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Student Films From UT Austin, This Week on “Frame of Mind” 16

Direct from the Radio-Television-Film program at UT Austin, five films with five different stories of hope, despair and imagination. Re-live John Spottswood Moore’s childhood as he lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in “Once Again.” Follow Ned in “Ned’s Rocket” (Kennedy Baruch) as he uses his child-like imagination to entertain himself.  Watch the stark reality of life come to the screen in “Benny” (Huay-Bing Law) and “Housekeeping” (Catherine Licata). And solve the mystery of Santa in “Evidence of Santa” (Mei M Makino).

Filmmaker John Moore grew up all over the country, thanks to his military father, until they settled down in North Carolina when he was 13. Moore attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington for his undergraduate degree and later received his MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Moore is currently an editor and animator living in Austin. This week, I talk to Moore about his autobiographical documentary, “Once Again.”

  • Watch the UT Austin RTF student films on “Frame of Mind” at 11 p.m. on KERA-TV tonight!
A screen cap of John Spottswood Moore's animation featured in "Once Again."

A screen cap of John Spottswood Moore’s animation featured in “Once Again.”

On how he began filmmaking…
I went to college in North Carolina and I had always had this massive love of film and film production. Keep in mind that this was late ’90s to early 2000s, so the affordability of film gear wasn’t as it is today where everyone with a phone can make movies and put it on YouTube. I started really doing film in college at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A lot of it was studies, but by the time I had graduated I had started editing. For a long time, I thought I was going to do more narrative filmmaking; I wanted to be Wes Anderson when I was a kid. As I grew up and graduated, I realized that most of what I learned was an offshoot of the English department. I ended up, very luckily, getting accepted off the waitlist at UT Austin for my masters; they have a really amazing MFA program in film production. While I was there, I became really interested in animation and the hand-drawn elements that you see in the film. I got really into podcasts — non-fiction, “This American Life,” radio-type of stuff. What really started to interest me was taking old stock footage like pictures, home videos, interviews alongside these animations to make this documentary.

Filmmaker John Spottswood Moore

Filmmaker John Spottswood Moore

On his inspiration for “Once Again…”
It’s something that I’ve always had in the back of my head since I was 11. At the end of the movie I picked up my life and ended up being a semi normal kid, but there was this year or two that was really off and also really unique because even though I talk about it through my own experience, in the world of Obssessive Compulsive Disorder,the climate was really changing for the first time. Stuff like cognitive behavioral therapy was being explored in depth; I was in the right place at the right time. I knew that I always wanted to tell that story; I tried a couple different ways — I took a class one time on doing a one-man show or I wrote short stories — they weren’t effective. When I went to film school, about halfway through it dawned on me that I was looking for a subject to make a documentary about and [OCD] was it — this is the thing I should dive back into. It wasn’t so much as inspiration as it was remembering what happened. I knew I was going to tell that story eventually.

On the process of making the film…
It’s weird. The movie premiered at the Austin Film Festival and at the Q&A afterwards, someone asked me [what it was like to film the movie on my own experiences]. To be honest, I didn’t really think of it that much. I didn’t consciously do this, but when I was thinking about what the story was and what the art is of the main character – me – I would would write down a synopsis as if it were somebody else. I wouldn’t write “I did this” or “I went through this,” I would always say “John did this” or “John went through this.” I had this innate ability to watch this movie as I was making it and picture myself as a third person character.

On the message he hopes “Once Again” conveys…
A lot of it was telling a story that already happened. When I was wrapping it up, I was thinking about [the message], one of the biggest things for me about the way that I ended it the way that I did was to say that I led a normal life, I still lead a normal life and I’m still a functional adult. So if you are someone with OCD or a derivative of OCD like anorexia, bulimia, compulsive gambling — it’s possible to maintain a normal life.