In 1963 a cow goes missing from an Irish Magdalene Asylum only to reappear 25 years later at a gas station in Texas. The attendant calls the sheriff, the sheriff calls the doctor, and together the three discover a strange mystery in the middle of an American nowhere.
Hey Eli, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Thanks for having me. All is well. It’s raining in New York right now, I'm inside writing with some cats. Not my cats, though.
This is going to be your World Premiere, any nerves ahead of the screening?
Not really. More excited than anything. I hope that seeing it up on the big screen I can watch it with fresh eyes, I feel very close to it right now, literally and metaphorically. I’ve got my nose pressed up to the monitor staring at the way the embers on the fire are moving, so I’m looking forward to zooming out and seeing it all as a whole.
What does it mean to be screening Holy Moses at Raindance 2018?
I’ve always known Raindance as a festival with a reputation for discovering new, upcoming filmmakers, people who want to push the envelope a little outside the narrative scope. I’m grateful to be included in that ongoing mission, and the fact that Pulp Fiction premiered there doesn’t hurt either.
Tell me a little bit about Holy Moses, how did the film come about?
The film came together sporadically, over time. There are two stories running parallel here. One in Texas during the 80s, and the other in Ireland during the 60s. When I first wrote the script it was primarily set in Texas - with a very brief cutaway to Ireland, where we discover where the cow had disappeared from.
But in the space of time, before I got to direct the Ireland segment, I was sitting with it for so long that the story kept growing and developing into a much larger and more unique world. All of a sudden it wasn’t just any farm, but a farm on a Magdalene Asylum where nuns worked and lived and prayed. Originally, it was conceived to be a little more quirky and offbeat but ended up with this very tense, brooding tone instead, owed largely in part to Lydia Parkington's brilliant score.
What was the inspiration for your screenplay?
Well, I came across a news article with a photo of a dead cow that had wandered into a convenience store, and the absurdity of that image struck me as something that desperately needed to be explored. I’m interested in the bizarre transcendent moments that shake us out of a stupor, and so I took that idea and ran with it, and the story developed from there.
What was your most challenging scene to film?
The one we cut.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I wanted to be a stuntman originally. That was my preferred profession as a kid because I was really good at falling off things and not getting hurt. We started emulating the guys from Jackass and filming stunts with my mom’s mini-DV camera. I would jump off the roof of my house over and over again, but when that started to get old I’d think up some plot to go along with it. The Godfather was a big influence then too, I didn’t think there was anything cooler. Maybe there isn’t.
How much has your approach to your filmmaking changed since your debut short?
I think my approach to filmmaking has always been the same. The scale is just bigger now, but it’s the same spirit of adventure.
"...I hope they find the humor at the heart of this."
How would you describe Holy Moses in three words?
Cow Transcends Time.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I hope they get the sense that time has its own logic in this world and that the events of the future can affect and alter the past. I’m not so concerned with any big 'ah-ha' moment, but with creating a sense of connectivity between two very different characters, in two very distinct worlds.
But even more than that, I hope they find the humor at the heart of this. I think the Texas segment is hilarious, and Thomas Sadoski as Sheriff, Philip Ettinger as Justice, and Dan Bakkedahl as Doc Bob are so brilliant to watch.