With the completion of his latest film Triggered, Chris Moore is definitely one to watch in the world of indie horror.
Actor, producer, writer, director; Chris Moore does it all. Sure to be a crowd pleaser at festivals everywhere, his latest film Triggered brilliantly showcases all of his talents in a thriller that mixes mystery and dark humor with a biting social commentary.
Starting with a passion to tell stories and little else, Moore has built his career from the ground up and learned from his experience along the way. We were fortunate enough to talk with Chris about ‘Triggered’, the importance of working with what you have, and what taught him more as a filmmaker than 4 years of film school.
INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR/FILMMAKER CHRIS MOORE
Triggered seems like one of those movies that came from an “A HA!” type of moment. Tell us about the film and what inspired it and talk a little about the character of Callee Bishop.
It really was. I’d been working on a more supernatural tinged film after Blessed Are the Children and it just wasn’t coming together no matter how hard I tried. Something was missing. A friend of mine had sent me an article about college students saying that the sushi in their school cafeteria was cultural appropriation and I just about lost my mind I was laughing so hard. They’d sort of off-handedly said my next film should be a satire about people like that who make big deals out of the smallest little things and start killing people they disagree with and something clicked.
I’d written 2 feature scripts in college that had never quite worked — one was about a bullied high schooler being killed in a prank gone wrong and the killers trying to cover up the crime in the most ridiculous of ways. The other was about a spoiled high school girl (also named Callee) who kills people she doesn’t like and cuts a deal with a struggling local news affiliate to give them the scoop on her next hit. They were both great ideas and had wonderful moments, but something was missing from both. I kinda mushed them together, added the “terminally offended” heroine, and things just started flowing.
I’ve often been told that, sometimes, you have two great ideas, but by themselves, they don’t amount to nothing. When you push them together, all of a sudden, they form a really interesting story. The character of Callee is a mix of a few people I actually know and a lot of people I discovered online. I did research by going onto Tumblr, Twitter, and Everyday Feminism and places like that where there’s usually a bevy of people being offended by the tiniest things. I’m sure some of her rants were probably close to verbatim some of the things I saw online. Half the time, I wasn’t sure if they were being serious or if it was satire, but either way, it made me chuckle.
I did want to try and write Callee as a full fledged person, though. I wanted to know what made someone like that tick. I didn’t want her to be a one-joke pony and I actually do want the audience to feel for her occasionally. As wild as she is, there are traces of real humanity in there. I never wanted to feel like I was judging Callee on her choices, because the scary thing is sometimes she’s actually right and makes a good point. It’s definitely a love/hate relationship that the audience should have for her.
How did you get started in the film industry? Was this something you just knew you always wanted to do or was their a specific moment that inspired you to pursue it?
I’ve often wondered this myself. I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer of some sort, because I loved telling stories and making people laugh or cry or scream. I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment, but probably the closest would have been in the summer of ’95.
My family and I took a trip to Universal Studios and I recall the Alfred Hitchcock attraction there really inspiring me. You got to see how the shower scene in Psycho was made and I was fascinated. At that point, I was a total scaredy cat, but you better believe I found a way to watch Psycho in full when I returned home and I was just fascinated. I’d never seen anything like it.
I started watching horror films more often and, lo and behold, the nightmares I used to have just about every night disappeared. I found horror films a great way to exorcise my demons.
I became a total video store brat and would find something new and crazy to rent every Friday. I think those years were probably more valuable than all 4 years at film school. I learned so much. I finally decided to try and make my own movie when I was in 5th grade and had my family’s VHS-C camcorder.
It was called Killer and it was a Scream fan film. My friends would take turns wearing the Ghostface costume and we’d chase each other around our backyards and schools while my Mom handled the camera and pressed play on a boom box so that we could have a music score. It was so lo-fi and no one knew what they were doing, but you can tell we were having fun. I took it really seriously, too.
You have to remember that this was before home editing was a big thing. It definitely wasn’t affordable at that time, so we had to cut in camera and have the music played on set if we wanted it. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned from them and that’s what really counts.
You have several credits to your name as an actor, writer, and director. Which do you find the most challenging? Is one personally more rewarding than the other? If so, how?
I love them all about the same, and they all have their perks. There’s definitely something very rewarding about writing something and seeing it come to life on screen. That’s a really crazy feeling that the other two can’t really compare to. I’d say it’s the most challenging, too. You’re literally creating something from nothing.
Directing is really 80% having a great script and finding a great cast. If you have those two, you mostly just need to sit back and let them make magic happen together. Everything else is the icing on the cake when it comes to directing. You need to know when to just get out of the way and let the actors do their thing.
