Finding Film

December 2, 2013—On a walk to work one morning, alumna Tessa Moran (C’06) decided she wanted to make a film with her husband Ben Crosbie (C’06). That idea became their first independent film, Keeping the Kibbutz, and the start to their new careers as filmmakers.

The husband-and-wife team created Eidolon Films, which produces independent films in addition to videos for nonprofit organizations. Moran and Crosbie never intended to be documentary filmmakers. “[But] we were both interested in different aspects of storytelling,” Moran said. So they spent a year saving money to buy equipment and filming side projects on weekends, before quitting their jobs and moving to Israel.

Their first film, Keeping the Kibbutz, tells the story of the community at Kfar Gildai, the kibbutz where Crosbie was born but left as a young child. They found a community trying to adapt the kibbutz lifestyle to modern times. “Our story focused on how the kibbutz had changed from a socialist commune into a capitalist community,” Moran said.

After the couple returned from Israel, they were faced with the reality of changing careers and starting as filmmakers. They needed to learn about marketing and distributing films if they ever wanted people to see Keeping the Kibbutz. So they went back to full-time jobs as they edited the film.

“When you are young and idealistic and out of college, you just want to follow your passion, do a film, and you don’t think about the business side,” Crosbie said. “It was only after we came back that we realized that if we wanted to keep doing it, we’d have to find a way to make money from a film and not just do it on the side indefinitely,” he continued.

Moran and Crosbie were searching for a way to sustain their new careers, when they were asked to do a film for a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC. “It occurred to us that we could tell a great story and actually make somewhat of a living doing this,” Moran said.

They found that choosing to work with nonprofits and social entrepreneurs was the best fit for them. “We feel the way we can do our best work and do a really good job is if we really care about the cause,” Crosbie explained.

Turning down work that wasn’t meaningful, Moran says, was difficult at first, but the couple believes that their business model has ultimately led to their growth. “It’s something that I think Georgetown taught us—this idea of ‘men and women for others’—that business and thinking of other people aren’t exclusive,” Moran said. “When we care about the work that we are doing, we do better work and that brings in more business. It ends up being a really positive cycle,” she continued.

Moran and Crosbie’s films focus on characters and community. “A theme we like to follow through all of our films—and it started with Keeping the Kibbutz—is this idea of communities in change,” Crosbie said.

Their latest film, Fate of a Salesman, follows the owner and salesmen of Men’s Fashion Center, a store open for 60 years on Washington, DC’s H Street NE. The film “carefully observes the dignity of work amid demographic and economic changes on H Street,” Associate Dean Bernard Cook said. Moran made her first short film in an American studies documentary course with Dean Cook, who is also the director of Georgetown’s Film and Media Studies Program. “In telling the story of the closure of Men’s Fashion Center, Tessa and Ben show the lived impact of gentrification and cultural change,” Cook continued.

Although their films tackle controversial topics of urban life and culture, Moran and Crosbie see their role as observers rather than commentators. “We never go into these things with a really explicit point of view,” Moran said. But they hope that their films capture fleeting moments of communities and spark conversations about others.

As Moran and Crosbie continue to develop their careers as filmmakers, they are happy with the risks that they took as young professionals. They know that being younger and less settled allowed them to take greater risks. “The worst that would have happened [was] we had spent a year or two doing something that we were interested in. I would have regretted, ten years later, having never tried it,” Crosbie said.

It’s now been more than just “a year or two,” and Eidolon Films has allowed Crosbie and Moran to travel the world telling stories. “I would have never met these people, been to these places, or learned these things had it not been for film,” Moran said. “If that’s the best thing I can achieve in my career, then I’m thrilled because it’s been great.”

—Elizabeth Wilson