Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Filmmaker Moon Molson

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Moon Molson, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our Pew Fellows interview series focuses on the artistic lives of our Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to Moon Molson (2017), whose films portray the stories of people of color, capturing the humor and lyricism of, in his words, “the language of the streets.” Molson’s work examines urban masculinity, legacies of trauma, and family dynamics as he strives to “strike a balance between gritty realism, vernacular lyricism, stark humor, and the surrealism of dreams and hallucinations,” he says. His short films The Bravest, The Boldest (2014), Crazy Beats Strong Every Time (2011), and Pop Foul (2007) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films and the Reel Shorts Jury Award at SXSW Film Festival. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, Molson currently teaches film at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and at Temple University.

Moon Molson Q&A: Content Block 1

Moon Molson Q&A: Content Block 2

What is your daily art-making routine?

As a professor of film and media arts, this usually consists of teaching and grading tons of student screenplays and short films throughout the day, only to lament through the evening the limited amount of time I have to write my own screenplays and make my own films. In other words, my art-making routine is probably more “weekendly” or “semester breakly” than daily.

What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?

Since I tend to write in coffee shops around Center City and North Philly, the image that keeps me company is the wallpaper of Frederick Douglass on my laptop. Ironically, the “things” that keep me company are all of the people sitting around me, whom I never speak to, also on their laptops, mouthing words to themselves while drinking coffee. Okay, I might be the only one mouthing words to himself.

What is your biggest motivator as an artist? What is your biggest fear?

My imminent death. Not kidding. Sorry, is that too morbid? Raising money for independent films can take a hell of a long time, so I am acutely aware of how much time has already passed and how little I have left. Yeah, sorry, that’s pretty morbid.

Why do you choose to work and live in Philadelphia? In your experience, what makes this art scene distinctive?

Because it has all of the arts and culture of a city such as, let’s say, Brooklyn (art house cinemas, theater, museums, and restaurants), but for much less rent, and with much less hipster pretension. It’s that same refreshing lack of pretension that makes the art scene here so distinctive.

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