Lonely Wolf International
Film Festival 2022
Justin Moodie is an American screenwriter who has recently been placed in the top 10 IMDB Nominations notably second in the Best Short Screenplay Category for his screenplay: Her Name, Mercy.
Hello Justin, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?
[laughs] I have been doing well – I feel really blessed to be able to say that. There is a lot of uncertainty sort of…around and about I guess -- but I feel I can confidently say I’ve been doing well.
Have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?
Yes! It’s an important part of my creative process to be able to draw on the positive but I don’t shy away from the negative or less ideal either. For me creativity, among many other things, is a beautiful mix of both.
Congratulations on being part of Lonely Wolf with Her Name, Mercy, what does it mean to you to be part of the festival?
Well thank you, I appreciate that. What this festival does, and excels at is the vigorous, personal piece of care that they imbue with every part of their communication process. Adrian is truly a special individual; he feels like a family member to me! He has helped foster something in Lonely Wolf that in its first few years is well beyond self-sustaining. It’s inspiring! Their ability to recognize and care for storytellers, which all filmmakers are, is really a powerful asset.
How important are festivals like Lonely Wolf in championing and supporting indie filmmakers?
I mean this sincerely… I believe they are part of the chief reasons and avenues for indie filmmakers, and just filmmakers in general. What Lonely Wolf and other festivals allow you to do in the space of the industry regarding networking, competition, and feedback is invaluable and was where I got my start and continue to participate. Something I want to make sure to be clear about participation though. You really must ensure that you carefully vet and look for QUALITY Film Festivals... Not all of them are Lonely Wolf! [laughs]
Can you tell me about Her Name, Mercy, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Yeah absolutely. "Her Name, Mercy" is a screenplay that I wanted when read, to feel like was a snapshot into a moment in time. I’ve been fascinated with the dealings around Salem and the Witch Trials, and more so the why of those and how they happened. It’s an interesting time. There was a lot of mistrust, disdain, and accusations that would follow simple misunderstandings; sometimes not so simple. Not too different from things we see today if you think about it.
What was the message you wanted to convey with this project?
That’s a great question; I thought about this for a while before starting on the project. The biggest thing I wanted to convey was just an answer to a question and statement that I started the story with. You often hear: “no act of kindness is wasted” There are quite a few phrases that echo that same sentiment… so I wanted to create a screenplay, a story, that answered that question in a full and complete way. Can one act of kindness REALLY change a person’s life? I believe it can, and while crafting and at the same time getting to know some of the characters, I feel like they came to learn that too.
"As far as something I would say to my fellow writers, especially starting out, I would make sure that they understood that you and your pen, or keyboard, whatever it is you’re using to write can create anything."
What was the most challenging scene for you to write?
I like to think I’m not a jerk. [laughs] at least I hope so? Most of the time I will just go to the extreme side of things I wouldn’t do, or things that would make me physically ill to watch happen to someone. There is a certain scene where some men do and say things that was rough for me to conceptualize and write. That’s where the challenge is though. It’s more my care for the characters than it necessarily being difficult to write.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I would say it birthed for the most part from trauma and how I dealt with it. Some kids’ escape was dance, sports, or other things like that – my avenue of escapism was always storytelling. I would gather my siblings around and just tell story after story about our family in these fantastical realms since I could start blabbing. That translated directly into my love for writing and entire process of creating worlds was, and still is, just magic to me. My love for that as well as what words could do has always left me in awe. I have had a lot of these stories that felt like they were burning in my head… They still do. So, I guess filmmaking was and still is a release for me. When I recognized that I could have these worlds and stories out of my head and immortal in a sense on paper or on a screen, I wanted to do that.
When creating a screenplay do you ever pull inspiration from your own life and people you know to help create your characters?
Partially. Not so much pulling from people I know, but from their situations. I pull a lot from instances and moments from my life and people around me. A lot of times though, probably more often than not, a character and story will come to me from a question that either I have had or that a situation poses; like what I mentioned earlier.
Has your approach to your writing changed since your debut screenplay?
I would say so. There aren’t a lot of major differences, but I feel I have learned on a much deeper level to trust and lean into what I would deem as “mistakes” I don’t even really like that word, but I guess what I want to say there would be I am learning to give myself grace and time, and in turn allowing for time to marinate and work on my story for me. We experience so much life and so many different things happen to us on a day-to-day basis… something that may seem completely off or not working, or a “mistake” when seen through the lens of a different experience in life could work much better than you anticipate.
Are there any themes you are looking to explore with future films?
Yes! I am an unabashed hopeless romantic. I love everything about love. There is a moral and socially grey area that love occupies that I have always wanted to explore; So that’s what I’m working on as my next screenplay so I’m excited to dive more into that very broad area of affection and some of the more unspoken aspects of it.
Do you have any advice to offer fellow screenwriters?
This is difficult for me because at my core, I know that the process of creation is anything but linear or directly identifiable – it’s almost an oxymoron to say or to offer advice. Does that make sense? As far as something I would say to my fellow writers, especially starting out, I would make sure that they understood that you and your pen, or keyboard, whatever it is you’re using to write can create anything. Literally, anything – and that’s what people meant when they say “find your voice” or “create what you want to see” sometimes I found it hard to identify sometimes what that was, but it got easier as I got more comfortable with the idea that I can write about and create anything. Anything that comes to mind, there are no rules, just some formatting guidelines.,
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Her Name, Mercy?
I try not to place too many expectations on the audience, I really like hearing interpretations of stories, and I like to write in a way that allows for an audience to take different things away. If I was to say one thing for "Her Name, Mercy" though… I would just really hope we don’t undervalue kindness. It really is a superpower and can change a life in a very real sense. So, if you’re weighing odds, bet on kindness.