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Director Reed Morano Seizes Her Moment

  • Reed Morano won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series during the 69th Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Calif. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

  • Reed Morano arrives at the 75th Annual Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

  • Reed Morano wins the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series during the show at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

  • Director Reed Morano and actor Peter Dinklage on the set of I Think We're Alone Now, which screened recently at the Sundance Film Festival. Morano, a Hanover High School graduate, has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her work on "The Handmaid's Tale." (Beka Venezia photograph)

  • Reed Morano at the Emmy Awards last September. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 02, 2018

Reed Morano expects her Groundhog Day to run something like this today:

Waiting in or hurrying through an airport terminal in either London or New York;

Flying west toward Hollywood;

and

Waiting in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California for the Directors Guild of America to announce its award for outstanding directorial achievement in a dramatic series for television.

Welcome to just one episode in the hectic world of this 1995 graduate of Hanover High School.

Morano, who has already won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for directing the first three episodes of Hulu’s acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, received a special award for filmmaking last weekend at the Sundance Film Festival for her new big-screen feature, I Think We’re Alone Now. Her mother, Lyn Lord, who still lives in the Upper Valley, got to attend the festival, as she did the Emmys in September.

After Sundance, Morano rushed to London to edit her next feature, Rhythm Section, which stars Blake Lively as a woman seeking revenge against the people who plotted the plane crash that killed her family.

Tonight, her competition includes the directors — all men — of three separate episodes of Game of Thrones and one of Stranger Things.

And before she heads back to London to edit and shoot more scenes for Rhythm Section, she’ll try to catch her breath — and some time in New York with her children, ages 7 and 9.

“It’s a little crazy now,” Morano said on Tuesday, during a telephone conversation that included several minutes in a London elevator. After her first directorial feature, Meadowland, hit theaters in the fall of 2015, “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Then it all started happening at once.”

The longtime cinematographer was directing and shooting single episodes of the TV series Halt and Catch Fire and Billions early in 2016, when the opportunity came along to pitch her vision for the pilot episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, in which Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) stars as a woman forced to bear children for infertile couples in a rigid patriarchy that has replaced the country formerly known as the United States.

“I had to fight really hard just to get the interview,” Morano recalled. “At the interview, I had to prove myself. I had to show I had a specific tone in mind.”

Pre-production and shooting began during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“It felt like it could become timely, but it was still a slightly simpler time,” Morano said. “I and the rest of the cast and crew still lived in a bit of a fantasy land, not thinking we’d ever be in the scenario that the show depicts. It was, ‘That would be crazy. That would never happen.’”

Then Donald Trump won the election despite the release of footage of him bragging about being free, as a reality TV star, to sexually assault any woman who caught his fancy. Trump brought with him a vice president, evangelical Christian Mike Pence, who as governor of Indiana had enacted a variety of policies limiting women’s reproductive freedom.

And then The Handmaid’s Tale hit the streaming service Hulu with a bang.

“I like to think it would have been relevant even if the election had gone the other way,” Morano said. “I wouldn’t say it was a good thing for the series. If I could have a wish and have it the other way, I would pick the other way. There still would have been a conversation.”

The outing last fall and this winter of heavyweight movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and of other major figures in the entertainment world and other industries, further fueled the conversation. Still, it was a discussion that Morano and her peers had been having for years.

“Gender equality has been an issue for a while,” Morano said. “As encouraging as the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have been, it hasn’t been that successful yet. The world is changing, but it’s changing at a pretty slow rate. Looking across the board, most women and minorities in most lines of work are still suffering because of a lack of opportunity.”

Morano figures that her own opportunity to take the helm of the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale was “a combination of all the work that I’d done. In Meadowland, they saw a directorial style that they liked. And my years as a director of photography were important, too. They wanted someone who had a strong visual style.

“It’s your body of work, really. It’s not just one thing.”

In addition to the recognition and work coming her way, Morano finds encouragement in the Oscar nominations last week of Greta Gerwig as best director for Lady Bird and of cinematographer Rachel Morrison for Mudbound — a first for a woman director of photography.

