IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kent Moran Discusses 'Listen to Your Heart'

Saturday, 23 April 2011 13:12 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Kent Moran Discusses 'Listen to Your Heart'

Actor Kent Moran wrote, produced, and stars in the film Listen to Your Heart, which premieres Easter Sunday, April 24th on Lifetime. The film was shown at several different film festivals in 2010 and won almost a dozen festival awards along the way. The movie focuses on Danny (Moran), a struggling songwriter that falls in love with a hearing impaired-girl named Ariana (Alexia Rasmussen), who cannot hear the music she inspires him to write. Their relationship is complicated when Ariana is torn between her love for Danny and the approval of her controlling mother, played by veteran actress and Hollywood legend Cybill Shepherd (The Last Picture Show, Taxi Driver, TV's Moonlighting). I recently had a chance to speak with actor/writer/producer Kent Moran about his new film, writing the script, the reaction from the hearing-impaired community and working with Cybill Shepherd.

To begin with, you wrote and produced the film, as well as creating the music and starring in it, so what was the origin of the project for you? Did it come out of you wanting to find a vehicle for your acting and your music?

Moran: Well actually it began during pre-production on another film that a buddy and I were creating that is in a completely different genre of filmmaking, the thriller. I had this idea that had come to me in a dream actually. I sort of thought about it for two weeks, and you know my uncle is deaf, and is a singer songwriter, and all of these elements just sort of came together. I wrote the script in about two days and it was something I was very passionate about. The guys who I was supposed to be in production on the thriller with really loved this one and we decided to go with this first.

So you were inspired by your own relationship with your uncle and you just wrote that into a romantic film?

Moran: Exactly, and some of the past relationships I’d had as well and some other elements.

Was there a lot of research that you had to do into the hearing impaired community or did you already know a lot about that from your own family relationships?

Moran: A little bit of both. I definitely did my research after coming up with the idea but really I used a lot of personal experience of what he went through with his mother as well, you know my grandmother, and his experiences growing up in school and all the things he went through.

Were you looking for a project that could not only showcase your acting, but also your music?

Moran: At that time, I wasn’t originally … no but then it just sort of came together. With the whole hearing impaired thing I thought maybe I could put a twist on it. I thought I could do the singer songwriter thing as well and that would be a cool dichotomy there. It just sort of sparked from there and I ended up writing all the music while I was writing the script.

So the music was pretty much already written before you began shooting?

Moran: Yeah I wrote them at the same time.

I understand that you produced the film with your brother, what was it like working on this project with him?

Moran: It was fantastic. You know when we first got started in pre-production, he was just getting out of college and he sort of jumped right on board. He became a huge asset and we got to work together. It was so much fun, and a great learning experience for us on our first movie.

Can you talk about the relationship between Arianna and Danny in the film? How their relationship starts to blossom, then how he becomes inspired to write music for her and the tragedy of the fact that she obviously cannot hear it.

Moran: Yeah, definitely. I think its sort of a situation he’s in. You know he’s a character who lost his mother not too long ago and is sort of looking for the inspiration that she showed him in the world. So he has this positive energy that he took from her, which in my writing came from my little cousin who passed away from cancer when I was eighteen. That was another thing that inspired me to write this. I wanted to share that attitude with the world through this movie and so when he sees her, its sort of a love at first sight thing. She is a character who is very controlled by her mother who is protective of her because of her hearing impairment. The mother thinks she is doing the right thing in protecting her and the way she is protecting her. So anyways it’s sort of like their love blossoms and Cybill, who plays the mother becomes the big conflict.

Can you talk about writing the mother role and Cybill Shepherd's performance? I imagine it could have easily become a two dimensional part, so how were you able to help her balance the character so it seemed real?

Moran: Well at first glance she does come off as harsh. The thing is, its sort of what happened with my grandmother and my uncle. She thought in her eyes that she was doing the right thing. She doesn’t learn sign language because she thinks her daughter needs to learn to deal with the real world, with people who don’t know sign language and so she is constantly trying to be protective for longer with her because she has a disability. But then towards the end of the movie, you do get to see her character come around subtly and that’s when you really get to see that there is a reason she is doing this. It is because she loves her daughter and I think that is what Cybill connected to as well.

Tell me about casting Cybill Shepherd in the role? She is such a veteran actress and really kind of a Hollywood legend so how were you able to get her to agree to join the project and what was it like working with her?

Moran: It was terrific. We were very lucky. What we did was as soon as I finished the script, I found Michael Hawthorne and sent him the script. He’s a casting director, who had cast on things like Minority Report and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He read the script, loved it and helped us out. He got the script to Cybill, who at the time was our first choice for this role. So it’s really a great thing to get our first choice on that and working with her was terrific. She’s a pleasure and she brought the intensity of the character that I was looking for.

Did she bring in a lot of her own ideas? Did she work with the director to develop the character or just go right off the script? Was she very collaborative with you in the filmmaking process?

Moran: Yes she was very collaborative. We had meetings about her character often. She was always willing to experiment on set with things and different ways to make her character really pop on the screen. She really brought a lot of that to the table herself. 

What’s the reaction been like from the hearing-impaired community who maybe have seen the film? Were they touched by the themes of the movie?

Moran: Yes, and on Facebook especially I get a lot of messages from hearing-impaired people that are thanking me for making this movie. They think that we really did a great job of portraying what it is like to be deaf. It’s really great to hear that as well. It’s part of the reason why we did this so it’s great.

Now that the film is finished, how do you feel about the process overall? Are you pleased with the film and the final results?

Moran: Yeah, I couldn’t be happier. For a first film I am very happy with our effort and glad that people are getting to see it. That’s the main thing and now we know moving forward into the next movie. We will be able to carry all of our experience with us and just improve from here.

Finally, what’s next for you? Do you have another project that you are going to work on next?

Moran: Yeah, I am working on another, completely different kind of movie. Still heart warming and inspirational but it’s a boxing drama that takes place in the south Bronx. It’s called The Challenger. I’m just in pre-production on that right now.

Listen to Your Heart premieres April 24th on Lifetime. 

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