Ryan Harding and Winston Duke’s short film ‘Moss’ follows the migration of living rock.
By preserving the fossils of things that previously existed, rocks have played a huge role in shaping humanity’s understanding of life on earth. In an abstract science fiction short, filmmaker Ryan Harding and VFX artist Winston Duke imagine a rock itself as a separate, conscious entity, one that absorbs the collective experiences of every being that traverses its surface. The filmmakers ask how this conscious being might manifest itself having escaped its earthly confines. Through a series of digitally manipulated landscapes, Moss imagines this “migration of living matter from birth to death and thereafter.”
The beginning of the film opens like a ‘Caves’ episode of Planet Earth. Duke and Harding filmed a series of diverse rock formations under mixed light conditions to give each surface a sense of character. “We wanted to embolden the audience with a sense of familiarity but also a sense of foreboding as to what these structures mean (and where are they leading us) over the course of the narrative,” Duke tells The Creators Project. They jacked up the saturation on each frame so that the surface colors of the rocks look almost alien. The filmmakers intentionally use this sense of ambiguity to create tension within the viewer. Inside the cave we begin to notice a school of floating black orbs. As we move outside, the frame is filtered through a hazy black-and-white lens and fixates on a floating rock island in the sky.
As the camera pulls back a network of these planetary orbs envelops the island’s surrounding landscape. Duke and Harding were adamant about including a certain level of 3D tracking and compositing to whatever auxiliary graphics they used in order to establish a sense of realism. For the creation of this scene, the duo drew inspiration from logical, symmetrical patterns found in natural textured surfaces like leaves, plants, animal habitats, sand dunes, and soil. “We felt these patterns were evocative of the cyclical nature of life and we were curious about having this logical order of nature disrupted by chaos.” As the film reaches its climax, the foundation of the rock island begins to crack as pieces of earth start to fall from sky. The black orbs quickly scatter like an army of ants only to be replaced by white ones. Moss closes on a budding plant as it pokes its head out of the earth’s granular surface. Check out Moss in its entirety below: