Against the backdrop of clocks, spoons and empty rooms, Graham L. Carter’s new musical feature “Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes” is one of the most exhilarating experiments of the year. The film, ostensibly about two elderly, county-hopping Texans who romance women out of their money, reveals itself to be a tender tale of broken hearts left unmended from years of running from tortured pasts. At a brisk 72 minutes, Carter’s film is replete with brilliant performances of John Prine songs, delivered without pretense by the principle cast members. “Shoot the Moon” is also quite funny, and Carter balances humor, romance and sadness with a certain skill far beyond his years.
At Café Erzulie in Bed-Stuy, I sat down with Graham—who had just come off the heels of winning the Special Jury Prize at Indie Memphis Film Festival—to talk about collaboration, the creative process and Film Twitter.
The Miscellany News: The film has been in the works for quite some time, right?
Graham Carter: I started writing [“Shoot the Moon”] in 2013/2014, but I’m slow with scripts. I can’t get into it until I have a contradictory idea—adding the musical element was what made everything click.
The Misc: That wasn’t the first element?
GC: No. Originally it wasn’t a musical. The scene in the bar, where the Private Investigator (Frank Mosley) starts singing was when everything clicked. I finished writing, set a production date and applied for a grant from the Austin Film Society. We ended up getting the grant so we shot over nine days at the end of 2016. I took six months off from editing, but it took two years to complete.
The Misc: Has it always been easy for you to get up and shoot something?
GC: I think it’s hard. Tons of people talk about making a film, but they never do it because it’s so much work. I shot four feature films in one year when I was in college, finishing one. So I’ve always had the drive.
The Misc: You mentioned taking six months off from editing?
GC: Yeah. I went on a cross-country road trip to meet friends that had moved and that I knew online. As soon as I left New York, I felt I was missing out. So I’ve been here for a year. And I essentially came just to watch movies, so I think things are working out okay.
The Misc: Has social media played a big role in your development as a filmmaker?
GC: Oh, I couldn’t have done any of this stuff without Twitter. Most of my friend group I met through Twitter. I’ve been Miriam Bale’s Twitter friend for three years, and she asked to premiere the film in Memphis. My friend Chloe, who helped on the script, introduced me to filmmakers like Neil [Bahadur, “From Nine to Nine”] and Kurt [Walker, “Hit 2 Pass”]. Kurt shot a ton on his iPhone that we used in the film. Andrew Enfante and I edited the movie together. He’s my key collaborator. J.R. Molina gripped on the film. A lot of it was just going to lunch with people and talking. It’s important for me to have people to bounce ideas off of. I think that the most important aspect of collaboration is new things coming out of conversation.
The Misc: For the organization of the film community in New York—making a cinema of modest means—is essential.
GC: It is! I think It’s important for film- makers to talk about financing and about money. Most of your cast and crew [could] be making $500 on another movie, but they work with you because they want to be there. I’ve always thought of filmmaking as a bunch of friends getting together, having fun and helping each other out. I think that’s the best thing.
The Misc: Where is the film playing next?
GC: I’ve sent it to Rotterdam. Dan Sallitt is waiting to hear back from a few festivals like Chicago and Madrid. But with regards to distribution, it’s too commercial for Grasshopper but not commercial enough for Magnolia. It doesn’t have many distinct experimental elements, but it’s also more of a formalist thing. It’s in a weird space, but that’s fine with me.
The Misc: Are you writing anything now?
GC: I’ve started writing a script but that kinda stalled out. That happened with “Shoot the Moon,” where I wrote 20 pages and paused on it for a year. But what made me come back to it was when I figured out the musical element. I feel like I’ll do a movie next year. I don’t know exactly what it’ll be. I’m waiting to hit this seemingly contradictory idea that will make things interesting. I like a film of contradictions fighting against each other.