Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: April Mosqus

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! It's my favorite day of the blogging week because I get to interview amazing female artists of all stripes and give out prizes. Really, how can you beat it?

Let's start with last week's prize... The winner of Megan Kelley Hall's book, The Lost Sister is.... Denise Madness from blogger! I will email you for your address (or if I'm not fast enough feel free to email me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com)

Now I am very excited to introduce filmmaker April Mosqus who is working on a movie project that I am just dying to see!

Q: The film you are working on, Before We Get To Seattle, sparks my interest in so many ways. Everyone knows I love grunge and Seattle, but I also love a good story with cool, teen girl heroines, which it sounds like Chloe is, but I'll let you tell my readers all about this film. So what's it about and what inspired you to make it?

April: “Before We Get To Seattle,” is actually part of a feature-length script I wrote called, “Heartbreaker.” One day about five years ago I downloaded a bunch of old indie rock songs that took me back to when I was in high school back in the early 90’s. I remember one of the songs on the playlist was “Chloe Dancer” a song by Mother Love Bone that inspired the name of the main character. I started to think about writing a piece about growing up during that time, and I wanted the main character to be a teenage girl and base the story around the music and culture of the time period. I sat down and I just started to write a story about who I thought this girl was and eventually it morphed into a screenplay.

“Heartbreaker” takes place in 1991 at the height of the grunge music movement, and tells the story of Chloe, a teenage rocker who plays guitar and has dreams of leaving her grim east coast city and taking off to the west coast to start a band. At the same time, she is coping with the loss of someone very close to her. An unfortunate situation happens to her at home, and she ends up running away and hiding out in the apartment of Slater, an older guy she met at a show one night. He is enamored with Chloe and promises to take her to Seattle, but can’t right away- it gets discovered that he has to finish up parole first. Slater has made a lot of poor decisions in the past and is trying to fix his life. The two of them create a crazy, whimsical world together outside of reality that eventually comes crashing down when a dark secret gets revealed. In the end she emerges with a strong sense of self and maturity that she didn’t have before. The feature is intended to be gritty and realistic, but also darkly humorous at times.

I showed the script to a filmmaker friend of mine, Adam Linn, and he found the story of a young kid’s desire to take off and start a band irresistible since he’s a musician himself. Adam suggested I shoot a short film of the script that could be taken to festivals. He thought that would be the best way to attract attention to get the feature film made. He had already made a short that did well in the festival circuit, so he was very encouraging. We sat down together and threw around ideas about how to turn this into a ten minute film with the same premise and characters without losing the essence of the story. We decided to make it more of a comedy while at the same time maintaining the seriousness of the girl’s problems. In the short film, Chloe is on her way to Seattle with Slater when she insists that they make a pit stop at a deli. She runs in to see her best friend Michelle who works there. Michelle, who is very busy making sandwiches for a long line of customers, is both overjoyed and frustrated at the sudden appearance of her friend who has been missing. It gets discovered that Chloe has a secret and desperately needs a favor. The two hide out in the store bathroom and are constantly interrupted by customers while they try to solve Chloe’s big dilemma.

Q: How long have you been interested in filmmaking? What got you into it? Any particular people or films influence you? (Since it's Women Who Rock Weds, we are particularly interested in hearing about the women who influenced you, but guys are fine too!)

April: Music and writing have always played strong roles in my life. As journalism major, I wrote all the time for the college paper and also for different Boston music publications, because the scene was so hot there in the 90’s. At eighteen, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered a writer for Rolling Stone or Spin without any hesitation. I never lived out my fantasies of rocking out onstage-although I did learn some guitar and drums. I wrote a lot of short stories during that time also, and my writing style was very dialogue-driven, and I think that came from a background in news writing and conducting lots of interviews. One day, as an experiment really, I decided to take a stab at writing a screenplay for fun. It was about a young woman trying to get her life together and find a way to pursue her goals when the cards were not dealt in her favor. So much inspiration and emotion in the script came from envisioning the songs that would accompany it on the soundtrack. I shot and directed a short segment of it and set it to the music of PJ Harvey. The script eventually became part of my senior thesis, which was about women and their representation in film and got me my degree. It was an amateurish start, but that story that began one night in my dorm room with a notebook and a pen ended up changing my life-and my career path. I no longer wanted to be a music journalist, I wanted to be a filmmaker.