“Aside from her being able to break that ceiling, I’m thrilled because Rachel is also one of my closest cinematographer friends. We went to NYU film school together, and we’re sort of like unofficial sisters. For that to happen to her feels so close to me. The pride for her is really powerful, really emotional. She and I had fought our way up together, supported each other, turned to each other for advice. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve witnessed lately. … So many women who came before had shot beautiful movies but weren’t nominated, weren’t even considered. Now, that door has been opened. It opens so many possibilities.

“When you get a little, you want more. Hopefully, there’ll be a little more than the token female in each category from now on.”

The Dartmouth Film Society this week made initial inquiries about bringing Morano and I Think We’re Alone Now to one of the college’s theaters this spring. Right before her directing career took off, she showed Meadowland in Hanover in the fall of 2015.

“I certainly will try to make it happen,” Morano said of another hometown screening. “It would be nice to bring the movie home.”

Where the Wild Things Are

Grantham’s Dunbar Free Library screens the 1993 Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day tonight at 6:30. Andie MacDowell plays the co-worker/love interest of Murray’s character, an obnoxious TV weatherman who finds himself repeating Feb. 2 morning after morning while covering Punxsutawney, Pa.’s most famous resident’s annual mid-winter re-emergence from hibernation. Admission is free

The conservation commissions of Thetford and West Fairlee co-host a screening of finalists from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival at Thetford Academy, on Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. Admission is free to the academy’s Martha Jane Rich Theater.

By the Book

Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center screens documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s new feature, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library on Sunday afternoon at 4, in Loew Auditorium at the Black Family Visual Arts Center in Hanover. Admission to the movie, which runs three hours and 17 minutes, costs $5 to $10

On the House

The Cine Salon series resumes at Hanover’s Howe Library on Monday night, with a free screening of Lewis Milestone’s 1946 noir drama The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. The film, which stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas, starts at 7 in the library’s Mayer Room.

To learn more about the series, which is on the theme “Inhabitants” and runs through April 16, visit howelibrary.org.

The Norwich Public Library continues its February series of movies with African-American themes on Thursday night, with a screening of Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-nominated horror film Get Out. Admission is free. Next up are the PBS documentary John Lewis: Get in the Way on Feb. 15 and the 2016 Academy Award-winning drama Moonlight on Feb. 22.

The Mascoma Film Society resumes its series of free weekly movies with a screening of The Remains of the Day in the auditorium of Mascoma Valley Regional High School next Friday night at 6:30. The 1993 adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel stars Anthony Hopkins as a repressed English butler who faces a crisis of conscience in the years leading up to World War II. Mascoma’s next movie, Casablanca, takes over the screen on Valentine’s Day. For the full schedule, visit mascomafilmsociety.org.

Looking Back

The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park screens an abbreviated version of Land and Legacy of an Art Colony, the documentary that Norwich-based filmmaker Nora Jacobson directed last summer, on Feb. 10 at the park’s Forest Center.

Jacobson and Etna author Fern Meyers co-produced the film, which traces the evolution of the network of visual and performing artists, writers and pioneering conservationists who orbited around Gilded Age sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in and around Cornish late in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The full feature is being prepared for possible broadcast on public television.

Before the 26-minute screening, which starts at 11:30 a.m., there will be an exhibition of snow sculptures at the Forest Center, a satellite visitor facility on the grounds of the Rockefeller mansion. Jacobson and Meyers will lead a discussion after the movie. Admission is free. In the event of bad weather, the movie will be screened on Feb. 11.

Hear Them Roar

The Woodstock Vermont Film Series resumes on Feb. 10 at the Billings Farm and Museum, with screenings at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. of Tanna, the first feature shot entirely in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The one-hour, 44-minute film, which earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign film in 2015, features members of that island nation’s Yakel tribe re-enacting a true story from their recent history. According to a synopsis on the Internet Movie Database, it focuses on “a sister’s loyalty, a forbidden love affair and the pact between the old ways and the new.” To reserve tickets ($6 to $11), visit billingsfarm.org or call 802-457-2355.

The Dartmouth Film Society will screen several short movies about adventurous female athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, from Colorado’s No Man’s Land Film Festival, on Feb. 18 at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. For tickets ($5 to $10) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.