10 Directors to Watch: ‘Spring’ Duo Benson and Moorhead Break the Mold

'We try to do the opposite of homage films,' say the genre-bending duo responsible for Toronto fest breakout 'Spring.'

As interns for Ridley Scott’s commercial production company, RSA, Benson and Moorhead were little more than glorified gofers, but they have that gig to thank for introducing them to one another.

Benson (who also writes) grew up in San Diego, Moorhead (who handles vfx and camera duties) moved out from Tampa. When they met, it was Moorhead’s last day at RSA; Benson had just started, but they hit it off instantly and talked about pairing up. At first, it was just little projects — spec commercials and short films — while they juggled other jobs until one day, as Benson puts it, “I realized I had enough money in my checking account that we could make a lo-fi horror movie.”

So they went out and shot “Resolution,” a spooky, genre-defying intervention story plucked from oblivion by the Tribeca Film Festival. “The lore is that we sent (the ‘Resolution’ DVD) in to Tribeca, where it was discarded by an intern the same day this programmer read the description of it, thought it sounded intriguing and picked it up out of the trash,” Moorhead says.

But the duo came prepared, showing up at Tribeca armed with three more scripts. Back in L.A., they pitched those projects all around town. To their surprise, genre shingle XYZ Films (“The Raid”) encouraged them to make “the romantic one”: a supernatural swooner called “Spring” — acquired by Drafthouse Films at last fall’s Toronto film festival.

Some have likened the exotic walk-and-talk romance to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” but as with all the duo’s work (including a segment in horror omnibus “V/H/S: Viral” and an upcoming study of British cult icon Aleister Crowley called “Beasts”), “Spring” resists easy categorization.

“If we notice something we’re doing feels like homage, we run the opposite direction. We try to do the opposite of homage films,” says Moorhead. But they’ve learned an important lesson from the biz’s most successful directors: They can bend the rules and exploit genre as much as they like, so long as audiences can relate to the characters they create.

“When you watch ‘Jaws,’ if those dudes on the boat aren’t really interesting guys that you actually care about, then that shark doesn’t have as much impact,” Benson expains.

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