You lift off, weightless. “Think happy thoughts” echoes somewhere in the recess of your mind. Flying, floating, following the little ball of light. Second star to the right…? You think to yourself, can’t remember. Floating turns to falling, and happy thoughts flicker out and recede within you. Reality sets a crash course for the ground with faith, trust and pixie dust nowhere to be found. In his new film East of Kensington, director Kellen Moore captures the harsh reality we face coming into adulthood and how soon we’ll all be tethered to the ground in his grim adaptation of childhood classic, Peter Pan.
Where did your journey to Neverland begin?
I started writing drafts for EOK back in 2010 (that's crazy), and my initial drafts were just awful. I initially wrote Peter as mish mash of who I remembered him being from Disney and just my childhood understanding of the story. It created a portrait of a very shallow character that was not engaging or interesting for the story. It was then very apparent to me that I needed to do my homework, and I threw out the early drafts and read both JM Barrie's book and play of Peter Pan.
What don't we know about Peter Pan?
I was shocked to discover how incredibly wrong I was about who Peter Pan is, and what Disney made him out to be. He's the epitome of innocence, but he is also very torn character who is unable to connect to humanity. He does not want to accept that in life people grow old, one of life's very natural consequences.
Taking on a Peter Pan film is a huge, huge feat. Where did the idea for the dark plot twist come from?
I wanted to explore the consequences the public would instill on the Darling Children for claiming they had a taste of something the world would deem impossible. The idea of reality destroying fantasy was very interesting to me. So ironically, the film's darkest elements just come from real life.
Is there anything you wish you could do over?
I would tweak this film every day if someone let me. But I've been incredibly selfish with this movie. It's been beyond a passion project for me. My producing team, cast, and crew, waited an entire year longer than promised to let me make the movie I wanted to make. It's my proudest and most personal work to date.
Where did you get the inspiration for the pure eeriness of it all? It's so wholly distraught and hollow…
I would say visually my two biggest inspirations were American Horror Story and The Women in Black. I wanted to bring a certain level of bleak realism to the world of JM Barrie, and I used those two worlds as references all the time.
Which group do you most identify with: Pirates, Indians, or Lost Boys?
I would totally pick the Lost Boys. Pirates are just grumpy men who are bitter of the Lost Boys. The Lost Boys have everything the pirates want and aren't. The Lost Boys could pillage and steal anything to their hearts content, and people would love them for it. Pirates not so much. So I'm going to stick with the fun-loving Lost Boy crowd. They know how to have fun. And they have also mastered the art of not growing up.
If you never grew up, how would you spend the rest of your time?
I would take full advantage of my imagination and embark on any adventures that would come from it. There is a blissful ignorance that comes with childhood; the lack of responsibility allows a child's mind to wander in places grown-ups have lost the ability to. That's something I would like to get back. To stop over-thinking things.
Favorite childhood memory?
Like Peter Pan, my memory is so selective and awful. I can't honestly recall a specific thing, but I do have a lot of fond memories celebrating Halloween with my neighborhood friends and birthday Disneyland trips with my dad and best friend, Lisa. I'm a Halloween fiend.
The one happy thought that would let you fly?
My puggles: Ace and Lola. They are both stinky and adorable. Just answering this question makes me smile.
First movie obsession?
Batman and Robin, a horrible example of filmmaking that I was utterly obsessed with as a kid.
The moment you knew directing was your passion?
I made my first movie when I was needing something to do in 8th grade with my friends over the summer. There weren't any decent movies out, so we decided to make a movie. One movie led to the next, and it became the thing I dedicated so much of my life to. I've been lucky enough to have a passion that could mirror as my career. I know a lot of people struggle just to find either, so I do feel like I hit the lottery in some sense.
Any hidden talents?
I really love to cook and have won a few cooking contests! Anyone close in my life knows I love nothing more than cooking a meal for my friends and family. Especially the holidays, I'm like, "The kitchen's MINE!"
If you could shout one message to the world that everyone would be guaranteed to hear in their own language, what would it be?
Life is too short to not do what you love.
What is next for you?
I am about to start a company with Andrew Ducote, Kensington Creative (paying homage to our roots), where we plan to offer a wide assortment of services from graphic design, to concept development, and most importantly, film and commercial production, but I'm at my happiest when I'm directing, and it's something I will always avidly pursue. I just want to keep making movies.