On Friday, The Safe Room at the Texas Theatre will celebrate the opening of a short film entitled Two Story, and also the reunion of the childhood friends who co-directed it. Frank Mosley had grown accustomed to directing solo, when he reconnected with his high school buddy, Lee Luna. The pair grew up together in Arlington and met in an art class where they instantly bonded over their love of horror films. Mosley had been making movies since he was eight years old, coercing his mother and other family friends into taking roles.
"Growing up you had to rope people into being in your movies," he says. "You'll have Mom covered in blood and makeup and you'll get your friend to jump off a building. They do these things because they love you. Then when you're fifteen or sixteen, you find people who are more like-minded." Luna, who professed to be the next John Woo, was one such person. Mosley had equally modest ambitions of being the next Martin Scorsese.
"We started making these actions movies. I was the only guy who took acting seriously at sixteen so I would be the lead in all of these little films." Luna and Mosley vowed that they would work as a team forever, but inevitably, life pulled them apart. A decade later, Luna was living in Seattle, working as a location manager for independent films and Mosley was still in the Dallas area, working full-time as an actor and directing on the side. Highlights of Mosley's career to date include acting roles in Upstream Color and Ain't Them Bodies Saints and a feature film that he directed, titled Her Wilderness.
One day, Mosley sent Luna some short films of his and they began excitedly exchanging work again. In 2011 Mosley took a trip to Seattle and the pair made a short film entitled I Could Live In Hope. It would become the first installment of what is now called the Four Seasons Quartet. "We missed collaborating and we decided to ease into it with a project that's on a small scale," Mosley says. The concept for the Four Seasons Quartet is that each of the four short films represents a different season in Seattle, where all of the films will be shot. So far, two of the four have been made. I Could Live In Hope is the fall film and Two Story is the winter piece.
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"These films are all about how environments and spaces affect people as much as the people affect the environment," Mosley says. "It's the story of this guy who in four seasons is dealing with a relationship in a given space. We see him age and change as the seasons change." Although Two Story was shot in wintertime, the scenes are indoors, making the winter theme more figurative than literal. "The piece emotionally feels like winter. The interiors are very stark," Mosley says. While each film in the quartet will work as a stand-alone piece, at The Safe Room, Two Story will be shown on a continuous loop, as it was intended to be seen. "You're basically watching in medias res, sometimes literally cause we show it as a looped video piece, and you see these two people barely eclipsing each other in this very cold way," he says. "It's a little icy. There's a formalism to the shots that also adds to that iciness." Mosley takes one of the starring roles in Two Story, although he did not originally expect to act in the quartet. "I like to act for other people so they can be a fair judge of my performance in the scene," he says. "I don't like to have to think about the lighting, and all of that." However, when they were making I Could Live In Hope, Luna persuaded Mosley to take the man's role, because the woman they had chosen to play opposite was not a professional actress and felt comfortable with him. Mosley has often made use of non-actors in his films, and he and Luna have chosen to continue that practice by using novices in the Four Seasons Quartet. However, because Mosley has acted in the first two films, he will likely continue to star. "The quartet has really taught me how to mix actors and non-actors. In my features and my other shorts I like to mix it up, cause I think that each one informs the other," Mosley says. "Non-actors bring a sense of vitality, rawness and naturalism and the actors bring a sense of professionalism." Whitney Lee, who acts with Mosley in Two Story, has hopes to become a professional actress, although she's just starting out. "She wasn't entirely comfortable with her surroundings, " Mosley says. "She didn't know anyone, because she was kind of pulled in through a friend of a friend. I used that uncertainty in a new space to the advantage of the film." When Two Story opens at The Safe Room this weekend, it will only be the second time for the film to be shown in Dallas. The first was at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of the New Works series. "The DMA was the first time an art piece of mine or a video installation of mine had been in a venue as big as that," Mosley says. The positive reception at the DMA gave him a confidence boost and he ended up submitting Two Story to several festivals, where it was accepted. In August, Mosley took Two Story to the Edinburgh Art Festival and it also showed at the 2014 Sidewalk Film Festival. Mosley approached the Texas Theatre about showing Two Story in The Safe Room with a clear idea of why the space is a fit for the film. "My pitch was here's a local guy who's known for making narrative films, but in our art gallery upstairs, at a movie theater, he's going to have a video piece, but it's a non-narrative," he says. The filmmaker thinks the time is ripe for a sea change in the perception of video art. "Everything's about photography and mixed media. I've grown tired of video art being at the bottom of the totem pole," he says. "I think that's starting to change." Two Story stars Frank Mosley, Whitney Lee and Farah White. Directed by Frank Mosley and Lee Luna. It opens at The Safe Room at the Texas Theatre on Friday September 19th. Opening Reception from 6-9pm. Runs through October 18th. More info at thetexastheatre.com