Early in the development of Disfluency, writer-director Anna Baumgarten found herself at a crossroads. Her producing partner had to drop out of the project, and Baumgarten wasn’t sure if she would be able to both produce and direct the film. She considered passing it off to another director while staying on as producer.
Baumgarten reached out to Danny Mooney — a fellow University of Michigan alum with experience producing and directing —for advice. Mooney was on hand at the Naples International Film Festival Friday to explain what happened next.
“If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” Baumgarten asked him. She told him about the project, which follows a college senior (Libe Barer) who flunks out in her final semester after the trauma of a sexual assault takes over her life.
“The story is pulled, unfortunately, from the experience of Anna,” Mooney explained. (She discussed the traumatic experience earlier this year with Moveable Fest.)
Mooney’s advice to Baumgarten was simple: “I think I would convince me to produce for you, because I don’t think anyone else can direct this story. I really don’t,” he told her.
Their roles were set.
Adapted from a 2018 short — which you can watch here— the project was developed with the assistance of Vanishing Angle’s “Short to Feature” lab. The lab is a weeklong workshop in Malibu run by Vanishing Angle’s Jim Cummings and Ben Wiessner. Cummings is very vocal about his desire to help aid the next generation of filmmakers.
“They helped shepherd Anna in the process of taking a small short and expanding it into 90 minutes. And then they handed it off to us, and we ran with it,” Mooney said of the lab. But their impact didn’t end there.
“And now Vanishing Angle’s acting as our quasi sales company as well,” Mooney added.
After a successful film festival circuit run, including a win at the Oxford Film Festival earlier this year, Mooney says the Disfluency team “are collecting offers right now for distribution and just trying to feel that out and see what would make sense.”
Disfluency is in the Narrative Features Competition category at the Naples International Film Festival.