Acting all depends on the script. I’ve been fortunate to play wonderful roles that are nuanced and complex and filled with great dialogue that just flows off the tongue. On the opposite side of the coin, I’ve been cast in horrible roles where you almost feel like you’re in writing mode, because you have to come up with everything yourself since there’s nothing there on the page. That’s tough. It’s hard to make something out of nothing. I think with acting, it always depends on the script and the role itself.
To me, producing has always been the hardest. I HATE it! I’m awful with numbers and money, but you have to do what you have to do.
What was the biggest mistake you made as a filmmaker that you didn’t see coming and what were the consequences of it? What do you think are the most common mistakes a first time filmmaker makes?
I did a film called The House of Covered Mirrors (which, at the time, was called North Woods), and it was just one learning experience after another. We shot it from the summer of ’03 to the fall of ’07 and we never had a full, workable script. You never know the importance of having a good script until you don’t have one. It was pretty much a lot of great ideas and set pieces with nothing to hold them up. It was like baptism by fire, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
I did learn how to think on my feet and get things done even when the odds were stacked against us, which is something a lot of first time filmmakers don’t know and I wish I could tell them that it’s not the end of the world if an actor is late or drops out or if a location gets rained out, etc. Sometimes, the improvisations make the film more interesting.
I think a lot of first time filmmakers want to save their first film until they can get 5-10 million to make it, and that’s just not going to happen unless your dad runs a studio or something. People want to bite off more than they can chew all the time. They want huge visual effects and sweeping camerawork and 96 locations, etc. They never stop to think if they can actually pull this off or not.
To me, it’s better to look at your resources and ask, “What can I make with what I have?” Borrow a friend’s house on a few weekends and make something that doesn’t require a lot of money. No one’s going to hand you millions of dollars to make a movie if you can’t make one for 3 bucks. That’s what I did with Blessed Are the Children. It was, more or less, a one location movie with a small cast of characters. I remember it being mostly a breeze to film, because we weren’t really trying to do something impossible. We were using what we had and milking it for all it was worth.
There’s also the mistake of writing films that you think people or film festivals or distributors want to see. I saw this a lot in film school. You’d have these kids trying to make a straight drama about AIDS or rape or abortion, but they never had a heart, because you could tell the filmmakers weren’t fully invested. They were just making the kinds of movies they thought their professors and film festivals would eat up.
The characters never came to life, because the films weren’t about a character going through an issue — they were simply about the issue itself and an audience can’t relate to an issue. Just bringing up a hot button topic isn’t going to get you any pats on the back. You have to do something with it. You have to write what makes you laugh or cry or scream. The odds are that someone out there will get just as big a kick out of it as you do. It doesn’t have to be a “very important film.” I think that’s the only way and reason to make a film. You have to create what you’d want to see on screen.
What film that has never had a sequel do you think legitimately deserves one and why?
I’ve always wondered what a sequel to Black Christmas would be like. Maybe it would destroy the original’s legacy, but it could also be really interesting. I also wonder what sequels to movies like Alice, Sweet Alice and The Redeemer would be like. Maybe He Knows You’re Alone? Hell, if we’re thinking big, how about Final Exam? I always found that one underrated and it could use a little fleshing out. I mean, who was that guy killing everyone and what’s his damage? I don’t think we have enough college campus slashers. There’s always room for more.
Tell us about some of your other projects, either in development or completed, and where people can watch them. Also, where are you most active on social media and where can people follow you?
Well, I’m working on a play right now. It’s more of a drama. After that, I’m starting a new screenplay which I’m billing as a cross between Butcher, Baker Nightmare Maker and Silent Scream. It’s a really dark V.C. Andrews by way of Tennessee Williams family saga.
There are tons more ideas I have brewing around in my head which should keep me busy for a good 20 or 30 years if I play my cards right. In fact, I just got another idea for a movie last night and I got super excited. I always get them at the strangest times. I’d really like to do something supernatural soon. I’ve been jonesing to do something in that arena for awhile now.
My film, Blessed Are the Children, is coming from Wild Eye Releasing on October 23rd, and you can pre-order it on Amazon. I’m very excited to get that one out there. Triggered just had its premiere and is starting to make the film festival rounds, so wish it luck. If it plays at a festival near you, please check it out. I’ve been talking to a few distributors about that one, so we shall see.
As for social media, my own account on Instagram is @somepeopleaintme, so give me a follow if you’d like. Triggered has a Facebook (www.facebook.com/FindURSafeSpace) and an Instagram/Twitter (@TriggeredMovie). Blessed Are the Children has a Facebook page, too (www.facebook.com/childrenareblessed).
We want to thank Chris Moore for taking the time to talk with us and we encourage everyone to check out his work. In the meantime, read the Morbidly Beautiful reviews for Blessed Are the Children and Triggered.