"Escape" is a character study of sorts about a man who seems to have lost any sense of optimism in a place overrun with it, but the movie is not easy to describe. The film is reminiscent of the works of David Lynch, both in its deadpan tone and its utter inscrutability.
The plot centers on a down-on-his luck man in his 40s (Roy Abramsohn) on the last day of a Disney World vacation with his henpecking wife and their two angelic children. As he takes his children to various attractions, the father is haunted by disturbing imagery; meanwhile, he is also (with his kids in tow) tailing two flirtatious French girls. Airy music that evokes classic Hollywood films plays in many scenes, giving a light shading to the darker moments.
It is not always clear what exists in the father's mind and what is happening in the real world. Sometimes it's not clear what is happening, period - a scene at a spaceship exhibit suggests the father is part of a larger, possibly extraterrestrial-themed experiment.
"I like movies that you have to see several times," Moore said. "I don't like movies that have a skeleton key that explains everything."
The surreptitious shooting required meticulous planning - and creativity. For starters, Moore wouldn't print out script pages or shot sequences, instead keeping all the information on iPhones. This way, passersby would think the actors and crew were glancing at their messages instead of setting up their next scene.
Although Moore's actors entered the parks wearing the same clothes day after day, and Moore was filming with abandon, park authorities never shut down the production - in part, the director suspects, because using a camera is about as natural an act as you can imagine at Disneyland.
Still, Moore worked under some serious constraints, often having to stand with his assistant director across the park and communicating by phone as actors moved in front of his cinematographer, so that it didn't look like a crew was forming.
Most of the extras were real people unaware they were being shot (which could present its own legal issues). Abramsohn said the experience was "emotionally intense.... (I was) a little scared as an actor running around and bumping into actual people."
Remarkably, though, "Escape" does not play like a guerrilla filmmaking exercise. There are numerous wide shots, and scenes luxuriating in classic Disney images. The film looks as if it were made with the company's full cooperation.
"To me this is the future - cameras in your hand, cameras in your glasses," Moore said. "Anyone can be shooting at any time."Moore graduated from Full Sail University's film school near Orlando and had never shot a feature movie before this. He said he largely financed "Escape," whose budget he pegs at less than $1 million, with an inheritance from his grandparents.
The director was surprised Sundance organizers accepted his movie given, he said, the festival's abundance of corporate sponsors. (Before Friday's screening, festival programmer Trevor Groth said he was "blown away" by the film.)
Moore has hired Sloss to peddle his film to buyers, who would then distribute the film to theaters and other platforms such as video on demand. But whether any will nibble, given the potential legal headaches, remains to be seen.
"I don't think it's a given that this film is not protected" by First Amendment law, said Sloss, who is also an attorney. "The issues of trademark and free expression are complicated."
Moore said no matter what happens, he feels satisfied by what he's created.
"It's out there, and no one can change that," he said. "If this never gets distribution, that's OK. If not a lot of people see it, that's OK. I made it, and it's in the world. That's all I ever really wanted."