It's a Friday afternoon in June and Frank Mosley is walking into Arlington High School, more than a decade after walking out with a diploma. He's reserved the auditorium for a short film he's working on, which opens with a stage set being torn down after the run of a production, or "strike" as it's known in the theater.
It's serendipitous timing for Mosley, who returned to the stage after a long hiatus in May for Second Thought Theatre's production of Booth. Prior to that, he hadn't tread the boards since he was the president of the drama club at the school he's returned to. Now, he's an adult with a career in the arts; his is a story of coming full circle. And at the heart of his current project, Spider Veins, Mosley reflects on that journey to adulthood.
"I wrote the film in 2013 when I was about to turn 30," Mosley says. "I was beginning to notice the ways my friends have grown apart. Having been someone who remained fully rooted in my love for the arts, I see a lot of my friends have distanced themselves from that, settling down, having families. I wanted to bottle what that feels like."
After acting in numerous projects, including Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, and writing two full-length films (Hold and Her Wildnerness), this is Mosley's first short film. Or at the least this will be the first film he's managed to keep short.
"Each time I've set out to write a short and end up fleshing the story out until before I know it, I've written a feature," he says. "Writing short is more difficult for me, but I'll be honest, I was really thinking about immediate gratification this time. I was really feeling the weight of the big 30 and I wanted to make something that wouldn't take four years."
He wrote a story about two actress friends, reunited after years apart. Over the course of the film, their characters remove the layers of everyday performance, revealing the reasons they drifted apart.
"I don't want to sound pretentious and call it mysterious, but it was important to inject the film with a sense of mystery," Mosley says. "And by making them actresses I was playing with the idea that many of our daily interactions are little more than putting on a show."
Mosley understands the variance between film and theater is that of ephemera versus permanence. To create a film that starts with a set being torn down acknowledges that distinction; Mosley is a metaphor maker with an interest in symbolism.
"I have a habit of getting so caught up in the minutiae of moments. I'll focus on an extra with a straw hat or something and then I'll follow that urge as a sign to focus more on a character," he says, explaining that sometimes the meaning is an intentional and sometimes it's discovered. This accounts for the way in which Mosley's film teeter between art house and narrative. He wants to create something rich and earnest that is artistically fulfilling.
As he wraps up Spider Veins, Mosley plans to meet the fall deadlines for next year's film festivals and he's also looking to screen it in a gallery, breaking down the divide between film and art. It's not totally new for him, as he and his longtime collaborator, Lee Luna, have screened projects at the Dallas Museum of Art and are traveling next month to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But he's heard about his previous films that they're too narrative-driven for the art world and too art world for the narrative lovers, which is a line he enjoys dancing upon.
"I think Spider Veins stylistically will belong in a gallery," Mosley says. "But there's also a concrete narrative that makes it feel like a typical short film."
When Mosley wrapped the day of shooting, it felt good. And if he finishes the project by September, he'll be done before he's 31, which was the original impetus for the project. Perhaps the process itself has already provided a piece of artistic fulfillment.
"It turned into a really personal project for me, in the sense that it's a lot of friends and family who comprise the cast and crew. People from high school and college. Actors from my film life and my theater life," he says. "I've been treating it like the best thing I've ever made and hopefully it will be."