Instead of making my own films, I worked in the industry for a number of years producing and assistant directing indie films before focusing on making my own. I remember watching the film, “24 Hour Party People” about the music scene in Manchester England in the 80’s and 90’s and it making me want to do a cool piece about music. I liked the realistic documentary style it was filmed in. I love rock films in general. I think the 1990’s is a great period of time to do a nostalgic rock film about. It was the last generation defined by music, the last generation to appreciate full-length albums (and the ones to still buy albums in their entirety), and the last one to be affected by the death of a rock icon who was relevant to the time he died in. There is something to be said there. We’ve made how many films about Woodstock now? It’s time to let another generation have their voice.

Q: For other aspiring filmmakers out there, can you tell us a little about your background? How you got to where you are now, working on this project?

April: Working as a freelance assistant director and producer in film and television taught me how a film comes together on every level, from the budget to the casting to the editing. If you’re planning on making a movie it’s a good idea to work on some first, even student films, just to get your hands dirty. I learned a lot from assistant directing/producing a Master’s thesis for someone that gave me the skills and confidence to go on and produce an indie feature that is available on Amazon called, “Bedford Springs,” and was picked up by HBO Europe. I even got involved with helping to choose the cast on that one and that was a lot of fun.

When I started writing this script I was working at a TV production company in Los Angeles as a production coordinator. Although I liked my job and the unconventional setting and the fun quirky people I worked with I still wasn’t doing my own thing. I decided it was time to just sit down and just do it. I think that is the best advice I can give anyone. Having an idea or just talking something up isn’t going to get it made. You have to discipline yourself to put in the hours. When I first sat down to write “Heartbreaker,” I was scared. It was the first time in a long time that I had taken my creativity seriously and I was afraid that it might just plain suck. So my second piece of advice is don’t judge yourself in the process, you’ll only trip up and get frustrated. After I wrote my first draft I had it critiqued by friends and by a screenwriters group. The feedback I was received was invaluable and the script was well received. It helped immensely with taking it through the rewrites. It’s so important to get feedback and constructive criticism during the writing process. Don’t let your ego get in the way of listening to someone else’s advice. Not every piece will be valuable and not everyone is good at giving feedback, so say true to your vision and take it with a grain of salt. Make a short film to take to festivals for the fraction of the budget it takes to make a feature and promote your project in every way. See how your friends and family can help out, and do some fundraising if you don’t have all the cash. A film is exciting to people and they like to get involved. Come up with a marketing campaign and take lots of pictures when filming. It’s important to include a graphic designer in your budget to make a professional looking poster. Festivals will need this to promote your film in their brochures and posters, and most require a press packet upon submission. The internet is virtually a free resource for marketing. Promotion is huge and talking about your project with confidence will gain other people’s confidence.

Q: Obviously making a film is a TON of work and it can be really expensive too. Can you talk about some of the challenges you've faced getting this made and how you've tackled them? And tell us a little bit about your website and how anyone who is interested can help you get your dream project out there.

April: Money was a huge challenge. Adam and I scraped together just enough to get it shot and it wasn’t easy. It meant rice and beans for dinner. After it was completed a friend of ours was so impressed he decided to invest in it. We also set up an account on and raised some funds that way. Some generous friends have made contributions. It is STILL NOT ENOUGH to get us through post production, meaning enough to get the film edited, polish the sound, get a title designer, pay for DVD transfers, and pay for music rights. Festival music rights are very expensive. You have to obtain two separate licenses for every song which means two separate costs (one for the master recording and one from the music publisher). We’ve been working with a Music Supervisor out in San Francisco. In a dream world we would like to use four songs, but in reality it will most likely be two. We’re considering songs by L7, Mudhoney, Temple of the Dog, and of course Nirvana! We would like to use “About a Girl,” and it is the most expensive of the four songs we are thinking about. We really need to do our rough cut first in order to check out how the songs synch up before making a final decision.

