My media practice always begins with some tangible phenomena. For this reason, I prefer to use methods that allow me to reflect on the “real” while at the same time re-shaping it. Light-sensitive emulsion is my gateway to re-imagining and re-experiencing the physical world in a tactile and connected way even as digital processes engulf contemporary art and commerce with virtual disconnected ease.
The short film In the Land of Moonstones begins enigmatically, with an 11-year-old girl standing on the beach, staring off into the ocean. Seen in closeup, she remarks to someone unseen: “You told me all that matters is the color of the sky. But you knew better.” Then, straight into the camera, she adds: “Didn’t you.” Is it a question, or a statement? Is she talking to someone present—or to us? And what exactly does it signify, the color of the sky?
Moonstones begins with these and other mysteries, which unravel over the course of the next 40 minutes or so. We know something is wrong, but we don’t know what. The curtains gradually roll back to uncover a story of first love, friendship, and loss, as seen through the eyes of our young protagonist, who is experiencing everything for the first time. From the beginning, we see her sadness; by the end, we know why.
I was compelled to direct Moonstones because to me, there’s nothing more compelling than the first time we fall in love. It’s brutal and fascinating, embarrassing and surprising, and incredibly rich territory for storytelling. The novelty of my child protagonist’s feelings made for a rawness that an adult’s story, no matter how riveting, cannot have. Furthermore, the chemistry between our two leads—12-year-old actors Natalie Keating and Rand McAvoy—is so striking and genuine that anyone who watches them will remember how intense it was to be that age.
No love is quite like the first. It’s that jarring novelty, that thunder of new emotions, that drew me to this story. There’s something about first love that people always remember. Indeed, almost every person I tell about this film immediately recalls aloud their own first love, with a mixture of amusement, humiliation, and glee. In other words, first love hits us in the guts. It continues to do so long after the actual feeling has passed. The objects of our affection themselves may be totally unmemorable—but we never forget what we felt like around them.
Moonstones is currently in post-production, which is why we have begun a crowdfunding campaign, scheduled to run through May. Its goal is to fund the remainder of post, which includes editing, original recordings of music, color correction, sound, and more. I cannot emphasize enough how much we need your donations, no matter how small, to help us bring Moonstones to audiences.
Moonstones matters because we can all relate to its central themes: love, loss, friendship, adolescence, figuring out who you are, and meeting and loving the people who shape you into that person. It’s for these reasons that we need stories like Moonstones—stories that tell of the first times we experienced our strongest feelings. I know, because I needed this story myself—which I didn’t realize until I found its source material, a short story, in a clearance bin in France.
At the time, I was in France to shoot my previous film, Creative Block, a surreal fairy tale about a young woman who loses her creativity in New York and goes on a search for it that ultimately takes her to Paris. I didn’t think much of the little book I bought (for one euro) from that bargain bin, but two months later when I read the book, I realized it was the luckiest thrift store find I ever made. You could feel every heartbeat of the book. Somehow, it was a distillation of everyone’s experience of first love into a single story. That was why I had to put it onscreen.
Besides the first love between its two young main characters , Moonstones’ main theme is the strong friendship between the protagonist and her beloved grandmother. Her grandmother is the one who guides her, Sherpa-style, through the rocky terrain of love. In the middle of the story, there’s a scene between the two in which our heroine is heartbroken, thinking her crush doesn’t love her back. Her grandma has an interesting take on the situation: “It doesn’t matter,” she says. Naturally our heroine is baffled, but grandma explains that having fallen in love is the only part that matters. “You know what it’s like now,” she points out. You’ll recognize it when it comes again.”
It would mean the world to me—and to my crew—if you could come to our aid and contribute to Moonstones’ Indiegogo fundraiser. No donation is too small (donations of $1 and $5 actually make up a significant portion of what we’ve received so far) and every single contribution is incredibly important. Not only does it mean that someone has taken the time to see what our movie expresses, and to appreciate it. It means, quite simply, that we can make the film.
Moonstones is such a beautiful story—infused though it may be with heartbreak—and I can’t wait to share it. Because all of us have been that little girl standing on the beach, looking out at the ocean, and wondering what really matters most in the world.
Please support this excellent film by visiting the Crowdfunding page. You can also follow the film on Facebook, and Nicola’s production company, Eclair Soon Productions, on Instagram. To learn more about Nicola, visit her website or her member profile.