MORELAND HILLS — Taylor Hess and Noah Hutton, the award-winning team behind a new narrative film, have deep roots in the Chagrin Valley. Ms. Hess and Mr. Hutton are partners in work and in life, as the married couple put their skills together for a new film called “Lapsis.” Mr. Hutton, 33, is the writer, director, composer and editor of “Lapsis.” Ms. Hess, 30, is a native of Moreland Hills and worked as a producer of the film.
“Lapsis” follows the story of a Queens delivery man who tries to improve the quality of life for himself and his ailing brother by taking a new job in the gig economy. He must trek through the forest and pull cables over rough terrain to connect metal cubes that link the quantum trading market, according to a press release. The man encounters growing hostility and the threat of robot cablers, so he must choose to help the other workers or make money then get out.
“I had a lot of support and encouragement growing up,” Ms. Hess said in an interview with the Times. “[There were] a lot of people present who helped me pursue my dreams. I feel very lucky to have that, it’s everything.”
Mr. Hutton is from New York City, but is familiar with the Cleveland area. He is the son of Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton and three-time Academy Award nominee Debra Winger, a native of Cleveland Heights. Mr. Hutton and Ms. Hess currently live in Brewster, New York, but will come to Cleveland soon to film Mr. Hutton’s next film. He gave a brief preview, saying that it will be about an advertising agency and aliens.
Mr. Hutton said that there were some challenges to overcome during the production of “Lapsis.” For example, instead of building robots, the crew found a laboratory at University of Pennsylvania that had robots and the school allowed the film crew to use the robots. There is also a steel cube that is the main poster image for the film, but it was too expensive to cover the entire cube with steel plates, so only two sides are covered when it appears in film scenes.
“We wanted to make a science fiction story have as big a scale as it could on a low budget. That had some challenges,” Mr. Hutton said. “We had to find creative solutions.”
Mr. Hutton said that the storyline was influenced by his own experience living with his brother with a debilitating disease and the themes are related to political discourse from the 2020 presidential campaign. He said that there is a growing awareness of the exploitation of workers by tech giants such as Amazon.
Ms. Hess said that “Lapsis” was set to premiere at the South by Southwest film festival in March of 2020, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has appeared at more than 30 festivals, mostly virtual. “Lapsis” won the Jury’s Choice Award at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea in 2020. The film was shot in the summer of 2019 in upstate New York in 26 days, then it took three months to edit.
“A producer can be a lot of things,” Ms. Hess said. “Basically, I like to say the role of the producer is essentially to facilitate the vision of the director to make the movie happen. There are so many cycles that are part of that.” She gave several examples, such as obtaining permits and working on a marketing and distribution strategy.
Ms. Hess showed strong leadership skills during her time in the Orange City School District. She is a 2008 graduate of Orange High School and spent much of her time with Stagecrafters Youth Theatre, a dramatic arts program through Orange Community Education and Recreation. She recalled participating in many musicals and working as the choreographer around age 15, leading rehearsals with 100 children.
“Noah thinks it’s crazy how I have the songs memorized,” Ms. Hess said with a chuckle.
She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. Ms. Hess said that Wendy Scott-Koeth, the director of Stagecrafters, cast her in some of her first leading roles. Ms. Scott-Koeth said that Ms. Hess was her “right hand gal” for years.
“I knew she was going to go places because she knew how to run a place. All the kids adored her and respected her. She was a go-getter from the get-go,” Ms. Scott-Koeth said on Feb. 11. “She could get a whole room to listen to her and she was delightful. That was a real gift.”
Another producer of “Lapsis” is Joseph Varco, originally from Akron. Ms. Hess and Mr. Hutton have also had films at the Cleveland International Film Festival. “Lapsis” came out on Feb. 12 via video on demand and is available on platforms such as Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Fandango and the Cleveland Cinemateq.