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It took a total eclipse of the sun and the fundraising tenacity of NJBIA member Tom Kesolits to get this this movie made, but now the cast and crew are celebrating the release of their independent feature film “In the Moon’s Shadow” on Amazon Prime Video this month. 

The comedic drama stars Debra Lord Cooke and Elissa Piszel as two long-estranged sisters brought together on self-reflecting 1,800-mile journey to see the Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 in Nebraska. Key scenes were filmed as the eclipse was happening in real time, resulting in stunning footage of the midday sun disappearing above the towering dunes of Nebraska’s Sandhills, enveloping the sisters in darkness until the light slowly returns. 

However, the movie, which was a finalist for Best Feature Film at the LA Femme International Film Festival in 2020, was almost never made at all after the original financing for the project fell through right before filming started. Actors/producers Cooke and Piszel decided to try to fund the film themselves by founding the women-owned Moon Shadow Pictures LLC and bringing in Kesolits, the owner of TJK Technology in Holmdel, to help get the project to the finish line. 

Kesolits, who was later named executive producer, is a member of the New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), which provided the remaining financial assistance the filmmakers needed. NYWIFT is a nonprofit that relies on donations from corporate sponsors, foundations, and individuals to support female filmmakers with grants and other programs. 

After post-production work was wrapped up, the COVID-19 pandemic hit just as the filmmakers were preparing to enter the make-or-break film festival circuit for indie films, complicating efforts to reach a wider audience. Green Apple Entertainment became the film’s distributor in 2020 and the film began streaming on platforms, including Amazon Prime, last week. 

The film also stars Jules Hartley as the stepdaughter who, like her stepmother and step-aunt, has a life that seems to be spiraling out of control until this rare celestial event helps bring all three women together to reconnect and heal. 

The movie was directed by Alvin Case, who shot the entire film in less than a week in Nebraska and Maine, where a cottage owned by Cooke’s family was used for the film’s opening scenes. Coincidentally, Maine sits in a prime viewing path for the next total solar eclipse in North America on April 8, 2024. The 2024 eclipse would have been the filmmakers’ backup plan if they missed their opportunity to shoot the movie’s climatic scenes in Nebraska in 2017.