TIFF 2019: Interview with Volcano’s filmmaker Karen Moore

Award-Winning TV Writer Karen Moore is about to make her directorial debut with her film VOLCANO at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It is set to make its World Premiere in the Short Cuts programme.

Directed by award-winning TV Writer Karen Moore (WORKIN’ MOMS, MARY KILLS PEOPLE) and produced by Alona Metzer (MARINER, I CAME HERE ALONE), VOLCANO is a razor-sharp two-hander that uncovers the complexity of human relationships as it follows the friendship of Hannah (Hannah Cheesman) and Jess (Jess Salguiero) who meet up a tiki bar, seeing each other for the first time since Hannah’s romantic Mexico trip.

The two women have their go-to friend-dynamic: Jess rants about her life, while Hannah plays therapist. Repeat until closing time. But one night, in the warm glow of an over-the-top tiki bar, Hannah challenges that dynamic by going into all kinds of TMI romantic and sexual details about her recent Mexico trip with her longtime boyfriend.

Hannah Cheesman and Jess Salguiero in Volcano.

We had the opportunity to chat with Moore about her latest film…

We all have our “go-to” friends — the ones we can rely on to lend an ear to listen to our gripes. This film focuses on this dynamic but within a short amount of time. What was challenging for you as the director?

KM: The second we start watching something, we’re filling in the blanks in the story and if you’re economic with your storytelling, it’s amazing how much you can communicate in a short period on screen. For me directing this film, we played a lot with how extreme or subtle to play the conflict between Jess and Hannah to make sure the dynamic came across clearly but not cartoonishly in the final edit.

Why did you decide to tell this story as a short film?

KM: I set out to write a short film for myself to direct and made the decision that I wanted it to be personal. I don’t think this is the only form this story could’ve existed, but I liked the challenge of trying to make a film that was both funny and heartbreaking within a 10 minute period. Something that could represent myself and my sensibility as a filmmaker.

The setting is a familiar Tiki Bar in Toronto can you tell us why you chose this location?

KM: We shot at The Shameful Tiki Room in Parkdale – the volcano drink in the film is real & it’s amazing! I’d been in with my partner Joe (who’s a director) and the first thing we thought was we have to make a film in here – I just beat him to it. The place looks like a film set. We barely had to do anything set dec-wise and it’s even mostly lit, so practically it also made a lot of sense.

Volcano was selected to make its world premiere at TIFF this year, what does that mean to you?

KM: Premiering the film at TIFF is a little unbelievable. The odds of getting in are very slim, and I’m thrilled that we fit into this year’s programming. For me personally, this film is the most vulnerable thing I’ve made, so for TIFF to have embraced that makes me feel reaffirmed about heading in this direction artistically. Hopefully it helps open doors for my future projects, and it’s a great boost for taking Volcano on a festival run throughout the fall/winter.

Why did you decide to take a step into the director’s role? (BTW, I LOVE Workin’ Moms!)

KM: First, yay Workin’ Moms! I spent two years on the show as a writer & co-producer. I gained so much confidence writing on that show, specifically with writing comedy, and I’m forever grateful to Showrunner Catherine Reitman for that. As for stepping into directing, it’s like I’d decided it was something I had to feel ready for, and one day I woke up not necessarily feeling ready, but more-so feeling like it was time to find out.

The crew is comprised of mostly women, can you tell us about some of them?

KM: There were a lot of women on the shoot (and also some very fine men). Alona Metzer is my producer – she’s diplomatic, organized, calming, and great with memes. Gabriela Osio Vanden is our cinematographer & she also camera-operated on the short because she’s superhuman. Our gaffer, Cheska Appave, accented the existing look in the space simply and beautifully, as did our production designer, Ashley Devereux.

Hannah Cheesman in Volcano

Do you have an unforgettable TIFF experience that you could share with us?

KM: Living in Toronto and being in this industry, TIFF is definitely something I look forward to every year. I’ve seen many great films over the years, but have never been a part of the whole festival experience, so I’m really looking forward to it. Fingers-crossed I’ll have something juicier to share post-festival, we’ll have to do a follow-up! 🙂

For more information and screening schedule visit www.tiff.net


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