Cruz Moore

La Quinta native Cruz Moore is a young man with a plan.

The 25-year-old was raised with his younger sister by their grandparents, and he says he was taught about responsibility and the need to follow a path toward the future. Moore’s path has led him to become a filmmaker, and one of his films, The Rise and Fall of Robert Benfer, has been accepted into the Palm Springs American Documentary Film Festival, and will be showing at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

As a child, Moore was exposed to the full spectrum of film, influenced by his grandparents to see movies like The Sound of Music and Jurassic Park, and by his uncles to see science fiction and horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.

“The full spectrum of human emotions can be found in horror films,” says Moore. “When you take human beings, isolate them in a threatening world and force them to survive, you find empowerment. You affect people on an emotional level.”

Moore says he was “the class clown, coming up with anything I could for comedy—that was just my personality. But I got a lot more reserved and subtle by high school.”

After graduating from La Quinta High School, Moore attended College of the Desert and earned his associate’s degree in liberal arts.

“I was too far along in my studies to switch majors when COD adopted a film degree, although I tended to hang with people who are into the same interests as I am,” he says. “I do intend to complete my bachelor’s degree in film.”

Moore’s 46-minute film in the festival is about Robert Benfer Jr., an award-winning clay-animation pioneer who gained a massive following online—before becoming what many call a huckster.

“I track his work, which had artistic integrity, and then how he changed into someone who was apparently a total con,” Moore says. “He offered his entire filmography in boxed sets on the internet. People pre-ordered them through PayPal, but the product was never delivered, and getting a refund required asking (for the refund) within 60 days of purchase. So many people were ripped off.

“My film chronicles the beginning of his career and his influence on young filmmakers, and I include interviews with his fans and what he meant to them.”

Moore says one of his strongest influences regarding the project was his best friend, Jimmy Mancilla; he introduced Moore to the work of Robert Benfer in 2005. “I thought I was the class clown until I met (Jimmy). He’s hilarious, always on point and an intelligent guy,” Moore says.

Is this endeavor the beginning of a career making documentaries? “As long as I continue to make films and make a name for myself, I’m not stuck in any one genre,” Moore says. “I’m into short films, music videos, documentaries and movie trailers—where I pull out clips to make a better trailer than the original marketing package. I’ve made over 100 videos, and my primary focus is that people get something out of what I’ve done.

“It’s actually astounding to see how much support the Benfer film has gotten. It shows me that no matter how esoteric or unknown a subject is, there is a fan base out there that will thank you for making the film.”

Moore says he’s been making movies since 2006.

“I started making my own films, recording almost everything, and submitting them to sites like FilmFreeway, where you can submit films by paying a submission fee,” Moore says. “Some of the sites even take submissions for free. I go to film events and festivals and meet people with similar interests—and I’m aware that the local film community is growing. We have festivals for international films, short films and documentaries. We need to encourage young people with these interests to stay here (in the Coachella Valley).”

Does Moore prefer documentary filmmaking, or does he also want to make scripted films? “There’s a big difference between documentary and scripted,” he says. “The biggest factor in scripted film is in crafting your own story from your imagination without falling into some stereotype. Documentaries, depending on the subject matter, might be easier, because the story is already there. And I’d be willing to direct others’ films.”

Moore works on a low budget, and works as a full-time projectionist at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “I use Final Cut Pro for editing and do the writing and voice-over myself,” he says. “I haven’t really put together a crew.

“I just know that if you want to work in film, you have to put work into it every single day.”

Cruz Moore is a young man with a plan—and that plan is striving to make creative, diverse content on film. Getting his first festival acceptance into the American Documentary Film Festival is a sign that he is heading in the right direction.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Anita Rufus

Anita Rufus is an award-winning columnist and talk radio host, known as “The Lovable Liberal.” She has a law degree, a master’s in education, and was a business executive before committing herself...