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How one man made a film at Disney World without Disney's permission

disney world (wikimedia)

There's a palpable buzz at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and much of it is swirling around an obscure, black-and-white movie that may never see a commercial release. That's because Randy Moore's Escape from Tomorrow is more than just a film; it's an exercise in guerilla moviemaking, and a meditation on our own gawk-fueled culture.

The movie debuted at Sundance on Friday to largely glowing reviews, though its incredible backstory began three years ago, when Moore decided to shoot a film at Disney World without Disney's permission. Armed with a Canon camera and a skeleton crew of actors, the 36-year-old director began surreptitiously filming at both Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, taking every precaution to keep his project under wraps.

Shooting under Disney's nose

Rather than print out full scripts or shot sequences, Moore distributed his directions via iPhone, allowing his actors and crew members to more easily blend in with theme park crowds. He also dispersed his team throughout the park, communicating with them by phone and issuing stage directions from afar.

In fact, Moore was so concerned over secrecy that he reportedly relocated to South Korea to finish editing, for fear that a member of his post-production team may leak details to the press. Thus far, his efforts seem to have paid off. Despite shooting regularly with a crew dressed in the same clothes every day, Moore was never approached by anyone at Disney.

This sense of mystery is reflected in the film's storyline, as well. According to the Los Angeles Times, the movie's narrative is loosely centered around a middle-aged and recently unemployed father (Roy Abramsohn), who takes his family on a Disney vacation. He spends the last day of their stay touring the park with his two children, though things soon take a turn for the bizarre, as the father encounters haunting visions and begins following a pair of underage French girls.

"I have nothing against Disney."

It's a dizzying, Surrealist, and undeniably dark premise — and one that Disney likely wouldn't want to be associated with. Moore told the Times that he didn't explicitly set out to bring down Disney, though he is disappointed with the way the company has evolved over the years. "I have nothing against Disney," Moore explained. “It’s just upsetting that it was about a one-man vision, and now it’s like so much of the world in how corporate it’s all gotten. I look at Apple and Steve Jobs and my biggest fear is that something like this will happen there."

Yet even with all the film's hype and accolades, its future remains unclear, at best. The rights to Escape are being managed by Cinetic Media, though it has yet to be picked up for distribution, likely due to its inherent legal risks.

Moore, for his part, doesn't seem too concerned over its future. For him, the film's distribution is less important than what it represents — a new era of technology-enabled filmmaking that borders on the voyeuristic. "To me this is the future," he said. "Cameras in your hand. Cameras in your glasses. Anyone can be shooting at any time. And I think it will explode."

We've reached out to Disney for comment, and will update this article once we receive a response.

The Verge
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