PARK CITY, UTAH –Minneapolis-based filmmaker Britni West is energized about her debut feature, “Tired Moonlight,” making its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival — not Sundance, but another film festival taking place in Park City on Friday.
West, 28, wrote, directed, produced, edited, provided voiceover work and shows up in a couple quick cameos in “Moonlight.” West decided not to shoot in Minnesota, instead making “Tired Moonlight” in her hometown of Kalispell, Mon., and the surrounding area three summers ago.
“Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Montana,” West said the day before the premiere. “There is something really special about the people who live in Montana and I don’t see it portrayed in film very often. I thought it would be fun to see it in a natural way.”
West said and it was always part of the plan to film with mostly nonprofessional actors and locals. “I met Paul Dickinson, who is a poet in Minneapolis, and I always wanted him to be part of it, so I wrote him into the script at the beginning. The majority of the cast is from Montana aside from Alex [Karpovsky, best known as Ray on HBO’s ‘Girls’]. When I got there, I put out casting calls and posted notices online and posted flyers up and we held auditions and we tried to work everyone in who auditioned.”
“Tired Moonlight,” a semi-nonfictional and personal film, follows around a dozen folks, young and old, over the course of a few weeks of their everyday lives, including Dawn (beautifully played by first-time actor, Liz Randall), a single middle-aged woman starting a new chapter in her life and a second chance at finding love.
Another bold choice in making the film, West chose a more natural and raw look, shooting on a Kodak Super 16 mm instead of shooting in HD or the conventional “Red Camera.” The 16 mm film becomes another character, and and pulls you into every picturesque scene by cinematographer Adam Ginsberg. Shooting on film stock meant that many in the cast knew ahead of time that there was not much room for multiple takes.
“Tired Moonlight” captures a vivid mood and an essential part of the small-town life that many living in the Midwest can relate to, showing the cast doing many mundane daily activities, and some exciting moments such as 4th of July in Kalispell. “The reason I shot it is I can’t imagine it exists anywhere else,” West said. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen of this battleground, where all these people gather, [and] most of them get drunk and start shooting all sorts of different fireworks off.”
After the screening on Friday, West will fly to the Netherlands for the international premiere of “Tired Moonlight” at the Rotterdam International Film Festival on Monday. It is also a major coup for “Tired Moonlight,” the only American film among 13 films to screen for Rotterdam’s prestigious Tiger Awards.
“We’re all very excited and I’m going to be exhausted, but I really wanted to be at the Rotterdam screening,” she said.
West has no idea how audiences will respond to the Slamdance screenings (it’s also showing Monday), but said, “The thing I think I enjoy most about it and I hope audiences take away from it is it has a weird duality of making you feel sad and incredibly happy at the same time. It has a lot of sudden feelings and I think people will be drawn to the characters, even if they may not know at the why at the time.”