I spent most of my summer working on a film that I eventually titled, In a Landscape, Dreaming featuring the world-renowned pianist Pedja Muzijevic playing the music of John Cage throughout the hills and valleys of Montana. Not only was it an incredible filmmaking journey, but it was also one of the most meaningful teaching experiences I've ever had in my life.
I usually try to document the process of filmmaking on this website, but the whole thing happened so quickly that I'm only able to catch up in retrospect. The basics are: thanks to a grant from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, I was able to take three of my students to the Tippet Rise Arts Center in Fishtail, Montana to make an experimental landscape film about a John Cage piece called, appropriately enough, In a Landscape. This particular piece seems to me to be one of Cage's most accessible works, almost explicitly referencing Debussy's Reverie (recently infecting brains of fans of HBO's Westworld). Cage's piece, too, seems to be about dreams. As I listened to the track in the months leading up to the shoot, I found myself drifting into daydreams about the sky and the plains. And so the "story" of my film took shape - a pianist gets lost in his work and wanders through the landscape that bore him, inspired him, or maybe was even created by him. I was thinking equally of Owen Land's New Improved Institutional Quality: In the Environment of Liquids and Nasals a Parasitic Vowel Sometimes Develops as I was Peter Hutton's Skagafjordur. In both films I find themes that connect to my fascination of Zen Buddhism - namely regarding the insignificance and ephemerality of humanity in either the sublime nature that preceded us, or the hysterically sublime structures that we have created. And with these influences in mind, I set off with my students, a camera, and a tripod (no fancy rigs, no automation, no motion stabilizers) to make a film about a man whose daydream leads him to float like the speck of dust he is through the infinite landscape.
Today I was awarded the most meaningful honor I have ever received: the John S. King Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. When I was told that I had been selected, I was moved to tears. I've wanted to be a teacher since I was very, very young. It's already such an honor to be a tenured faculty member at Connecticut College; I never believed I would be recognized as an outstanding faculty member among such incredible people.
Here's the text from the College's press release below, and you can read about the other awesome awards (including my dear friend, Ginny Anderson) here.
Ross Morin ’05, a professor at the College since 2011, is the winner of the John S. King Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award was established to recognize teacher-scholars with high standards of teaching excellence and concern for students. It is named for the beloved professor of German whose warmth and humanity touched all who knew him.
Morin, an independent filmmaker, editor and cinematographer, believes in teaching film production as a combination of art, storytelling and social justice activism. His courses emphasize a strong relationship between practice and theory.
As acting chair of the department, he has shaped a curriculum that teaches fundamental and advanced technique, craft, art and skills like a traditional film school while integrating the intellectual and theoretical field of film studies. Morin immerses his students in the study of film, while at the same time teaching them to write and direct their own work.
In nominating Morin for the King Award, Associate Professor of Philosophy Simon Feldman praised his ability to teach students, many of whom have no previous experience studying or creating film, to produce work that is “remarkable in its scope and quality.”
“From watching Ross’s students’ thoughtful and active class participation, seeing their work on screen, and watching them do their work, I can say that they leave his courses with preconceptions shattered, having been drawn, by Ross, into newly imagined social, political and critical possibilities for their own work and for what film can be.”
As a scholar, Morin is interested in the representation of sexuality and gender in film and television, in particular the student film. He is the co-founder of Kiltered Productions, and his award-winning film work has screened nationally and internationally. His most recent short film, A Peculiar Thud is touring film festivals around the world.
Thanks to Kristina and The Day for this interview!
Published January 12. 2018 12:21PM | Updated January 12. 2018 4:00PM
By Kristina Dorsey Day staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
As the new movie “The Disaster Artist” has been making its way through screenings and positive reviews, one phrase about “The Room” — the notoriously and enjoyably awful 2003 film that serves as the basis for “The Disaster Artist” — keeps bubbling up.
“The Room,” you have no doubt heard, is “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
It’s a genius phrase and one that gave “The Room” a certain the-world-is-upside-down cachet.
That quote was originally uttered in 2008 by Ross Morin, a Connecticut College alum who is now associate professor of film studies and film department chair at the school.
A reporter from Entertainment Weekly called Morin back then for an article about “The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room.’” At the time, Morin was an assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and he and his friends were hosting screenings of “The Room” that were drawing more and more viewers.
That Entertainment Weekly article, as Morin notes, propelled “The Room” to fame.
And it turned Morin’s assessment into a calling card of sorts for the movie.
“It’s not one of the more interesting things I’ve ever said, but it just sort of stuck,” Morin says. “It was a string of many things I was saying (to the reporter). You never know what you say that people are going to latch onto.”
He has since been interviewed by publications ranging from The Huffington Post to The Sunday Times of London about the strange little movie.
Morin uses “The Room” — directed and written by and starring Tommy Wiseau, it’s about a banker’s fiancée seducing his best friend — in classes he teaches at Conn College, since seeing a movie that goes so wrong can be a valuable learning tool for students.
