Indie Movie Counter Clockwise Interview with Writer and Director George Moïse

You guys know well enough by know that if I get a bee in my bonnet, dude, just get out of my way. And after watching the film Counter Clockwise, I had a bunch of questions, so I figured I would just make everyone’s life a whole lot easier, and just ask them. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, not get an answer? Well, not only did I manage to snag the Writer/Director George Moïse – but I also was lucky enough to find Michael Kopelow, the lead in the film as well. But if you have no idea what this movie is that I’m talking about – please head on over to Prime and check Counter Clockwise out right here.

THiNC. –  Loved your movie. It was clever, complicated, and a great ride. The genius of the screenplay seems to be that the time jumps seemed to be more like Quentin Terrantino-esque / Pulp Fiction edits than they were time jumps. Almost like it was a non-linear movie with an explanation for the non-linearness. The storytelling was effective in that you tease the audience with just enough information to keep them guessing at any one given moment. How did you, your identical twin (of three? Does one refer to two of three as twins?) and Michael Kopelow pull this feat off? 

George Moïse – Ha, I’m impressed you learned I was a triplet! Well, the script was definitely the hardest part. Basically I ripped off the Spanish movie TIME CRIMES. I wanted to have the most fun with the time travel concept, as opposed to being super cerebral like Primer, which I’m not a fan of. But I’m a fan of mysteries and love complicated structures. 

THiNC. –  I gotta know about the sets. There were several important rooms that were featured in this movie. One was the lab, another was a room covered in newspaper, another was the room where the murder occurred, which was draped in plastic… Were these three rooms the same room? The film was obviously made on the cheap – but obviously put a lot of love and attention to detail with each location. I know you did your own DP work to drive the cost down, how else did you keep costs low? 

George Moïse – Ha, yes, they were all the same set. That was one way we kept the costs low. Another was having the main actor, Kopelow, work for free! We had a lot of problems in the edit and actually re-shot at least half the movie. But because the crew was so small (Me, the 1st AC (Michael’s younger brother Matthew), a free hair and makeup student, a sound guy, and random friends to push the dolly) we were able to do it for almost nothing.

THiNC. –  Normally in time travel movies the question is always posed at some time or other – CAN WE CHANGE TIME. And that question doesn’t seem to come up in Counter Clockwise. As the movie ends, its as if Ethan is resolved with what happens is what happens. And yet, he spends most of the movie chasing himself through the movie attempting to keep the balls in the air… was Ethan actually trying to solve the crimes that we see happen at the end of the movie? Or was he more just trying to survive his own time travel escapades? 

George Moïse – He was definitely trying to change things, but the structure doesn’t work if he does change time. It only works if the ending is a downer. When he goes back in time at the very end, seemingly to go back and try all over again, I actually liked the idea that he goes to a distant, unknowable future, like the end of MILLENNIUM with Kris Kristofferson. 

THiNC. –  I’ll put a spoiler warning up at the front of the interview – but I’m really curious about Ethan’s backstory. Was he, at one point, a physicist/scientist that worked for Rekubian? And then he left, and decided to go all in on his own research? And Syndicate Red? Were they a terrorist group? Eco-terrorists? Or maybe just white collar criminals stealing scientific research for their own gains? Who were they? 

George Moïse –  Yeah, that was the idea. At one point Ethan was sort of a hot shot scientist, but then went out on his own. Syndicate Red was there just to add more threat and confusion. It doesn’t really matter who or what they are. I never gave it any thought!  The idea is with all these baddies, at that the end of the movie, hopefully, you’re surprised that all Rekubian wanted was his tracker.

THiNC. –  Did you use a massive white board or more likely a wall and timeline to keep all the movements of your characters straight? I once interviewed Nacho Vigalondo regarding his movie Timecrimes, and he talked about having to create one big diagram of the comings and goings of the characters. I’m sure for a time travel movie continuity is a nightmare, no?

George Moïse – Ha, Timecrimes!! There you go. So you must’ve seen the influence. Not a whiteboard, but very detailed outlines. Also, I had to have 3 separate timelines: Ethan, his sisters, and Roman’s. Paying such close attention to how long it would take from someone to get from A to B made me pay even more attention to existing movies. Like T2. The T-1000 arrives at night, but then takes HOURS to go to John Connor’s house, even though he pulls up his address right away. That doesn’t make any sense but you go along with it because Cameron wanted a little time to pass. 

