By Bekah Wright
Published Apr 1, 2011 8:00 AM
Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion states that forces always occur in pairs. It goes further to say that every action is accompanied by a reaction of equal magnitude, but opposite direction. Follow the paths of Junie Hildebrandt Ph.D. '07 and Richard Moon, spouses who co-own MoonHill Productions LLC, and it's easy to see Newton's Third Law in action.
Natives of Pasadena, Hildebrandt and Moon were high school sweethearts who married in 2001. Hildebrandt was pursuing her doctorate in molecular and medical pharmacology in Westwood. Moon majored in physics and earned his undergrad degree at UC Riverside. Thus began years of commuting for the sake of love and education — weekly treks that became the inspiration for their latest film, Driving by Braille.
How did two scientists go from laboratories to film sets? It's a typical Southern California story: Blame the commute.
After graduation, Moon had trouble finding a job, as "the science industry was in the tank at the time," he recalls.
Hildebrandt came up with a suggestion based on the prose born during Moon's hours of commuting by train — he should give screenwriting a shot. Dipping his toe into the format, Moon was rewarded with a job to co-write a feature script.
By 2008, Moon had several years of screenwriting under his belt, and was spending a good deal of time at pitch and film festivals and not enough with his wife. "It was frustrating because I wanted to be with her, versus a guy across the table who was just going to say no anyway."
Then, Moon had an epiphany: "Maybe I should try and skip the step of selling the screenplay and just put the movie together."
Hildebrandt, inspired by what she refers to as UCLA's nexus of interdepartmental communication, was immediately onboard and determined they needed to start a production company.
In 2009, the duo launched MoonHill Productions and, since then, have produced five short and feature-length film projects. Their most recent, Driving by Braille — a love story about a woman thrust into a personal crisis due to a childhood trauma — included a crew of several UCLA alumni, including director Kristina Lloyd '99.
A lonely man fights for a family connection. A frontier town booms — in space. What's next? Find out more at MoonHill Productions.
Now that Driving by Braille is in the can, MoonHill Productions has entered it in this summer's Los Angeles Film Festival — the film has already been accepted at the Action on Film International Film Festival. Meanwhile, new projects are already in the works. And when the twosome reflect on their journey, they don't so much marvel at its direction as recognize the logic of it.
"I can totally see how moviemaking and science are connected," Hildebrandt says. "Project management is project management, whether it's with experiments or movies."