Mo Perkins received her Masters degree at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. While at UCLA she was the recipient of numerous awards including the Dorothy Arzner Award, The Wasserman Award and the Motion Picture Association of America Award. Her master’s thesis film, “Piss Hat” was selected for the UCLA Director’s Spotlight Award and was a National Finalist for the Student Academy Awards in 2005.
In addition to directing several award winning short films, she has written many feature scripts. Her writer/ directorial debut feature “A Quiet Little Marriage“ premiered this year on the festival circuit and won the Audience Award at Austin Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award for best narrative feature at Slamdance.
AFF: Tell me about your film that won the Narrative Feature Audience Award in 2008. My film is called “A Quiet Little Marriage”.
Mo: It’s my first feature. The story unfolds around a married couple, who are in love, but find themselves struggling over weather or not to begin a family. They can’t communicate about it and wind up sabotaging each other secretly rather than confronting one another.
AFF: You co-wrote “A Quiet Little Marriage” with a Cy Carter and Mary Elizabeth Ellis. What was that process like?
Mo: The three of us had worked together before on short films and we are all good friends. We came together and with the idea of making something where the actors would have a creative ownership of their characters and hopefully that collaboration from the beginning would lead to very grounded realistic performances. Mary Elizabeth and Cy didn’t actually write, but we co-conceived for sure. After nailing out collectively some of the themes and ideas for the story in brainstorming sessions, I went off and wrote on my own and then brought scenes to the two of them every week. We would rehearse those scenes and then I would go back and rewrite based on those rehearsals. For me it was a wonderful way to write, a real luxury. Every rehearsal was a discovery for all of us and the story just kept getting stronger. Given the chance, I would work that way again in a heartbeat.
AFF: I heard that the entire movie was shot in 15 days. Why such a short time and how did you and the crew overcome that challenge?
Mo: We pretty much did as many days as we could afford. It was a dead run. But we overcame that by being really prepared. It really helped that Cy and Mary Elizabeth had such a strong connection to their characters, we could trust each other, move quickly and still get good performances.
AFF: What do you think separated this film out from other films about newlyweds?
Mo: When we were coming up with ideas for what kind of story we wanted to tell, Cy and Mary Elizabeth and I all felt like marriage was somewhat untold. It felt like films usually ended with a marriage. We were all newly married and wanted to talk about the work of recommitting to partnership daily, living and sharing with someone on that intimate level. I don’t know if that intention made our film stand out or not, but it was a goal.
AFF: Did you face any challenges as far as transitioning from short films to feature films?
Mo: In some ways I think feature film was easier for me that shorts. I’m such a sucker for character and to tell a good short you have to get in and get out, features give you the luxury of a slower build and more time for discovery.
AFF: Any favorite moments from your time at the Austin Film Festival?
Mo: Seeing other people’s films was really fun. I loved meeting all the other filmmakers and writers, just hanging out at the Driskill and talking to everyone who drifted in was a treat.
AFF: What are you working on now?
Mo: I’m working on a few projects with a bunch of the same folks who where a part of A Quiet Little Marriage, including one that my husband will direct and we hope to shoot up in Canada later this year. I’ve got a new script of my own cooking and a baby on the way any day now.
Very late deadline: July 15th
Just one more you reason you should be at the Austin Film Festival & Conference in October…