Meet Crystal Moselle

Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh45.jpg
 
 
Crystal Moselle is a filmmaker best known for her debut, Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary The Wolfpack, as well as her latest feature film Skate Kitchen. With a career defined by the unconventional and powered by social interactions, chance encounters and a dynamic editorial team, her life and travels routinely ask her to challenge her own perspective. Constantly in transit between reality and fantasy, she shares the habits and experiences that have brought her to her present.
 
Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh36.jpg
Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh7.jpg

on her morning routine

I meditate everyday, sometimes twice a day, for at least twenty minutes. It’s hard, but I absolutely have to do it or else I’ll lose my mind—my life is all over the place and I'm always traveling. I’ll then make a shake that’s been helping heal my gut. It’s a mix of GI Revive, Paleo Powder Protein Powder, a probiotic and flaxseed oil. My stomach has completely changed since then. It’s the one thing that works.

on her upbringing and moving to new york

I was born in San Francisco, and I grew up in Marin County. My dad’s a musician and my mom’s a clothing designer and artist. It was a very inspiring, open-minded household where I never felt pressured. I had to learn to put pressure on myself, and that’s exactly what I did when I moved to New York City 20 years ago.

I moved here because my grandma lived on the East Coast and I’d come visit her here. I just always knew that I wanted to be here and be an artist. In high school, I directed some plays and I was always into video so I thought I’d pursue video art.

on breaking into the new york scene

There’s this bar called Cherry Tavern that I used to hang at back in the day (Dash Snow was there all the time). I met some really good friends of mine there. They brought me to parties, and that’s how I slipped into the New York scene. I also hung out with a bunch of skater dudes. I dated an artist and a crazy photography guy.

Opportunities never came from school. It was always from friends and people I knew from going out. It’s how I met everybody, but now there’s social media and a whole other level of networking.

On her first major career shift

I studied film, and then I worked on this documentary in college about a superstar beat poet called Excavating Taylor Mead. The film went to TriBeCa Film Festival, and from there, I started working behind-the-scenes on my friend’s photoshoots and doing a lot of commercial work and fashion films. I was making MAC Cosmetics and Garnier commercials. Then I met the Wolfpack and my career path completely changed. I followed them for five years and learned how to make stories. The editor from The Wolfpack, Enat Sidi, was a mentor to me. She taught me some important aspects of being a filmmaker, but the biggest thing she taught me was about emotion.

  Jumpsuit, Miu Miu

Jumpsuit, Miu Miu

I used to have this insecurity that I didn’t know how to make movies or tell stories. I would try to write stories and they just weren’t good. When I started working on documentaries, I noticed that I was good with realism and taking reference from things that already exist. I realized I could make stories about things that I’ve experienced in life. Now I love telling stories, but it was something that I had to learn and didn’t come naturally to me. Ultimately, I developed my own style of telling stories through the experience of being thrown into things.
— on growing as a filmmaker

on finding an editor and how it made The Wolfpack and her career

I watched a lot of films and found editors that way. The first editor I worked with for The Wolfpack didn’t really work out. I didn’t know much about editing or telling stories at that point, so I went with it despite the cut not being right. I eventually looked for another editor who was in LA, but he always had one foot out the door. He recommended another editor who watched my footage and told me there wasn’t a movie there. At this point, my ego was pretty much at the lowest it could be, but I came across a film called Detropia and reached out to one of the junior editors because I was too insecure to hit up Enat Sidi. It was going well until she told me she couldn’t edit the movie either. I broke down. My producer was still encouraging and kept pushing to reach out to a dream editor and ask for their recommendations. We hit up Enat, and next thing we knew, she wanted to do it.

On getting her films funded

It helps if you have a good body of work, or if you have at least one film that does really well, like how The Wolfpack did. I funded that film with my own money for a long time. We eventually got some additional funding for the final edit, but I funded the first edit myself through my commercial work. You know, art versus commerce.

I always knew that brands would be the savior of my art. I know it sounds a lot like “selling out,” but the truth is that a lot of us have to do that kind of work. People don’t talk about it enough.

On her latest film, Skate Kitchen

I made a short film for Miu Miu Women Tales called That One Day and Kim Yutani from Sundance told me I had to make it into a feature. She gave me the confidence to do it. It was the end of the summer, and I knew I had to shoot the film the very next summer. If I didn’t, the girls would get too old and they were in school the rest of the year. Basically, I needed to make a movie in eight months, write a screenplay, and get money to fund it. My producer from Wolfpack, Izabella Tzenkova, along with Lizzie Nastro, helped made it happen. We just pretended it was happening until it did. The next thing we knew, we got into Sundance. It was wild.

