Actor and director Frank Mosley talks about turning on the lights for the Dallas film community
For Frank Mosley, who has been making movies since he was 8 years old, acting and filmmaking come together naturally. “When you’re a kid making movies, the first actor you have is yourself,” says Mosley, a character actor and rising star on the Dallas filmmaking scene. His latest project, Her Wilderness, is currently in post-production.
“Basically I can’t imagine being a filmmaker and not being an actor or vise versa, because I think they build on one another in a really important way.”
Mosley’s love for film led him to minor in the subject at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he connected with other local filmmakers. When those new friends found out about his background in theater and acting, Mosley began appearing in films outside of his own.
“I can’t imagine being a filmmaker and not being an actor or vise versa, because I think they build on one another in a really important way,” Mosley says.
“That’s how I got started in the DFW area,” he says. “I kind of came into acting through other filmmaker friends, but they could see my range, that I’m very much a character actor, and I don’t want to be recognizable if I can help it. So they started giving me these roles that gave me the opportunity to really disappear into them.”
That range — and those connections — most recently landed Mosley a supporting role in Upstream Color, the latest film from Shane Carruth. The director had returned to Dallas after an almost 10-year hiatus following the success of his feature debut, Primer. A friend of Mosley’s, who was working on the film, encouraged him to send in an audition tape.
“I remembered seeing Primer and really admiring its ambition,” Mosley says. “I was impressed that a Dallas guy did this movie with no money, so it was really inspiring.”
Mosley sent in the tape, and less than 48 hours later, he found himself on the set of Upstream Color.
“It was a very quick turnaround, but it was an amazing experience,” Mosley says. “We shot for a couple of days, and then I moved on to other projects. Then all of sudden I got word that it was going to play at Sundance.”
Mosley says Carruth was surprised that many of the Dallas actors and filmmakers working on Upstream Color were already well-acquainted with one another — not surprising, considering how long Carruth had been away. Mosley says the Dallas film community has only begun to congeal.
“I think what Austin had over Dallas up until recently is that Austin very much feels like a film community,” Mosley says. “There have always been all these amazing film people in DFW, or there have been a few camps, but there have been a lot more people who didn’t even really know about the other camps.
“Everybody was all strung about in the dark, feeling each other out, trying to find each other. And we were all there to begin with,” Mosley says of the Dallas film scene.
“So basically everybody was all strung about in the dark, feeling each other out, trying to find each other. And we were all there to begin with. Somebody just needed to turn the lights on and reveal that we were all standing right next to each other.”
Among those standing right next to each other are David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks and James Johnston ofAin’t Them Bodies Saints. Mosley joined them at Sundance this past January, where Halbrooks and Johnston were honored with the Indian Paintbrush Producer’s Award. (Incidentally, Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Beasts of the Southern Wild, also won that award when it premiered at Sundance last year.)
“I’ve been working with David Lowery and all the guys from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for almost 10 years now, so I’m just so thrilled they got do such a big-budget film with movie stars,” Mosley says. “On the set you’d have Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara there, but then standing right next to them were friends of ours from Dallas, so it was kind of surreal.”
But Mosley has his own film to think about now. Her Wilderness is a bit mysterious, which seems to be the style of film that intrigues Mosley most, as an actor and filmmaker.
“It’s very much an off-the-beaten path kind of film, experimental and non-lineal, so I’m looking forward to finding festivals either oversees or here in the states that can find a home for it,” Mosley says. “It’s not your typical run-of-the mill narrative.”
Mosley also hopes to create an art installation to accompany the film. The installation will depict the different paths of the main characters, four interconnected women in varying stages of life.
“The closest thing I can compare it to is an installation of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but of some kind of Tolstoy family dynamic, so an existential crisis fork in the road where you commit suicide or you talk to your mom,” Mosley says.
“I think it has a mysterious quality about it that works not only as a feature, but also as an installation of screen projections, photographs and images running on a loop that you can walk in and see anytime.”
Mosley hopes to engage the audience with the story, both through the film and the interactive art installation. It is precisely this kind of forward thinking and blending of the arts that makes Mosley stand out on the independent film scene.