In the not-so-distant future, a headstrong scientist, Gill, test pilots a prototype teleportation suit. Over the radio, her overbearing partner (who engineered the suit) argues with Gill about unauthorized software changes. Eager to prove herself right and him wrong, Gill missteps and the suit malfunctions. Now fighting with her only lifeline, Gill must avoid disaster and fix the suit as it teleports her randomly across the globe.
That’s the premise of the beautifully scenic, character-driven sci-fi indie short film GILL, written and directed by Kieran Moreira. A fan of science fiction and filmmaking against the backdrop of North Carolina’s stunning landscapes, Moreira is a firm believer in movie magic, because he’s seen it happen with his own independent films. He chatted with us about the making of GILL and his other forays in indie filmmaking.
RECURSOR: HOW DID YOU DEVELOPING YOUR INTEREST IN FILMMAKING?
MOREIRA: I kind of stumbled into it. I was in college as a bio major, but I took an intro to film class, and I was blown away by it. Thankfully we have a film studies major there.
WHO ARE YOUR INFLUENCES IN FILMMAKING?
I love the fantastical, and I love when films can blend that reality with fantasy. I think Alex Garland, Danny Boyle—those guys do some of the best. Boyle has done some fantastic worlds. You’re just drawn into the worlds he crafts. And that’s something I hope to do—create an interesting world that the characters can live in.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES MAKING INDIE FILMS.
All my projects are labors of love, but also just indies where I’m scrounging for resources and asking a lot of favors. My first film, THE WEAVER, is about an outcast who can reconstruct time through magnetic tape.
Then I was lucky enough to start working at a small production company that wanted to invest in making a short film. So we made a film called HARBINGER (2014), which was honestly my start of wanting to push what is possible in independent film in North Carolina.
YOU BELIEVE IN “MOVIE MAGIC.” TELL US WHAT THAT MEANS TO YOU.
The lesson I learned on HARBINGER was, “Dream big.” Yes, there are limitations that you have to be creative to get around. But sometimes there’s some movie magic that can happen. HARBINGER was centered around this boy creating a tree house. And we didn’t have a tree house, and it was a week before filming. Thankfully we got some favors called in, and someone made us a tree house within three days, right before we had to shoot.
So that was a lesson. Always dream big, because there’s a little bit of magic that can happen. And that was certainly true on GILL.
HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE VFX?
It was a combination of time and knowing the right people. GILL took two years to make from when we finished production to getting the final export done. Post-production took a huge chunk of time, and that was really because of the VFX. Thankfully, I’m well-connected with people who are doing commercial VFX, and they’re always looking for ways to flex their muscles and doing something cool and different.
Also, one of my collaborators, David Childress, was on set on day one and talked through all the logistics: “This is what I’ll need. You’ll need to consider this.” Knowing that going in, I knew he would have what he needed, and we could plan to do things the right way.
WHAT INSPIRED GILL’S THEME AND FOCUS?
There were always two main goals when we started out. One: Tell a compelling story that showcases the beauty of North Carolina, using the locations I’ve visited on family trips or just passed by that inspired me to write the scenes.
Two: Looking at a relationship that involves a power dynamic. That’s something I feel is universal. Everyone can relate to it, especially when the power dynamic isn’t equal. If you’re in a bad relationship, it can feel like you’re jumping around in time and teleporting around. So that’s the genesis of where this story came from.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR ACTORS?
Caitlin Wells (who plays Gill) came through a recommendation from the theater community. That’s actually how I found a lot of local talent—through leveraging the theater community. Theater actors are very talented; some are classically trained, but they’re always looking for film credits. They’re trying to expand their portfolio. We held a casting call and found Caitlin that way, and she was fantastic.
Lazarus Simmons (who plays the voice of Gill’s partner) was recommended by Caitlin. We were done with filming at this point, and we had a rough edit because I had used my voice as the radio voice. At that point, we just talked through what he could bring to the table.
YOU WROTE AND DIRECTED “GILL.” DO YOU PREFER ONE OR THE OTHER?
I do enjoy both, although I realize there are a lot of talented writers out there, which led me to collaborate with a friend who’s a really talented writer on another short film. I enjoy that aspect too, seeing other people’s stories and how I can bring them to life. Ultimately, I’m most comfortable at the edit bay. That’s where I feel like most of the magic happens.
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO SCREEN GILL AT FESTIVALS?
I still get really nervous watching with an audience, but you get some good reactions. It’s a great way to test out how things are landing.
Dragoncon was fantastic. I’d never been to a con. But I can honestly say it was a blast. The energy there was super exciting. The screening was completely full, and they were turning people away. That’s a good feeling as a filmmaker.
We are screening at the Charlotte Film Festival at the end of September, and I just found out we are screening at Cucalorus, which is a big Film Festival in Wilmington.
We’re promoting another short film, MERIT BADGES, that my creative partner Nicole wrote and directed, and I produced and edited. It’s a short comedy about a bunch of misfit, motley crew-ish girl scouts and their run-in with a bandit while they’re trying to sell some cookies to go to a jamboree. It’s a different genre for me. And we’re also working on a feature film idea in the sci-fi genre.
As a child, Kieran Moreira started making films with his younger brother in the woods behind their house. His debut short film, THE WEAVER (2012), screened at the prestigious Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, NC and won “Best Editing” at the Carrboro Film Festival 2012. His next film, HARBINGER (2014), won “Best Narrative Short Drama” at the 2015 Longleaf Film Festival and the “Excellence in Filmmaking” award at the 2014 Carrboro Film Festival. In early 2018, Kieran founded Negative Split Films, LLC as a platform for him and other local filmmakers to tell stories. In 2019, he released GILL, a sci-fi short film he wrote, directed, and produced about a malfunctioning teleportation suit. He also produced and edited Nicolle Jones’ short comedy MERIT BADGES (2019). Kieran’s work has been recognized by the American Advertising awards, the Global Trend Triumph awards, and countless film festivals.Keep up to date with Kieran’s latest adventures by visiting his website: Negative Split Films.