This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, APORIA being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Since losing her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) in a drunk-driving incident, Sophie (Judy Greer) has struggled to manage crippling grief, a full-time job, and the demands of parenting her devastated teenage daughter (Faithe Herman).
When her husband’s best friend Jabir (Payman Maadi), a former physicist, reveals that he has been building a time-bending machine that could restore her former life, Sophie will be faced with an impossible choice—and unforeseeable consequences in APORIA.
For the upcoming release of APORIA, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky and writer/director Jared Moshé chatted at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival. During their discussion, they chatted about the overwhelming theme of life and uncertainty in this sci-fi drama, the luck that fell into his lap regarding locations, and tackling the quantum physics elements of the story to make them make sense.
I ask this in light fun, but after watching the movie, are you, okay? Because there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty throughout the entire thing, and I wanted to reach out and give you a hug.
Jared Moshé: Oh, thank you. My kids give me hug attacks, so that helps. I think this movie was a lot about dealing with uncertainty for me, and it was a way for me to wrestle with that. I’m glad that comes across.
It definitely comes across. You can pick up on that undercurrent. You have the overwhelming theme of just life and uncertainty, but what prompted you to create and nurture the growth of this story?
Jared Moshé: The story came about from my experience of becoming a parent. I started developing it soon after the birth of my son, and that really changed how I sort of saw the world. It was one thing when it was just me and my wife, and we were just going through life, and we had to take care of each other. But then when he was born, we had this little guy, and suddenly, we were responsible for him and everything…money became a lot scarier. Health insurance became a hell of a lot scarier. And I started feeling like the uncertainty of the world would start to terrify me, and I was wrestling with that, and trying to figure out how to restore some order to it.
I wanted to explore that through my art as a filmmaker. I didn’t quite know how and then I remembered I had this idea that I locked away of like, a gun that could murder people in the past, and I never really knew what to do with it because it all felt too big and too grand. And I was like, well, what if I can incorporate that idea of using this machine into a story about someone grappling with uncertainty and trying to find order in the world of chaos.
And then, in terms of the quantum physics, in figuring out the science behind the murder machine, what was the research process like for that?
Jared Moshé: It involved a lot of reading. I spent a fair amount of time just reading about quantum physics and quantum theory and just trying to get a base of understanding of how it could all work. And then figuring out what’s possible in that area, how and when time becomes malleable in that realm, and then taking what I learned and then sort of forcing it all together to make the assign at least a plausibly scientific explanation for how this thing could work.
It definitely made sense to me on screen, especially since I don’t know too much about physics.
Jared Moshé: That’s important. I wanted it to get across in a way that made sense to people, but I didn’t want to get lost in the weeds of it. I love Primer, and Primer was a huge touchstone for this movie. That’s a movie you can get lost in the weeds from the science, and I think it works. I wanted to not get too deep into it here.
One of the major locations within this film is the house. Finding a set, really any backdrop is difficult, especially since based on the film, you shot in Los Angeles. How did you guys find the homes and the locations?
Jared Moshé: I knew I wanted it to be in LA and I’ve written in LA and then I knew I wanted it to be in the forgotten corners, the corners people don’t really know, the places you don’t usually see. Our location manager was going all over trying to find houses and such forth, but everything is so expensive in LA. I didn’t realize some shows hot in, like New Mexico and Montana, and we’re having no luck, and it was gonna bust our budget to get this house. It was gonna cost us days. And then I was at one of my son’s T-ball games, and I was talking to other parents who were [there], and they were talking about their summer plans, and where they were going and they were going to be away for two weeks in July. And I was like, wait, what two weeks are you going to be away?
It turned out they were going to be away while shooting, so their house was perfect for the movie. Because creatively, they had a house that they were in the process of trying to fix up themselves, that looked like it was sort of trapped between something that was like, nice, but also something that was falling apart at the same time, which I think spoke to sort of the aesthetic I was trying to get for the film. We were able to get their house and give them some money that they could use to help fix it up. And we had a location, and then I got lucky because I got a location that was like on the block from my house. So, I would walk to work for the first like two weeks of shooting.
Which is practically impossible in Los Angeles.
Jared Moshé: Yes, it was amazing, and it also allowed us to really take advantage of the neighborhood. Once we had the house, I was like okay, we can shoot this scene at the Rec Center. I knew this scene in Ascot Hills Park, this scene at this coffee shop. I want to do the driving stuff on Eastern and this driving on Valley and we’ll shoot this scene with Jabir over on Multnomah; it is just really fantastic to have that just base knowledge of the area and showcase an area that we don’t really see in LA very much.
For casting, did you originally have your sights set on Judy Greer?
Jared Moshé: I love Judy. I think Judy is such an incredible actor and I wish she could be here doing this interview with me. But unfortunately, the AMPTP would not give actors or writers a fair deal. So she can’t be here to celebrate her amazing performance. But I think Judy is a rare talent who has the ability to be so expressive as an actor and show such a deep maelstrom of emotions in very genuine ways. And often that’s used for comedy. But it’s great for drama, and here especially for a character like Sophie, who has so much sort of running through her at any moment, I can’t imagine anyone else bringing her to life the way Judy did.
With the rest of the casting process, did you originally plan on having a mixed-race family?
Jared Moshé: Well, it was really important to me that they’re a mixed-race family. It was really important that we created the sense that this was a family that they built. This is the world they built. They came from different worlds. They came from very different places. They built this life together and that was the centerpiece of their existence, and I think making it a mixed-race family was part of that. When I envisioned it, though, I was very colorblind. I wasn’t like it has to be a white mom and a black dad. It could have been any combination in there. I didn’t want to tie myself into that.
But, casting Edi Gathegi to play against Judy was really important because, if Judy is full of emotion and a very vibrant actor that way, Edi is a very still actor who gives so much with his eyes. To me, I felt like that combination of stillness and energy fit very well in Sophie and Mal’s relationship. I thought they would play against each other really well, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking because you don’t bring them into the same room. In an indie film, you don’t get the ability to do that. It was such a relief when the first time I saw them together, and they just sparkled, and I was like, Okay, we’re good.
Both are amazingly talented people, and they don’t get enough credit.
Jared Moshé: And I want them to get more credit and also Payman Maadi, who played Jabir, who is one of the most talented actors out there, who does so much in world cinema and Iranian cinema, is such a talent, and I think he holds his own with them. They are a really powerful trio. And again, I wish they could be here to be advocating for themselves. So I’m just gonna advocate for them.
That really brings me to my last question. We’ve been asking all the directors this since the strikes really started happening, but is there anything you’d like to say regarding this situation pertaining to the writers and the actors and just the strike in general?
Jared Moshé: I think it’s a shame that the AMPTP won’t give actors and writers a fair deal, that they won’t respect the work their creators do. I hope they returned to the table. And until then, I’ll be out there joining people on the picket lines to fight for what’s fair.
APORIA had its world premiere at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival. The film is now in theaters. To learn more, read our review here.
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