By Peter McDermott
The arts were not a priority when John Moran was growing up in Queens, New York City. “Discouraged” is the word he uses.
“Work and bringing money home was really what mattered as a bottom line,” recalled the alumnus of Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy and Xavier High School on West 16th Street in Manhattan.
Nonetheless, Moran developed interests in writing and painting, and generally “loved all aspects of all the arts.” Then about eight years ago, he took that to the next level when he uncovered a passion for acting.
Now, Moran is marking a milestone: a 24-minute drama he’s starring in, “Danni,” has become available through streaming on Amazon.
“As far as Amazon goes after a lifetime of labor I simply feel good when my efforts pay off for my employers and my paycheck is well earned,” he said. “The creators of ‘Danni’ have been very generous in their praise.”
Moran, who is known in the New York Irish community through his work with Artists Without Walls, has been involved with five movies, a play and multiple staged readings and he’s readying to audition full time.
“I have a movie I'm producing and still writing, which we'll shoot in the next few weeks along with another movie set for November with another production company,” Moran said. “I'm also acting in both these films.
“I’m producing and performing in an original play, which is currently with my partner Stephanie Linas and the playwright in workshop and re-writes. That play will go up this winter.”
Moran added: “My greatest advantage as an actor coming late to the game is the work ethic I acquired, working hard earning money for my family, the people I love, the children I adore, with a job well done.”
The Echo asked the New York-born actor a few questions about “Danni,” which was written by Jeana Reilly, who stars opposite him in the film.
Tell us something more about the film on Amazon, “Danni.”
The story was originally conceived in 2006. It was a personal project. Its purpose was to explore a traumatic relationship the author had survived in order to make sense of the experience. After Jeana's parents passed away in 2009 she started working to make the screenplay a film reality, giving purpose to a period of death and sadness in her life.
After a couple of delayed starts with the loss of two producers and directors and various casting and funding struggles, Jeana approached Peter Jensen, the creative director of T. Schreiber Actors Studio who although was a theater rather than film director agreed to get on board. Along with master cinematographer Sainte Howard the final casting was completed in 2015.
How did you get involved?
I originally auditioned for the role of the cook and lost the part to Pulitzer-nominated playwright and actor Richard Vetere. When the lead role became available I auditioned for that role as well and got the part.
There was a period of rehearsal at T. Schreiber studios with Peter Jensen where Jeana and me tested blocking, tried some dialog on for size and did some exercises which helped us overcome the awkwardness of the more intimate and also aggressive or violent scenes in the movie.
Tell us about your experience filming.
I was on set for four long days shooting my scenes and, since this was only my third film, I was a little overwhelmed with the size of the company. In addition to the actors there was a full complement of staff. Lighting, camera crew, sound, make-up, producer, director, still photographer, set design, grips and safety professionals for the more physical scenes were all there.
I was not at post production but the editing process judging from the results went very well. Sainte Howard, Peter Jensen and Jeana Reilly worked weeks laying in the sound track of original music and crafting the story you see today.
How’s it doing now?
The short has done very well. It was accepted to over 20 film festivals throughout the world, winning awards and was even dubbed in Korean. The huge film festival success of “Danni” prompted Hewes Distributers to pick up the film for distribution and aside from being available on Amazon Videos and it will be doing a limited theater run starting outside of Boston this month.
Jeana Reilly and John Moran.