The Dream is Always the Same

My parents, Philip Moyer and Cathy Emery Griffiths, are responsible for leading me down the filmmaking path.

I was a goofy kid. Anyone that went to school with me will tell you that, but there were also a lot of signs that I was going to do something with movies. 

For whatever reason, it all started with saving things, which would be a trend throughout my life. The first thing I ever saved was the weekly TV Guide magazine. I always made sure we had the new issue the day it came out and added it to a growing stack. Eventually, my parents made me throw them all away.

Sometime in 1984, I started a scrapbook. This was not an ordinary scrapbook. I clipped movie ads from the newspaper and glued them to blank pages. I went from saving TV Guides to saving movie ads. Again, my parents didn't understand why I was doing this, but I never threw it away. I still have it, as you can see from the picture above.

In May of 1988, my collection got even bigger and more serious when I purchased my first issue of Premiere magazine. I remember it featured Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon to promote the film Bull Durham. The final issue of Premiere was released in 2007 with Will Ferrell on the cover. I had every issue they released over those twenty years. Shortly after the magazine ended, I nearly threw them all away, then stopped myself at the last minute. While no one would want the entire twenty-year collection, I thought maybe there would be interest in specific issues, so I put some on ebay, listed them at $1 and sold a handful.

Like most other guys my age, the Star Wars films were a huge part of my life. After seeing the second installment, The Empire Strikes Back, I was very upset about Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and held the character of Boba Fett fully responsible. He was the bounty hunter who captured Solo and turned him over to Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt. I took my prepubescent anger out on my Boba Fett action figure and encased him in clay. When I finally let him out, I was never able to completely clean it off of him. I still have that Boba Fett action figure with traces of clay.

On August 1st, 1981, a new cable station called MTV went on the air for the first time. As a nine-year-old, MTV was a huge influence on me, but it was a different channel back then. They played music videos twenty-four hours a day. Nothing else. No television shows. I played MTV in the background every morning while I got ready for school. Some of my favorite music videos of that era were “You Might Think” by The Cars, “The Heart of Rock ’n’ Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News, “The Reflex” by Duran Duran and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. 

As I grew older, my dad took me to record stores where I quickly discovered the soundtrack section. My dad always knew he could find me there when he was ready to leave. The first soundtrack I ever bought was for National Lampoon’s Vacation. At the time, I never heard of Lindsey Buckingham or Fleetwood Mac. All I wanted was Lindsey’s theme song called “Holiday Road.” 

My second soundtrack was Risky Business. I didn’t know who Bob Seger was, but I loved his song “Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll.” Soundtracks were always important to me: in the films I watched and the ones I directed. Some people even told me that my first film, The Good Life, felt like one long music video.

MTV was also a nickname given to a style of film editing that used fast cuts. In college, I took a class about addiction and learned about an eye study that connected film editing and addiction. The eyes that watched long shots with no cuts tended to drift and were easily distracted. The eyes that were shown quick cuts stayed fixated and wanted more. I took on this style of editing many times over the years, but have since fallen in love with the long tracking shot, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw the 1997 film Boogie Nights. I also recommend watching the opening tracking shots of Touch of Evil, The Player and the entire film Children of Men.

Then came the biggest battle of my childhood. My love for movies would be interrupted by an alphabet letter when I was not allowed to see R-rated movies. I lost every fight over this and couldn’t get my parents to budge, although compromises were made. For some R-rated movies, they sent my brother and I out of the room during inappropriate scenes. There were three movies where I specifically remember leaving the room for certain scenes: The Terminator, Revenge of the Nerds and National Lampoon’s Vacation. On several occasions, my parents let their guard down and forgot to send us out of the room and quickly panicked, like with The Terminator. But little did my parents know that I already saw most of these movies uncut at a friend’s house and pretended I was watching them for the first time. 

In seventh grade, my library teacher gave all of the students a test to determine what you wanted to be when you grew up. Days later, I got back a computer generated sheet that said I wanted to be a screenwriter, so I started telling everyone I was going to make movies. When I got to high school, not many people owned a video camera. The technology was new and they were very expensive. One alternative was to rent one from a local video store, so that's what I did. For Mr. Timmer's anthropology class, my final project was about Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in England. Using a rented camera, my friend Tony and I made a very unconventional video about the origins of Stonehenge. Being 1991, there was a lot of Twin Peaks footage incorporated into it, as well as my favorite music at the time.

Of course, editing was also an issue back then, so the entire project was shot in order. I remember asking the television production guys at school to help clean up a few spots, but for the most part, the final product was exactly what I shot. This was the first time I ever filmed something and showed it to people. My classmates loved it and Mr. Timmer played it a second time. In retrospect, the video was not very good, but it was ambitious and went above and beyond what was expected for the assignment. Some classmates still remind me of that video to this day.

The Stonehenge video got heavy television play at family functions and I felt slightly awkward at first, but eventually got used to it. Later that year, my parents bought me a video camera for my high school graduation present, which I took with me to Temple Film School.

Around the same time, I did something that would help my films many years later. I walked into the Broad Movie Theater in Souderton, PA, and asked for a job. I told them I wanted to make movies and thought it was important for me to work at a movie theater. They hired me that week and it didn't take long for me to become a manager and projectionist. I stayed in touch with the owner throughout college and the theater premiered my first two films, The Good Life and A Halfway House Christmas.