Anyone interested in helping out can go to where they can make a secure cash donation. They will receive a credit in the film! Donation amounts start at just $10! Depending on how much someone gives copies of the film and festival passes are also available. We also have a Facebook Fan Page we’re encouraging people to join where we will post updates on the project and screenings

Q: Are you working on anything else or what is next for you, April?

April: Right now I am really focusing on getting Before We Get To Seattle completed and into festivals. At the same time I am using this short as a vehicle to get the feature made. We hope to get a company or a person interested and excited enough about the project that they would want to invest in Heartbreaker. I will be doing a rewrite of the script and also working on the logistics of budgeting and scheduling. We also hope to get a website up. I have another idea for another script that I plan to write that takes place in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the city I grew up in. Lawrence is a city rich in history and was one of the biggest industrial, textile cities in the world at one time. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s immigrant mill workers were employed under heinous work conditions. In 1912 a wage cut of these people prompted the famous “Bread and Roses” strike that was lead by women and eventually resulted in turning the labor laws around and improving work conditions. The story is fascinating and requires some research before the script is written. I want to write something high energy that expresses the anger of these workers who were treated like machines. I don’t want it to be like a documentary at all. The project is rather ambitious. In the meantime, Adam and I have an idea for another short film we can shoot very inexpensively.

Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!

April: My favorite question! Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction” is the first album I remember buying. I begged for it at Christmas when I was eleven and it never showed up. I think my mother thought it was a little obscene and wouldn’t buy it for me. I was heartbroken! So I took some of the money I got as a gift and went out and bought it myself on cassette. To this day it is probably overall one of the most played albums in my collection. I think it’s one of the best rock albums ever made. The first real concert I went to was Lollapalooza 1993. The acts that stick out in my head from that show are Alice in Chains, Primus, Tool and Dinosaur Jr. I love the festival atmosphere to see bands in. Before that I had seen a lot of obscure bands around Boston. Back then you could just tell the bouncer you weren’t going to drink and they would let anyone in.

Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!

April: Getting on your blog and getting to tell people all about this project is truly a moment of that. Thank you so much Stephanie!

Aww, thanks April! You are too sweet!

Today's Contest:
April has also been sweet enough to offer up a fabulous prize. She's put the cool movie poster image you saw above on a tote bag and one lucky winner will get it AND she will hold on to your information and send you a DVD after the movie has been out at the festivals (it can't be distributed until then). So start commenting away to enter! I know April gave you guys tons to talk about like how freakin' cool this movie sounds!

Of course, in addition to your comment you can rack up more entries:
+1 for blogging/tweeting about today's Women Who Rock Wednesday feature
+1 for blogging/tweeting about April and Before We Get To Seattle
+1 for joining the Before We Get To Seattle Facebook fan group

Just note your extra entries in your comment as well as your email address.

I'll announce the winner next Wednesday the 2nd, when our guest will be author Kathy Charles who will tell you about her new book Hollywood Ending.


catss99 said...

Thanks for such a great interview and great contest!


catss99 said...

i tweeted about the women who rock feature


catss99 said...

tweeted about april


Chelsie said...

Wow, being a filmmaker always seems glamorous but I see that it's not always so great... but I'm glad the film got together and it seems totally great! I'm definitely going to watch it!

Great contest, and an awesome interview!

<3 Chelsie

Outsider Looking In said...

Very cool interview! This movie sounds really awesome! And she's right there are a ton of movies about woodstock but thier really aren't any movies about grunge. It's about time!
Sending you peace, love, and most of all rock n' roll,

iamliterate said...

I love Seattle. My brother is stationed there.


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