UPDATED: October 21, 2019
Blue Moon premiered at the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival. The film follows a desperate service station owner as he appropriates a stash of drug money.
The movie was shot in only 30 hours over six nights. It was filmed on the iPhone 7+ with Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lenses. Director Stefen Harris says, "the Moondog anamorphic lens played a huge part in our success."
Principle actor Jed Brophy took some time to chat with Susy Botello about his experience working on Blue Moon during his interview on the SBP Mobile Filmmaking Podcast.
Read on to hear more from director Stefan Harris as he tells the fascinating story of how this film came together:
Blue Moon is essentially a drama concealed within a genre crime story. At the heart of the story is the relationship between two middle aged men, Horace Jones and Darren Cates who have not seen each other in forty years since boarding school. Something shocking occurred at school, an event so unspeakable neither man will mention it directly. Now forty years later, in the midst of a scramble to secure half a million dollars of drug money, they must face the past. The film has the feel of a stage play and features extraordinary performances by the two lead actors. Although at first glance Blue Moon is a crime suspense story it's much more in the tradition of Dog Day Afternoon / The Crying Game.
The film was conceived by me, writer/director Stefen Harris, whose day job is a front line police officer. It was 4.20 am and I was putting petrol in my patrol car when I glanced back at the gas station. It was lit up like a spaceship in the night, silent, austere and beautiful. Without thinking I took out my police issue iPhone from my Kevlar vest and took a shot. That photograph became the founding document of Blue Moon. I wanted to tell a story about the people of the night. The clerks, security guards, taxi drivers, the police and of course the villains.
But how does a working cop get to make a feature film? I knew I could only do this if I could get my small town of Motueka to actively support the project. I wrote an eight page treatment and on the strength of that recruited my professional actors - free. Over the next 12 months I wrote a fresh draft every month racing against my own deadline toward the shoot day. Key to success was limiting the story to the single location of the gas station and shooting in real time, nearly. The story unfolds over one night from 4.20 to 6am.
I talked to one of my cop buddies who is also a cinematographer. Ryan suggested we just shoot it on iPhone - carry on the way I started. He had a plan to use FilmicPro and import a Moondog lens. I trusted him completely and I think that confidence scared the hell out of Ryan. We were committed. I came up with a rickshaw which became our dolly and got some local friends to donate a crane and a couple of drones too.
We set up a Facebook page The Blue Moon Film Project and started posting the great news that a feature film was soon to be shot in town! Pretty soon we had donations of luxury accommodation, food, computer hardware and a production base which was a Video EZY store right next to the location. I got lucky when the owner of the gas station turned out to be the stunt driver from one of New Zealand's earliest films, Shaker Run. He thought a movie would be good for our small town and threw me the keys without further discussion.
A lovely chap saw the story in our local paper The Motueka Guardian and volunteered to help. He was Ben Dunker, Sound engineer recently moved to town from Hollywood - his last production... Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards. Another local film maker, Dan Hennah came to my aid with some sorely needed special FX help, Dan also works with Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings but I was local so he helped me for free. I attracted a small group of very accomplished actors and rounded out the cast with real off duty police officers who came to help me and had a great time.
We shot it in 6 days on a budget of just $12,000 NZD. One of the funniest lines is delivered deadpan by Sergeant Rob Ballantyne. We had a great time making this film and we surprised ourselves mightily when it was selected for the New Zealand International Film Festival. All the great people who helped for the fun of it were thrilled at our success.
Blake Calhoun of YouTube channel iPhoneographers reached out to the cast & crew of Blue Moon getting an incredible behind the scenes look, which he shares in this video:
Since its release, Blue Moon has been accepted to over 20 film festivals worldwide, often selected as the feature film. Highlights include Worldfest Houston (Best Low Budget Film), Toronto SmartPhone Film Festival, Kimolos International Film Festival, Portobello Film Festival (London), Huhtamo International Film Festival (Finland), Underground Cinema Festival (Dublin), Spirit of Independence Film Festival (United Kingdom), and SF3 SMartfone Flick Fest (Best Feature Film Award 2019).
And to top it all off, Blue Moon Cinematographer Ryan O'Rourke was featured in Australian Cinematographer Magazine in June 2019.
---- Blue Moon ----
Director: Stefen Harris
Writer: Stefen Harris
Cinematography: Ryan O'Rourke
Starring: Jed Brophy and Mark Hadlow
Produced by: Stefen Harris and Pegeen O'Rourke