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by Eric Kohn
January 27, 2013 8:00 AM
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Sundance 2013: 'Escape From Tomorrow' Director Randy Moore Says "I'm a Product of Disney World"

"Escape From Tomorrow."
Few movies generated more chatter at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival than Randy Moore's "Escape From Tomorrow," a movie shot on location in Disney World without permission. The filmmaker's scrappy black-and-white feature follows a family around on their last of vacation while strange events transpire around them. Before the festival, few people were anticipating "Escape From Tomorrow," which premiered in Sundance's NEXT section, but it has since become a national news story as many wonder if Disney will attempt to prevent it from finding distribution. Whatever happens, "Escape From Tomorrow" shows the results of a highly unique and daring production process along with one of the more original indictments of corporate entertainment to come along in years. Still getting a handle on all the attention, Moore sat down with Indiewire during the festival to talk about the project and his future expectations for it.

A lot of the attention that has been paid to "Escape from Tomorrow" involves the guerilla production tactics you used. How did you conceive of making the movie without purely resorting to the gimmick behind it?

That was the main thing. Obviously, that'll be the first thing people will say. For it to mean something, it'll have to be more than that. That was our goal besides telling the story and getting the feelings across we wanted to convey -- to actually make it special. Because there are YouTube videos of people running around trying to do stuff. I haven't seen any of them until just now that this movie is getting attention. People are linking to it and saying, "Hey, we did the same thing." I just found out about this Haunted Mansion one. Right when we were wrapping production, I heard about the Banksy thing in "Exit Through the Gift Shop," and I hadn't seen it yet and heard he had done something there. I was like, "Oh no." Part of it was that I rushed to do it before someone else did it. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone else came along. The technology was there and available to people to use for relatively cheap.

John Sloss' Cinetic, which sold the Bansky film at Sundance, is representing yours.

He contacted us right around when we got into the festival and that was amazing. We were hoping we could make a good case for fair use and stuff but I'm not a lawyer. The New Yorker article that came out was a big help. John obviously hoped we could make a case for it but honestly none of us knew. So far we haven't heard anything.

Were you initially inspired by the concept behind this production or the actual story?

The story came first. I had this feverish month of crazy writing and I wrote three scripts in a month. This was the second script I wrote. I hadn't directed anything since college and I wanted to direct something I wrote. I thought this would be the easiest one to direct. I was so wrong.

What were the other ones?

One was a horror movie set on a boat and the other was about this actress who gets involved a cult. But then "Martha Marcy May Marlene" came out. But I never expected any of this attention. Once it did get into Sundance, I didn't expect the national attention.
"I knew shooting there would…upset people, obviously."

"Escape From Tomorrow" seemed like the easiest proposition because you could just go to the park and film there…

I could use some of my friends, go to the park, we wouldn't have to build sets or anything like that. When I wrote it, I wasn't thinking about that. I was just thinking about story. I wrote these scripts so fast that I was just really writing from my gut. I was writing things I knew and felt. The external circumstances arrived later.

Had you recently attended Disney World?

Yeah. Disney World has been on my mind a long time, since I was a kid. I'm a product of Disney World more than anything. I'd gone on the first real Disney World trip with my wife, who'd never been there, and my two kids. She's a nurse and goes between floors at hospitals. At one point she turned to me at some princess fair or something and said, "This is worse than working the psych world at the hospital." Which is not the easiest floor to handle. So I started seeing it through her eyes, from a foreigner perspective: She's from Kurkistan, part of the former Soviet republic. Then I started feeling all these emotions that I hadn't thought about since I was a kid. We had a great time, it was magical, but then our relationship fell apart. I haven't seen him in a quite a long time. So when we went back to Disney World, it was like he was there as a ghost. We were going on the same rides I used to go on with him, but now we're no longer talking anymore. And then after that I was thinking about Disney all the time. I read Neil Gabler's Walt Disney biography. I just started immersing myself in Disney culture and taking the kids to the park, really looking around and observing. I still wasn't sure what I was going to do but knew there was something there.

Everyone's in an alternate reality.

It's kind of madness. Everyone's saying, "Celebrate the magic, believe," that kind of stuff. There was a moment when we were at the phantasmic show in Orlando. It's at their MGM studio park. At one moment in the middle of the show, there was this hail of pyrotechnics, and all of a sudden, Mickey just appears on the stage at the top of this mountain. There are lasers everywhere. Adults all around me literally gasped as if a god had appeared before them. This was genuine emotion. Somehow they had been brought back to whatever it was they felt when they were kids. At one point when we were shooting one day we were riding to the park and a mother was telling her kids, "Listen, for mommy, Disney World really is magic, so you guys have to behave." My director of photography and I were listening to this and thinking, "This is the weirdest thing we've ever heard." This woman has been just deeply affected. She believed the magic.
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1 Comment

  • Tom | January 27, 2013 10:26 AMReply

    It is so inspiring to read these interviews because of the raw passion present. He clearly did not have a master plan for festivals or release - just a story he was passionate about and he worked very hard to get it realized. It is a nice reminder that sometimes it is just best to dive in and allow the process to be messy.