Midwest Filmmakers Travel To Cannes Short Film Corner

The award-winning, Midwestern-based short film, A Cloudy Moon, screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner in May. An ode to cozy flirtations, wistful recollections and spontaneous song, the six-and-a-half-minute mini-musical captures the delicate nuance of relationships while celebrating the power of caffeine. 

“The bulk of the film is two characters agreeing to meet at — and then meeting at — a coffee shop,” explains Director TJ Hill. “You don’t really dissect it in the moment, but afterwards I remembered that my father hates coffee but makes it every morning for my mom.”

Describing this real-life labor of love is an apt reference for the film, which follows the ups and downs of Nick (played by TJ’s brother Aaron Hill, who also wrote the script) and Alexis (Ellie Laesch) who may or may not spend their lives together. 

Before its European debut, the film screened at the Northwest Illinois Film Office’s annual Shorts-a-Palooza.

The concept for A Cloudy Moon evolved during a one-night burst of creativity at a diner in Wisconsin. Energized by the rules of the 48 Hour Film Project, where filmmakers are required to complete a film in two days, it is the fruit of a crew hailing largely from Chicago and Northern Illinois. 

Hill, who started his career as a music teacher, composed the music for the film later that night. He completed the lyrics with Aaron.  

Two weeks after advancing from the Madison 48 Hour Film Festival to the national competition in Los Angeles, the crew learned word that their film was scheduled to screen at the 2023 Cannes Short Film Corner.

In hopes of taking his fellow filmmakers across the pond, Hill launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover travel expenses. By the time A Cloudy Moon lit up the screen, he had raised enough to help more than half a dozen crew members take the trip. 

Hill is entirely grateful but not necessarily surprised by the campaign’s success. 

“Something that I found about the Madison community overall is that, while filmmakers are always trying to sharpen their skills and up the ante, they’re also really looking out for each other,” he explains. “The contacts that I’ve made in Madison have been extremely encouraging.”

In Cannes, the team was immersed in the cinema business. 

“There are buyers and sellers and distributors from all over the world,” Hill recalls. “They have their booths and talk to people and try to pick up projects.”

After hobnobbing with bigwigs from places like Capetown and Shanghai, he came to the conclusion that “you either need a project with preexisting funding or a finished film” before knocking on the distributor’s door. He says the insight will come in handy for production on an upcoming feature written by Aaron that the team hopes to launch this year.  

“It’s kind of a Christmas movie about two siblings from a broken home trying to work through what a holiday means for people who don’t have families,” he says. “Kind of a Seth Rogen-esque comedy.”


Aaron Hill as Nick
Ellie Laesch as Alexis
Chase Fischer as Barista
Jack Hill as Old Man
Edie Hill as Old Woman

Writer: Aaron Hill
Director: TJ Hill
Producer: TJ Hill
Associate Producer: Em Adkins
Music: TJ Hill
Lyrics: TJ Hill and Aaron Hill
Director of Photography: Nathan Talan
Camera Assistant: Brian Brant
Gaffer: Diego Serrano
DIT: Eema Siddiqui
1st Assistant Director: Shelby Hill
2nd Assistant Director: Em Adkins
Costuming: Ellie Laesch
Field Recordist: Alec Mattie
Boom: Jonathan Clemmons
Editor/Color: Eema Siddiqui
Post Sound: Aaron Hill

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