What’s your name, and what do you do?
My name is Frank Mosley. And I’m a filmmaker and actor living in Austin.
When did you realize you wanted to get involved in film? Was there a “lightning struck Frank” moment, or was it more of a graudal realization?
It was sort of gradual. But the pivotal moment was my dad borrowing an uncle’s Hi-8 Sony HandyCam for the weekend. He made THE WIZARD OF OZ starring me in all the roles while my mother was out for the day. That put the bug in me….that you could capture a performance and bottle it and play it back for people to see. From there, I started making movies on my own. By the time I was 12, I had made at least a dozen or more short horror films with my buddies. By the time high school hit, I was making them almost every weekend.
You’ve been at this for a long time. Were there any other hobbies or interests that you could have seen yourself pursuing, maybe in an alternate reality?
I’ve always liked English literature. I started out wanting to be a writer with a capital W as a child. Wanting to be the next Stephen King. But then when I realized how much I loved acting and making films, it turned into scriptwriting as my outlet for wanting to write. I think in an alternate reality I would probably be an English professor (which I majored in—got my BA at UTA), if not a film professor or teacher. When I was a kid, I used to listen to all my friends who had problems–I’d be an outlet of sorts. (Which, at the time with my Catholic upbringing, made me think I should be a priest.) So I might also consider work as a counselor or therapist.
What was the best advice you received about filmmaking? Who gave it to you?
Abbas Kiarostami, at a workshop in Cuba in 2016—he said, “Don’t dictate the story into an environment. Let the story come out of the environment. It will be more truthful.” He just taught a lot about listening. Listening over speaking, showing over telling.
Who are some of the directors you’re most interested in right now? What do you admire about them?
Any filmmakers are removed from me in gender and race…. I’ve been raised on more European and American male directors…so have been really into exploring new voices. Especially in the indie world. But right now, directors like Kevin Jerome Elverson, Ana Vaz, and Laida Lertxundi are directors whose work I’m still exploring. I used to be able to want to finish watching a film all the way through out of principle…..but these days I’m so bored or disinterested by certain films I see. So I’m looking to be thrilled, surprised, provoked. Films that take risks.
What’s the weirdest role you’ve played?
That’s a tough one. Might be a toss up between a caged human pet to cannibal strippers in THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE, and, more recently, a scarred, fast talking con-artist named Stitches in the upcoming crime thriller THE GHOST WHO WALKS.
Has your career in film changed the way you look at people or situations?
Absolutely. Taught me to listen and pay attention more. Not only helps you be a better actor, but a better director. It’s all shades of gray. All nuance. Those are the things that stick.
You’ve told me before that the place you live can help or hinder your career in film. Can you talk some about that?
Yeah, I mean there are these ideas that you have to live in NYC or LA to be in the film industry. In a way, that’s true. There are more opportunities there because they are epicenters of the craft. But I’ve been living in TX my whole life and willing to travel….and have been thankful that I get work out of town. So it’s possible, but it takes more hustle on my part. It depends on if you want to pursue a career in film as opposed to having it as a hobby. If you know which direction you want, it’ll help you make a plan of what’s important to you and the kind of work you want. And that will help make decisions of where to look for work. Having agents or managers helps with that as well, of course. You have people reaching out on your behalf. It’s easy to be a drop in a bucket in the world of film. You have to find ways to get noticed. What makes you different? What do you have that others don’t?
Note: the below video contains some NSFW language.
Is it ever difficult to stay motivated? How do you overcome that?
Sometimes. Though honestly it’s not that it’s hard being motivated. I pretty much always feel the drive to make films and want to act. That’s in my blood. What I have to overcome is that feeling of wondering if I’ll actually be able to keep it as a career….versus just making movies as a hobby. I’ve always been worried about losing the purity of the thing that I do. And so it’s about how you need to keep injecting things into the work you’re after. What’s the new angle you can find. A new kind of energy to keep it fresh and real. For example, I’ve played a lot of bad guys in films. After a while, you could just make the blanket statement that “Oh, it’s another heavy”…but then it’s what makes that person human? What are the tics? What is the type of guy you want to play. I once asked to play a role in a thriller about six or seven years ago. The director wanted me to play the role like “a cool badass type”….I went the opposite and wanted to make him impish, Cheshire Grin, more like a cockroach than a snake, you know? And I gave my voice a higher pitch and a sing-songy quality as well.
What has surprised you the most about what you do? Is there a misconception you had early on that’s been turned on its head?
Hm. Not that I can really think of. I think I always knew that it would be difficult. Be honest and make good work for the right reasons. With the right people. With good people. I always knew it would be tough to get your work OUT there. So I think the only thing I’ve really learned is that I was right in thinking this. It’s gotten both easier and harder as you get older and if you’re still struggling and not making films for big studios yet. Even then, I know there are challenges to be sure. But in terms of making a living—-it’s a high wire balancing act. You make more films, act in more roles, and you get stronger. But then you can get burnt out or wonder if the film is getting out there as much as it should. That can be a disappointing realization to have.
How do your parents feel about your passion for filmmaking?
They’ve always been supportive of me. Couldn’t ask for a better support system. So encouraging and helpful. They’ve catered some of my films.. my mother has acted in several (one as a leading role). But they also both taught me to be realistic. There’s something that my dad didn’t say, but John Cassavetes’ father did—that when John told his dad he wanted to be an actor, he expected the worst from his dad—to tell him to grow up or get a real job. Instead, his dad said, “Well, that’s a big responsibility. Because as an actor..you have to be truthful. So be truthful.” His father got that there was something inherently important in the craft—that you’re holding up a mirror. People need a mirror. I think my dad would probably say the same.
One of the last times we hung out, you mentioned you joined SAG. Can you talk some about that?
Yeah. I finally joined the Screen Actors Guild. You can do so many SAG films while not being SAG…and you get “points” over time that accumulate. Eventually, they approach you if you have enough and ask you to join. I’d put off joining for a while because some indie films (my bread and butter) are afraid of working with unions because it can cost more and involve more paperwork. But I’m a place in my life and career now where I want to be protected. I also got a new agent in LA, to help branch me out to the other coast.
What’s one of the things you’re most proud of in regards to your filmmaking endeavors?
I don’t know about PROUD, but I’m THANKFUL that I’ve gotten to make the work I have. I mean, it’s a privilege to be able to make art. Not everyone in the world can. And I’m thankful that I have support and wonderful family, friends, and collaborators to do that with. What a joy. I always try to remind myself to take a moment and be thankful that I get to do what I do.
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in getting involved with filmmaking? Or advice you’d give yourself if you could go back in time without causing any weird paradoxes?
Make sure it’s a story you want to tell. Or need to tell. At least when starting out… because the work will be more honest that way. It will help you find your voice. But don’t worry about being perfect. Nothing is perfect…and the important thing is sharing the thing you want to share. You have to get it out of your system and just make something first…get your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. And know that it’s going to hurt. But you’ll be all the stronger for it.