“As a film professor, I see lots of people making films for the first time, and I see a lot of mistakes. I see a lot of baby-steps bad filmmaking mistakes,” he says. “‘The Room’ doesn’t just make mistakes. It exaggerates the mistakes in epic ways. … ‘The Room’ repeatedly exaggerates failure, and that exaggeration of failure and that exaggeration of wrong decision-making is fascinating. I love bad movies. I’ve always loved bad movies. But this movie, from top to bottom, makes the wrong choices of what to do. It’s wrong not just because, oops, the camera is in the wrong place or, oops, it’s out of focus, although that’s certainly a part of it. It’s like it gets humanity wrong in some way. It gets what it means to be a human wrong …
“It really does feel as though someone from another planet observed sitcoms from the ’80s and ’90s and maybe they watched a little porno, too, and they were like, ‘OK, that is humanity, and I’m going to make a movie about it.’”
Morin has been a “Room” enthusiast since he first saw it, as a grad student at Ohio University in 2007. His roommate bought a “Room” DVD with some friends, and a small group screened it — and then screened it again the following month, with double the number of people showing up. The audience grew in size again the following month. By the end of the year, hundreds gathered to watch “The Room” projected on the side of a building.
A newspaper in Ohio wrote about these screenings, and the Entertainment Weekly writer must have seen that article and so contacted him, Morin surmises.
“We inadvertently were responsible for helping to create the cult following for ‘The Room.’ I had no idea that was happening. I just knew I was part of something magical and really, really special,” Morin says.
Ross Morin (Submitted)As for “The Disaster Artist,” Morin hasn’t seen it yet. (“The Disaster Artist” had been riding high on a wave of awards-season buzz — until star/director/co-producer James Franco won a Golden Globe Award on Sunday for his performance. After that, a series of women went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Franco.)
“The Disaster Artist” is based on the book of the same name by “Room” star Greg Sestero and with the subtitle “My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” Morin loved the book, saying it “was one of the most special experiences I had reading a book. I laughed tears to the point of throwing the book across the room.”
He was moved, too, by the touching relationship portrayed between Sestero and director Tommy Wiseau.
Sestero came to Connecticut College in 2013 to talk in a public session about the book and the movie, and Morin recalls the two of them sitting in High 5’s in New London and Sestero discussing whether he should sell the movie rights to the book.
“I feel very protective of my personal experience of reading that book,” Morin says — hence his reluctance to see the movie adaptation.
But Morin remains a devoted fan of “The Room.” “Citizen Kane” might be widely considered the most important film of all time, but Morin says, “I guess my argument is ‘The Room’ is just as important, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. It deserves to be taught in every class in some way. There’s something to be gained from it. It’s one of the most important films ever made, and it’s the most important bad film ever made.”
I had a blast this weekend at the Macabre Faire Film Festival in New York where A Peculiar Thud was nominated for Best Editing. I was joined with the film's editor (and my dear friend) Brian Newell for a weekend of horror films, panels, and parties. Thanks so much, Elsie, for selecting our film and having us back this year!
This weekend I made an appearance on KARE11 in Minneapolis to talk about Tommy Wiseau's THE ROOM and my quote calling it "The Citizen Kane of bad movies." Check it out the video here:
Ross Morin was teaching at St. Cloud State a decade ago when he said something about "The Room" that changed everything.
Author: Cory Hepola. Published: 5:20 PM CST January 5, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS - It's a long, funny story. And James Franco is telling it in "The Disaster Artist," based on the making of the 2003 film "The Room."
"The Room" is considered by many to be the worst movie ever made.
Ross Morin is an award-winning filmmaker and professor at Connecticut College, and "The Room" is a part of his curriculum.
"It is a sexist film, it is a terribly written film, it is a terribly directed film, and all the choices that are made, they're not really even just bad or terrible. They're like wrong," said Morin. "And, it serves as an incredible teaching tool for those reasons."
Morin was teaching it at St. Cloud State ten years ago. That's when "Entertainment Weekly" called him, asking him about "The Room."
"You know, he asked me what I thought about it. I said a bunch of things and ultimately I said it was the Citizen Kane of bad movies," said Morin.
"Citizen Kane," which is thought to be the greatest movie ever.
Morin's quote blew up; it was featured in EW's article "The Crazy Cult of The Room," helping this horrible film go mainstream. A book was written in 2013, and now a major motion picture that's earned two Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor.
"I'm thrilled that this little sentence that I said about being the 'Citizen Kane' of bad movies is in some way attached to the success of this movie because I love 'The Room,' it is my favorite film," said Morin.
Happy new year, horror fans! I'm delighted to announce that A PECULIAR THUD is an official selection of the Macabre Faire Film Festival and it has been nominated for BEST EDITING. Brian Newell, the film’s editor, and I will be traveling to Long Island for a weekend of terror at one of our favorite festivals. A PECULIAR THUD will screen at 2:30 this Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday. We’ll be there for Q&As, panels, mixing and mingling. Get your tickets here: http://www.macabrefairefilmfest.com/tickets2.html. Thanks to Elsie and Macabre Faire for selecting and nominating our film!
