learn about making a first feature?
MT: The biggest lesson I learned was to not underestimate the importance of sound. We had a lot of sound problems. I was naive about filming in Central Park and all the issues that it creates. We ended up having to do quite of bit of ADR [Additional Dialogue Recording] which is tedious. If it can be avoided, try to avoid it.
I tend to be someone who wants to control things, but there were times when I just couldn’t. I had to just adapt, move with things and let them happen.
JG: Where does the title The Motion of the Sun come from?
MT: The Motion of the Sun is metaphor for being in love and inevitability, so it has two meanings. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Our current tagline is “Sometimes nothing feels more real than an illusion.” The idea of the sun moving through the sky seems very real to us here on earth when really the sun isn’t moving at all. When you’re really in love with someone you see the illusion. You don’t see the reality.
Making a first feature is no small feat, especially in the world of independent low budget/no budget/micro-budget filmmaking. It can be an arduous process that takes time, patience, and hard work to accomplish. Even with a complete film, there’s the costly and laborious task of finding distribution for the movie.
A first feature can act as a filmmaker’s resume and be the first building block of his career. At the most, it’s a successful endeavor that awards a director fame and fortune, but even in the least, it is his best learning experience..