THiNC. – Can you walk us through the making of this shot right here? (photo above). I mean, I have some guesses – but wasn’t as clear and easy as splitting the frame. I am thinking that you had to digitally erase sections of the right Ethan to make the shot work? It was a nice shot by the way. Enjoyed it. 

George Moïse – Yes, Ethan knocking himself out. It was the simplest possible split screen shot. I just kept the camera completely still, he acted out one side, then walked over and acted the other side. In post it was a super simple composite. I think I had to roto like 5 frames where they crossed over each other. I was surprised at how straightforward it was. But then, I made my life very easy. It would’ve been nice to have a Vistaglide motion control camera like Zemeckis in Back to the Future 2, but this worked fine!

The MUCH harder shot was when he’s sitting next to himself on the couch, about to inject himself. We shot Mike about to inject himself, tapping the syringe, etc. That was easy. Then we had Mike pretend to be knocked out next to himself. That was easy for Mike, but NOT easy for Matthew (Mike’s brother, my 1st AC, and right hand man). He had to act out Mike’s movements EXACTLY so the shadows going over the passed out Ethan, would match the movements of Ethan leaning over to inject himself. We did it over and over again. It’s not still not perfect, but no one seems to mind.

THiNC. –  Mind telling us a little bit about your short film Schuschnigg or your short films in general? I have to say, I watched Schuschnigg three times in a row and I’m still lacking in any sort of idea. Maybe you could give us a thread to pull at? Is it maybe something about planned insanity? Orchestrated madness? Intentional devolution’s? I’m very curious now. (Schuschnigg can be viewed above for context.)

George Moïse – Ha! I’m so flattered you watched Schuschnigg! To give you some backstory: I’ve made these family xmas movies for almost 15 years. It started out with silly plots about my family. I wrote scripts, had shot lists. They all had a beginning, middle, and end. After 6-7 xmas movies, and making Counter Clockwise that was ALL plot, I was sick of it. I made very experimental movies when I went to NYU years ago. They were total nonsense, but funny, entertaining (at least to me!). I was heavily influenced by Soderberg’s SCHIZOPOLIS and Roman Polanski’s WHAT?. I just love moments in movies that make no sense, but are funny. So that was the idea. I wanted to make a short that, on the surface, was a pretentious art film, but you wound up laughing at. ERASERHEAD is one of my favorite movies and I find it completely hilarious. As are most of Lynch’s movies. It’s funny because, in general, I HATE arty movies with no plot. It’s kind of a miracle I even like Eraserhead. 

THiNC. –  I heard from another interview that you have been working on another movie, is that true? Do you have another full length film in the works? I know you have done a lot of great work in the short film space, but do you have another long form flick in the works? 

George Moïse – Ha, I have A LOT in the works. All I’ve been doing is writing and developing projects. I have this really exciting 80’s action movie called THE SMELL OF NIGHT. It’s this incredible mystery mixed with film noir. I won’t spoil it but there’s this one scene that is so intense audiences are going to go nuts. Then I have a crazy sci-fi horror movie, also in the 80’s, called KILLER FROM SPACE about an alien who comes to earth with the power to possess humans. It goes from body to body searching for the perfect mate. The only thing that can stop it is a legendary bounty hunter from another galaxy. What I’m most excited about though is CRIMES OF THE FUTURE. It’s a sci-fi adventure comedy set in the near future about an average guy who works on a space station. All he cares about is his phone, but it’s mysteriously stolen and he’s forced to go on a quest across the galaxy to get it back, traveling to strange alien planets and meeting a bizarre cast of characters. It’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure with the style and humor of Blade Runner and Brazil. I’m actually shooting a VERY elaborate trailer as we speak to raise money. We shoot later this year.

How did you even learn about Counter Clockwise?

THiNC. – On I have a tab at the bottom of every page that allows readers to recommend a movie for me to review and discuss, or promote in some way. And I received three people talking about your film I believe. Two there, and one in my email that pushed me over the edge. There are tons of movies in this space, and it’s hard to get connected with so many. Especially seeing as though I do like 2 or 3k word write ups on each one discussing what happened, and sort of the ins and outs of why, etc. 

Well, thanks so much Mr. Moïse! It was a lot of fun catching up with you and learning about your film Counter Clockwise. And as a reminder – if you happen to get all the way down here at the bottom of this interview without having seen the movie (shame on you) – remember to check out his movie right here.

Edited by: CY