We are proud to announce that Ross Morin’s A PECULIAR THUD is the official selection of two festivals happening this week. On Friday, November 10 and Saturday the 11th, A Peculiar Thud will screen in Michigan at the 20th annual East Lansing Film Festival (tickets at http://elff.com/festival). On Saturday, the film will be in the UK, screening at the Cornwall Film Festival (tickets at http://cornwallfilmfestival.com/official17) where it is in competition for Best Short Film. The Cornwall Film Festival has called it, “so inherently spine tingling we highly recommend it’s not watched alone.” Thanks so much to Susan and the team at ELFF, and Michael and the team at the CFF for making our film an official selection of your awesome festivals!
Halloween may be over but our reign of terror continues... We are psyched that A PECULIAR THUD is an official selection of the 17th annual Kansas International Film Festival! It will be screening tonight as part of the Things That Go Bump in the Night horror program at 7:45. Get your tickets here http://www.kansasfilm.com/attend-kiff-2017/
Thanks to Ben and the team at KIFF for selecting our film!
A full weekend of Halloween terror! This week, Ross Morin’s A PECULIAR THUD will screen at four film festivals across North America. Thursday, October 19, the film will be screening at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival in Georgia (www.atlantahorrorfilmfest.com/neversleepagain.html). Friday night, it’ll be screening at the Sanford International Film Festival in Maine (www.sanfordfilmfest.com) where the film is Nominated for Best Horror Film. On Saturday the 21 and Tuesday the 24th, we’ll be at the Orlando Film Festival in Florida (www.orlandofilmfest.com/movies/a-peculiar-thud/) and producer/DP Matt Herbertz will be in attendance. And finally, on Sunday, Oct 22, we’re off to Canada for the Terror In The Bay Film Festival in Ontario (www.terrorinthebay.com) where Malcolm Mills has been nominated for Best Actor!
Thank you to all these incredible festivals for accepting our film!
This Friday, October 6, A Peculiar Thud will be screening in Manchester, UK at the @Grimmfest Horror Film Festival. Tickets available: http://grimmfest.com/grimmupnorth/2017/09/a-peculiar-thud/ for those of you overseas. Thanks, Emmanuel, Greg and the rest of the Grimmfest team for selecting our film!
Happy to announce that A Peculiar Thud is the official selection of the 14th annual The Halloween Horror Picture Show in Tampa, FL where it will be screening on Saturday, September 30. (tickets at: www.thehalloweenhorrorpictureshow.com).
AND we are also the official selection of the Great Lakes International Film Festival in Erie, PA where we have been NOMINATED FOR BEST HORROR! Winners will be announced September 30 (tickets at: www.greatlakesfilmfest.com).
Thanks to both of these festivals for selecting our film!
More great news! A Peculiar Thud is an official selection of the 15th annual Fargo Fantastic Film Festival in Fargo, North Dakota AND the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina – both festivals will screen the film this Saturday!
The Fargo Fantastic Film Festival (http://www.valleycon.com/filmfest/index.html) will screen at the historic Fargo Theater and the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival will screen at the historic Carolina Theater in Greensboro http://www.wreakhavochorrorfilmfest.com.
Thanks, Fargo and Wreak Havoc for selecting our film!
A Peculiar Thud won Best Horror at the Coney Island Film Festival this weekend! Congratulations and thanks to my team Matt Herbertz, Stuart Vyse, Malcolm Mills, Ryän Wilsön II, Kyle Clark, Brian Newell, Tom Digges, and Gregg Hammond. And a huge thank you to Coney Island Film Festival for putting on an amazing show with an awesome crowd.
This week, we're back in NYC!
A Peculiar Thud will be screening at the Anthology Film Archives where it has been accepted by NewFilmmakers New York! Check it out this Wednesday at 7:00pm! Thanks, NewFilmmakers New York for selecting our film!
Event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1470040593048489
A Peculiar Thud is an official selection of the 9th annual Grimmfest in Manchester, UK, where it will screen on October 6, 2017. Thanks so much to Emmanuel, Greg, and Grimmfest for selecting our film for this year's lineup! Tickets available here: http://grimmfest.com/grimmupnorth/2017/09/grimmfest-2017-full-line-up/
Malcolm Mills took home the Best Actor award for A Peculiar Thud at the Liberty Massacre Horror Short Film Festival in Philadelphia this weekend. Thanks to Loren and Liberty Massacre and congrats to Malcolm for his terrifying performance!
A Peculiar Thud is an official selection of the Sanford International Film Festival in Maine. The festival runs October 18-22. More information at their website: www.sanfordfilmfest.com. Thank you, James and the rest of Sanford International Film Festival for accepting our film!
A Peculiar Thud screens this Wednesday night at the 2017 SAFILM - San Antonio Film Festival (which opens tomorrow) and in the Thrills and Chills Shorts block. Check out their very cool festival and program here: http://safilm.com/2017-san-antonio-film-festival-program/. Tickets available here https://events.time.ly/o51h1u1/355307?popup=1. Thanks, SAFILM, for selecting our film to be a part of this year’s awesome lineup!
Deadpoint (which I co-wrote and edited) and A Peculiar Thud will be screening at two festivals this Friday, July 14. Links below!