Interview: “Long Gone By” Director Andrew Morgan and Star Erica Muñoz
We had the opportunity to chat with filmmaker Andrew Morgan and star Erica Muñoz about “Long Gone By,” a very timely and emotional drama.
PremiumBeat: Andrew, your mission statement as an artist affirms that you are a “filmmaker focused on telling stories for a better tomorrow.” What does that mean to you?
Andrew Morgan: I’m constantly struck by how the stories we believe, and the ones we tell, shape the world around us in very real and direct ways. One of the things I love most about ﬁlm is that it can open a space for us to think and feel more deeply. It gives us the opportunity to encounter things we thought we understood, in a whole new way. For me, that opens up an extraordinary opportunity to create things that challenge, inspire, and invite us all to be a part of the unfinished work of our world.
PB: Long Gone By, premiering at the New York Latino Film Festival, explores universal themes, but also is incredibly of the moment. Given your mandate as a filmmaker, how does this project fit in with your worldview? What is your aim and hope for the project?
AM: I have been looking for an excuse to work with Erica for some time now. She is a dear friend, a brilliant actor, and someone I always knew could carry a film. At the time, we were both involved in some documentary storytelling with immigrant families and began to talk about story ideas set against the backdrop of these unthinkable situations. I hope that the film we made brings viewers face to face with the human struggle facing immigrants in this country, in a way that invites a more thoughtful, human-centered conversation moving forward.
PB: You chose to shoot the film in Warsaw, Indiana. Was there a particular aesthetic about Warsaw that informed the narrative or was it financially and logistically a smart choice for production? Or both?
AM: I wanted to set the story in a very Normal Rockwell-like town but a few decades later, with the paint peeling on a particular version of the America we’ve seen on screen for so long now. And, on the practical side, we received incredible support from the community there, which made it possible to tell this story on such a small budget.
PB: Erica, not only are you the star of Long Gone By, you are also associate producer. Clearly, you have a profound emotional investment in the subject. How did your involvement come about?
Erica Muñoz: I was working with Andrew on a docu-series focused on telling untold stories about America. Andrew has this incredible way of pulling away the layers of a story until the humanity of the subjects are revealed. We were working on a few stories about the immigrant community and we were both so moved. Migrant workers in the central valley, a mother forced to take sanctuary in a church to not be separated from her three young children, a young dreamer trying to go to medical school against unfathomable odds. It was all so overwhelming. Andrew took the seed of an idea and his wife and producing partner, Emily, just hit the ground running. Despite having accessibility to better-known actors, he asked me and never auditioned another actor for the role. I’m the daughter of immigrants, so playing this role comes with a tremendous amount of gratitude and, yes, emotional investment.
PB: Erica, you’ve chosen a beautiful scene from the film for your actor’s reel, where your daughter is begging you to simply give in, move, and start over. Your silence is heartbreaking. In a look, you conveyed all your hopes and dreams for your daughter, as well as the hard life lived to know more than her. What is your way in to such a layered, complex character? And, how did you and Andrew work together to get such a raw, honest performance?
EM: When I became a mother, it cracked my heart open. Emily is also a mother and our shared love for our children is always front of mind. Thinking of the love you feel for them. The hopes you have for them. The dreams, the fears, the anxiety of motherhood made the experience very palpable for me. Andrew knows me. He knows my children. He’s close friends with my husband. We have a synergy as artists that I’ve not experienced before. More than that, he is so full of compassion and respect for the process that he knew exactly when to pull back and exactly when to lean in. I think, overall, it’s the total trust he had in me, and reverence for Ana’s story, that helped me to get there.
PB: For both of you: We are such a polarized nation at the moment. Storytelling has the ability to show the viewer what they could be if they wanted, what they’d like to be if they dared, and who they really are. Do you think Long Gone By plays into that narrative?
AM: What a beautiful question. I love the way you picked those specific words. We must return to a place of greater moral imagination in this country. A place of greater curiosity and compassion. With so much at stake, we cannot afford to ignore the experience of our fellow human beings. This story came from a desire to do just that, and I hope with all my heart that, in some small way, it helps.
EM: I read a story the other day about a group of neighbors that circled around a van that was holding an undocumented immigrant and his son, in order to protect them from deportation by ICE. That story was moving for me but also really telling. It reminded me that when we humanize the people at the center of these headlines, it becomes harder and harder to demonize them. It’s my sincere hope that our film does that.
Cover image via Long Gone By.
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