  Jumpsuit, Miu Miu ; Jewelry, Susan Alexandra

Jumpsuit, Miu Miu ; Jewelry, Susan Alexandra

Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh33.jpg
I’m never on the lookout for inspiration, but traveling really helps me. For example, I went to Russia this year and it was so great. I have never felt so alien. It’s important for me to leave New York because if I don’t, I’ll start to fall into a bubble of getting caught up in my own values. My interactions with people really keep me going.
— On staying inspired
Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh14.jpg

on finding an agent

There are four big agencies—CAA, ICM, WME and UTA—that sell films and represent actors, directors, producers, etc. When I was looking for an agent, I met Rena Ronson and she was so hyped on the film that I didn’t sign with her originally. It was wrong on my part because she is now my everything, and we are taking the world on together. My advice to anyone is to go with the person who cares the most. I met with CAA and WME, but Rena really saw something in me. It’s so important to have someone that believes in you that much, especially in this industry.

On finding the right team

To me, it's all about the people, their personalities, and the energy they bring to what you're doing. I’ve worked with people who are talented, but their energy is off and it fucks the project up. It just won't flow in the right way.

I started working with my editor Nico Leunen on Skate Kitchen because Enat wasn't available. I looked far and wide because I really like the aesthetic of European filmmakers and wanted someone very particular. My friend Jonas Carpignano introduced me to Nico, and he's the most incredible editor of all time. Editors are really my mentors for storytelling, my crash course.

On self-care

I worry a lot and experience a lot of anxiety. That’s why meditation is so important. Occasionally, there comes a time when you just have to let go and trust what's happening. Basically, I just try to be as good to myself as possible. I do hypnotherapy, reiki, and acupuncture. There’s also this pilates video I do on YouTube. It's so corny but it's the best. Seriously, my best suggestion. It’s called Boho Beautiful.

on her beauty routine

I wash my face with Avene Cleanance Gel Cleanser. It's really nice and smoothes your skin out. I try to use as many organic products as possible, so I use Earth tu Face face serum, Olehenriksen Banana Bright Eye Creme, Milk Makeup Hydrating Oil Stick and Avene thermal spray on my face. I also use La Roche Posay SPF 50. For makeup, I use MAC concealer, a cheap bronzer like Wet n Wild, Sunshine Oil by Milk, and ILIA Void lipstick. Generally I don't care about brands. I also take Aromune—miracle drops that help me not get sick.

Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh29.jpg
If I need my hair to look really good, I will wash my hair at night and sleep with it braided. That way I wake up with wavy hair without the ends looking scraggly.
— on her hair routine
Crystal Moselle for Passerbuys by Lanna Apisukh25.jpg

On her favorite records

I love Prince. I grew up with like R&B and hip hop and Nirvana. I'm also a fan of atmosphere music like Nicolas Jaar. I think he is really magical and his music transcends. I have these visions of making a film with him. I also love Prince’s Kiss and Eyes of Laura Mars.

On her favorite books

For me, my work is so much about realism, so the things I like to read are about other worlds. I firmly believe in alternate dimensions. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler is a dystopian future book that takes place in California. It’s about a girl living during a huge drought while everyone is fighting over water. The conflict creates different communities and people, and the main character creates her own religion. I also love The New Gypsies by Iain Mckell, The Occult, Witchcraft and Magic: An Illustrated History by Christopher Dell, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

On her favorite films

My favorite film is Sexy Beast by Jonathan Glazer. My friend Jonas Carpignano made a movie called A Ciambra that is fucking incredible. It’s about these Gypsy kids in southern Italy. I go and hang out with them every year.

On her favorite New York City spots

I love to eat Venezuelan food at Caracas in Williamsburg. Speedy Romeo has the best grilled fish that I've ever had in my life. I also love Olea.

I used to go to Max Fish back in the day, but I don't go now because I don't really go to bars anymore. The only bar that I go to is called Alibi. It's one of the oldest bars in Brooklyn.

I love Metrograph and BAM for movies, and my favorite places to sit and people-watch are Washington Square Park and Union Square.

  Dress,    Courtney Washington

Photography by Lanna Apisukh