Academy Award Nominee Cathy Moriarty! Alysia Reiner, aka. Natalie “Fig” Figueroa from Orange Is The New Black! Pretty sweet casting for a debut short from Harris Doran.
With The Story of Milo & Annie, a charming short, Doran has finally stepped into a new role beyond acting: as a film director. Milo, about a mute but lovable young man seemingly somewhere on the Autism spectrum, also stars Doran as the lead.
Without pointing fingers at anyone, tempting as it is, what are the worst mistakes you’ve ever seen directors make on set, and how did you avoid them having had plenty of acting experience?
The very worst thing a director can be is unprepared/not knowing they want on set. Making movies takes super human strength (from everyone on set) and if you don’t have an a extremely tight schedule/shot list, it ends up costing a lot in time, money and cast and crew’s patience — and that shows up in the final product. The best thing you can do is make everyone from your PA to your stars feel like they are in good hands and that includes a tight/efficient/realistic schedule and sticking to it.
Specifically in terms of actors, the worst mistake is not knowing or the inability to communicate what you want. Actors want to know that you know what you’re doing. In order for them to feel free (and give riveting performances), they need to be able to trust that you will give them feedback or redirect them if they are off the mark, so they can be proud of their performances.
How did you have such success in web fundraising via RocketHub.com? Many good people fail at music and film project crowdsourcing. How did you avoid this trap?
Research! I read everything I could online, reached out for advice to friends who had successful crowdfunding campaigns, studied (and stole from!) the pages of successful crowdfunding campaigns, I had a meeting with the head of Rockethub where he gave and then I followed his advice, I reached out to friends in marketing and got advice. I took all the good advice I got, followed it, and it worked. There are some basic human truisms such as people want an emotional reason why they should support your dream — and people click on faces and candles.
Your film has a main character who cannot speak. Have you ever felt that the ability to speak has its disadvantages?
Oh yes, is this too philosophical for a magazine? As an actor, writer, and human being, I often think about the fallacy of language. That our using words is a self-created system and that our thoughts are always one step removed when we have to use speech to communicate them, so there is always a barrier between us when trying to connect with other human beings. I think that’s why kissing, sex and dance are so powerful — they’re closer to true communication.
What are the attractive non-verbal qualities the character has to make the audience fall in love with him?
I think the fact that he doesn’t speak, which makes him sheltered from society, gives him an innocence, a sense of untainted, open vulnerability that we care for. He’s always a talented sketch artist.
How does someone write a role without any dialogue and make it good?
It’s like any writing, dialogue has to come out of story and character intention, so if you have your story structure in place, the dialogue (or lack thereof) is what it has to be.
How are your women in the film strong female characters?
It turns out I have a tendency to write strong female characters and emotional men. The main characters of my film are 1 man: Milo and 3 women: Annie (Rachel McKeon), Annie’s co-worker Mercedes (Alysia Reiner – Fig on Orange Is The New Black) and Milo’s mother Lynda (Academy Award Nominee Cathy Moriarty). These three women are all strong, yet wildy different. Annie is strong-willed and fearless, Mercedes is quick-witted and a sassy advice giver, Lynda is a woman who will stop at nothing to protect her son. I think it’s important that there are roles like this for women… because that’s how it is in life.
In something unrelated, but something people are probably dying to know besides me, I love your first name. How did you get called something cool like Harris?
Ha, so I was named after my grandfather Henry Maximillion. In the Jewish religion, you are named after the dead to honor them by using their first initials. So I am Harris Michael. Apparently my parents were deciding between Harris and Harley. I think it worked out in my favor.
How can we watch your movie?
You can go to the film’s website, www.miloandanniefilm.com, and find a listing of all the festivals it is playing. And if you can’t make it to one, I’m sure you will be able to watch it online in the not too distant future.