The contentious movie, a mystery-drama which provides viewers with a memorable albeit fictional snapshot of the cataclysmic year that was 2020, celebrated its Victorian premiere last week at a sold-out Lido Cinema in Melbourne. That screening was attended by mainly film industry representatives and it followed the movie’s equally successful world premiere in Sydney last month.

For Ben-Moshe, the success of the Melbourne red-carpet event and the industry feedback that followed it was further validation that Anno 2020 is a film audiences resonate with.

“The feedback includes dozens of emails from producers and other industry guests, and the common theme is the movie made them think and feel,” he said. “Other filmmakers expressed interest in collaborating with us on future projects, and numerous radio stations, film critics, reviewers and podcasters offered to review our movie.”

The Jewish producer, who is also an actor and who plays the gut-wrenching role of a Sydneysider who must contend with anti-Semitism as well as the COVID lockdowns in Anno 2020, said the success of the screenings to date bode well for the Queensland premiere booked for Brisbane’s Five Star Cinema, in New Farm, on June 4.

“We chose to do an old-fashioned release by staging our cinema screenings first before the movie is placed on various global streaming platforms. Our thinking was this would attract more exposure before streaming, and so far, that’s the case.

“Distribution on multiple streaming platforms was always the endgame for Anno 2020. I honestly believe it was meant for online audiences as they would enjoy the stylistic approach to filmmaking we’ve taken.”

Anno 2020 has already received excellent reviews from accredited film critics, and it currently enjoys a very respectable 9.2 out of 10 stars rating on the respected film industry site IMDb.com.

Ben-Moshe’s twin brother Oren is the other half of MoneyShot Productions. Together, they have a shared love of film that dates back to acting on stage as youngsters during school assemblies.

Producers Gil (left) and Oren Ben-Moshe on the red carpet with their Associate Producer Angela Faria.

“We’d deliver announcements in a comical way in order to maintain students’ attention,” Oren Ben-Moshe said. “Which probably explains our penchant for comedy and comedic acting.”

Gil Ben-Moshe recalled it was after he returned from his gap year, spent in Israel, that he decided to seek acting representation.

“Initially, I spent two years working on filmsets as an extra, just watching other actors and directors collaborate on various television shows, commercials, and movies. Eventually, I landed major roles in TV ads for the likes of Pepsi, Mastercard and Toyota Rav 4 as well as TV shows like Home and Away, Breakers, Heartbreak High and Police Rescue.

“Movie roles included A Difficult Woman and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and I was cast in more than 40 short films where I really worked on my craft.

“The more experience I gained working on filmsets, the more determined I became to begin my own production company. I decided to join forces with Oren, and we set out to surround ourselves with a crew of talented, dedicated and committed people.

“We’ve had MoneyShot Productions for almost five years now but ran ActionTwins Productions for eight years before changing the name.

“Our primary goal remains unchanged. It is to consistently produce feature films we are proud of. Films that give audiences a genuinely amazing movie experience.”

The twins have certainly experienced the highs and lows of the industry.

In 2003, they flew to the U.S. with the script for a sitcom they’d co-written called Twin Cheeks. After shooting a pilot, they pitched it to major Los Angeles production companies, informing them that they, the Ben-Moshes, would star in it. Around the same time, they finished top seven in a major acting competition in Orlando, Florida, coming to the attention of NBC.

“They (NBC) wanted to meet with us in L.A. to discuss possibilities,” brother Gil said.

“The upshot was they watched our pilot and decided we should have our own TV show. Before they had time to develop it, our U.S. visas expired, forcing us to head to Canada, and then tragedy struck when our father passed away back in Sydney.

“We left for Australia that evening, informing NBC of our departure and effectively ending the prospect of our own sitcom. A missed opportunity perhaps, but we had to farewell our beautiful father in person.”

Ben-Moshe said there were many reasons he and Oren were drawn to producing Anno 2020 – the main one being the challenge it presented as well as the opportunity.

“This is the fourth feature film that Oren and I have participated in together with Anno 2020’s writer-director James Morcan, so we were both very aware of his talent as a filmmaker, especially with storytelling and directing. Even though this film marks James’s directorial debut, he assisted the director on a couple of those earlier movies – namely My Cornerstone and After Armageddon.

“We were mindful of the challenges that would come our way having to shoot a global movie remotely, keeping in mind most of the shoot was conducted during the strict lockdowns and travel restrictions of 2021. How we did it on a microbudget of US$6,000 I’m still not sure!

“Face-to-face auditioning of actors, which is common practice for casting any movie, wasn’t possible due to the enforced isolation of individuals during that stressful period. We had to rely on Zoom calls when auditioning and in the end go with our gut feelings on who to cast.

“As far as filming was concerned, the restrictions imposed prevented us from physically being on set. Except for some of the Australian scenes. Even then, we had to film clandestinely at times.

“We coped overall by being creative and thinking outside of the box. Attaching an iphone onto the top of a camera while filming a Zoom call between separated parties or individuals, for example, was one way we got around not being on set.

“Essentially, that was how James directed our truly international cast with actors spread over four continents. It was via Zoom. Although not conventional or orthodox, it was perfect for what we were trying to achieve.”

Ben-Moshe admitted there were many times he and his cast and crew missed the human touch.

“Physical presence of crew and fellow actors was usually non-existent. It felt bizarre and lonely at times, but it may have been for the better. Film sets are often noisy, busy, and chaotic, so the silence actors felt during takes enabled them to focus solely on their performances.

“I know I experienced my own dysphoria as shooting scenes alone initially felt weird, but I adapted to it and embraced the experience. My fellow actors expressed similar sentiments.

“Shooting on Zoom was the most intimate acting I’d ever done once I overcame that feeling of isolation. There is something unique about it. An indescribable connection, which is hard to explain.”

Despite the challenges he and his fellow actors experienced, he said the acting topped his list of the things he was proudest of.

“Every single cast member worked so hard on developing their character and their role in the movie. I truly believe there are so many performances worthy of an award.

“Kudos for this should go to James (Morcan) who was tasked with directing an international cast remotely on his directorial debut. I can only imagine how difficult that was. His directing produced absolute magic in the actors’ performances.

“James kept emphasizing throughout the shoot that ‘every role needs to be treated as a main role.’ If you ask me, the end result reveals that mantra was quite prophetic. And James would agree with me I’m sure that our cinematographer/editor Simon Carter pulled off some miracles as this wasn’t an easy film to edit.”

Ben-Moshe said next month’s Queensland premiere of Anno 2020, in Brisbane, would be another red-carpet event, and another sell-out looked likely.

“Queensland’s own Erin Connor, who plays a truly memorable role opposite acclaimed Sydney actor Greg Poppleton, will be among the actors and filmmakers present. Guests will be treated to red-carpet photos with the actors and producers, and a screening of the film followed by a Q and A session with cast members and crew.”

Highlights of Anno 2020’s Victorian premiere

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