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article imageNate Hapke opens up about 'To The Moon and Back' short film Special

By Markos Papadatos     Nov 17, 2020 in Entertainment
Writer and director Nate Hapke chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about his short film "To The Moon and Back" and being an artist in the digital age.
On his inspiration to write and direct this short film, he said, "It came from an image that devastated me to my core. My mother, in a hospital bed, scared for her life and unable to talk having been intubated. I was at my desk at work, and I saw this moving image come and go for a week."
"Like most things, I turned to write for catharsis in an effort to understand and work through the image and subsequent feeling that I was experiencing," he said. "The idea for the script came from the point of view of just having seen this image except maybe it had led to her passing and maybe I'd never seen her beautiful smile again: what would an older version of myself do with that? How would I work through it, especially if it were my last memory of this beacon of light, warmth, and love?"
He continued, "I put that man in the moments before he had to eulogize his loved one because people have seen the eulogy before. I wanted to see what the moment before the crying in front of a group of people was like. What was he thinking? What did he need to be able to get out there and deliver the eulogy? Who came to visit him?"
"The script came easily, the supporting cast of characters came from a desire to work with the wonderful Danielle Rayne again, and the inspiring Julie Romano for the first time and the lead was offered to the ever-talented man who told me to 'send him something because he wanted to play' on his original last day at GH. om told me that the very same week as I was seeing this horrific image, and the script was done a week later. Everything happens for a reason, and timing is everything," Hapke said.
The thing he loved most about this experience is how meaningful it was for everyone involved. "For me, it was a catharsis to have trusted actors work through my emotions, and so rewarding and enriching to get the opportunity to collaborate with this ensemble," he said.
"When I wrote the piece, I had no idea that Dom had lost his mother only a few years prior, or that Danielle used to say 'I love you to the Moon and Back' to her aunt, or that Julie had an incredibly tight bond with her grandmother. Danielle wore her aunt's broch in the film, Julie wore her grandmother's pearls; we all came together for something that felt so personal and universal at the same time. It was meant to be," he elaborated.
Dominic Zamprogna in  To The Moon and Back
Dominic Zamprogna in 'To The Moon and Back'
Dana Fytelson
For Hapke, it was a dream to work with Dom Zamprogna. "From day one of my time at General Hospital, he was one of the actors I truly respected because he transcended the screen. He added layers of gravitas and verisimilitude to every scene, no matter what was happening. And when he expressed interest in collaborating, I had to figure it out," he said.
"I've always been inspired creatively by zeal, viability, and interest. The timing worked out perfectly for an opportunity to be enriched by the experience of creating with an immensely talented actor who made me a better storyteller. I can't thank him enough and hope to work with him again in the future," he said.
On being a filmmaker in the digital age, he said, "It feels inspiring, and limitless at times, to be a filmmaker in the digital age. I think a part of me will always want to strive to be a cinema purest in the sense that all of my films should be seen on a big screen, and with the right budget, everything should be shot on film; however, I think I was made for the digital age because I've never been one to put my foot down and say 'if it can't be done this way, then I won't do it!' I think people who speak in absolutes like that never actually make anything and lose out on all of the opportunities to make imperfect creations."
"I find such beauty in imperfection and have trouble sitting still," he said. "Couple that with a desire to constantly be creating, and you'll get my filmography to date. I pride myself on my ability to make things and to get them in front of an audience, making the most of the tools in front of me. Maybe one day I'll have a bigger budget and can buy x, y, and z, and then this or that aspect of the film will be perfect. Until then, I'm going to lean into the imperfection and embrace it fully so I can continue my journey of creative enrichment."
For young and aspiring filmmakers, he offered the following advice: "My advice for young and aspiring filmmakers is to make films. As simplistic as it sounds, it's everything. We're not filmmakers, we're film...makers. Grab your friends, grab your smartphone that shoots in 4k now, write a one-page scene and shoot it four different ways. Cut them together and see which way speaks to you and ask yourself why."
"Make something else this way and see if you feel the same way. If you do, ask yourself why? If you don't, ask yourself why? 'An unexamined life is not worth living' also applies to your work as an artist. Let limitations inspire you, not thwart you. Prove you can make the most beautiful shoebox in the whole world, so that someone who can afford a house will say "here, do that with this." Because if you can't make a shoebox pretty, you won't get many opportunities with a house.
Regarding his plans for the future, he said, "The immediate future sees me returning to the directing chair for three more short films: Empiricism, Scene Study, and What's Yours is Mine. All different genres, all one day shoots, all things that can be shot in the age of COVID."
"I'm working with a wonderful group of friends in front of and behind the camera, and can't wait to share these stories with the world in 2021. I'm also in pre-production now for a feature I co-wrote with my producing/writing partner Rosie Grace entitled Two Dash One One which we're shooting next summer," he said.
On his definition of the word success, he said, "I used to define success as 'making it' as it pertained to filmmaking, my chosen journey. Fame, fortune, notoriety. Here I am, six and a half years removed from school and I've made 12 short films (which will be 15 as of December 7th) which have collectively taken home over 20 awards, I've won two Emmys for my work on General Hospital's directing team, and I've made a life for myself in LA."
"The fame, fortune, and notoriety may come and they may not and that's okay. What's in my control is how I'm living my life, how I'm prioritizing my time, and the clarity as to why I do what I do. I moved here to tell stories, and here I am," he said.
He remarked about To The Moon and Back, "I hope people see To the Moon and Back, first and foremost, because I want people to see it. I hope that it connects with some who have grieved, are grieving, or are anticipating grief. An underlying message in the film is that there's solidarity in loss and sharing the experience can provide a sense of solace in others and a sense of community that allows for the feeling of being alone to be assuaged, even if it's just momentary."
"There's also an idea planted in the film about how people live on beyond death in ways we may realize right away, in ways we may never realize, and in ways, we may not realize for quite some time. Bonds we share with loved ones carry on linking the past with the present, and beyond. The cyclical journey to the moon and back always leads back to your heart, and our loved ones never leave our hearts," he concluded.
Read More: To The Moon and Back earned a glowing review from Digital Journal.
Nate Hapke
Nate Hapke
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