Moon Dust, a sci-fi comedy about a lunar resort that faces hardships once Mars becomes the new “hot vacation spot,” took the artist Scott Reeder 11 years to complete. Ultimately, Laura Owens’s Los Angeles project space, 356 S. Mission Road, gave Reeder the room and resources to finish his DIY labor of love. “They were like, ‘We have tons of space in L.A. Just finish this stupid thing so we don’t have to keep hearing about it,” says Reeder over a mimosa in the East Village last week, ahead of the film’s two-day run at Anthology Film Archives in downtown Manhattan. (Tonight’s screening is already sold out.)
With its simple, monochromatic sets and goofy retro-futuristic costumes, the film is far from a Marvel tent pole. Still, it does possess well-defined narrative, characters, and dialogue—qualities sometimes found lacking in artist-made films. “For a movie, it’s pretty artsy,” Reeder explains. “And for art, it’s a lot like a movie.”
It’s clear that Moon Dust, with its pastel palette and sense of humor, exists in the same bizarro universe as the artist’s more formalized studio practice. In fact, a recent series of large-scale works made using paint rollers were inspired by an experience on set when an intern tried to repaint a room, resulting in haphazard “in-between moments where the wall kind of looks like a Clyfford Still painting,” says Reeder. The artist approached the filmmaking process in much the same way he would a painting. “I’m working and seeing what happens, and then adding to it in a more organic way.”
This method contributed to the long process: The cast, which consisted of Reeder’s friends and the artist himself sporting a platinum blonde wig, were given carte blanche to improvise dialogue. As new scenes were added, new sets were built. Out in the real world, technology grew ever more sophisticated, but on the insular Moon Dust set, Reeder was shooting on the same Panasonic handheld he started out with in 2003. “It was cool at the time, but now my phone has a better camera,” he says.
Over the last 11 years, Reeder amassed over 80 hours of footage, most of which landed on the cutting room floor. “I have this idea to make a ‘B Side of the Moon,’” he says. “On the DVD, instead of being extra scenes, there’d be a whole other movie.”