Press Release: Documentary about Tom Moran premiering in July 2018

June 5, 2018

Spinning Goat Productions
ATTN: Chris Mason


New documentary about Pittsburgh musician Tom Moran premiering in July

(Pittsburgh, PA) – A newly completed documentary feature about long-time Pittsburgh musician, Tom Moran, will make its Pittsburgh premiere at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on July 7, 2018. The film, produced by Spinning Goat Productions, will be presented at the Documentary Salon program directed by Will Zavala.

The 1-hour independent, zero-budget documentary will take viewers on a journey through Moran’s various musical incarnations during his career, starting with his American rock & blues background and as early pioneer in the Pittsburgh punk scene in the early 1980’s as a member of The Dark and The Five, who were also based in Boston in the mid-1980’s. In the mid-1990’s, after returning to Pittsburgh from Boston, Moran and his wife, Stephanie Vargo, formed the bluegrass band The Deliberate Strangers, who during their 13-year career gained local and national recognition in the bluegrass and alt-country communities. They traveled and performed at various festivals and joined the 2004 Outlaw Writer’s Tour with (in)famous West Virginia authors Chuck Kinder and Lee Maynard.

In the the mid-2000’s, Tom’s focus traveled across the ocean to the Middle East. Already a virtuoso player and builder of guitars, mandolins and banjos – as well as more off-kilter instruments made from cigar boxes and shed deer antlers – Moran turned his attention to the oud, a Middle Eastern stringed instrument in the lute family. With help from internet friends in Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and Syria, Moran learned how to build and play the oud, learning Middle Eastern music theory from experts and by following the careers of celebrated oud players like Hamza El Din.

The idea for the documentary arose in 2013 when the film’s director, Chris Mason, was studying Middle Eastern, North African, and East European dance, and as a new filmmaker would practice her craft by recording dance presentations in which Moran took part as musical performer and accompanist. Mason was intrigued by Moran’s performances of non-Western music and fusion pieces in Pittsburgh, and the atmosphere he created when he took the stage – whether in music venues like Club Cafe or in the cushioned seats at Dobrá Tea in Squirrel Hill – and his unique journey from punk to bluegrass to world music.

Previously, from 2013-2016, Mason and Moran collaborated on several experimental video pieces for exhibition at Art All Night and in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 2 Minute Film Festival. In 2014, after a somewhat improvised shoot on a sunny August afternoon outdoors at Homewood Cemetery, a 25-minute documentary was released online called Musicians in the Wild which featured interviews chronicling Moran’s musical journey and improvised guitar segments. After its release, they both agreed to expand on the documentary and include more performances, interviews, and artistic elements to create a more complete, if compact, overview of Moran’s musical past and present culminating in the 2018 documentary feature Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran.

Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran will debut at the Melwood Theater, 477 Melwood Ave, on July 7, 2018. Doors at 6:30 pm/Screening at 7 pm. The screening is free of charge and is followed by a live performance by Tom Moran on electric sitar, ending with an experimental video projection by Chris Mason. For more information, please visit


Tom Moran has been playing stringed instruments since 1969. As a founding member of Pittsburgh’s punk rock scene, he was a member of The Dark and The Five, as well as alt-country pioneers, The Deliberate Strangers. Tom is also a luthier, building guitars, banjos, ouds, and other instruments. Tom currently concentrates his musical efforts composing and performing pieces inspired by his study of world music.

Chris Mason began her filmmaking career at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in the summer of 2012, and has independently directed and produced music documentaries, cultural profiles and experimental videos. She has a background in cultural anthropology, loves the “magic” produced when musicians create and perform, and music’s ability to bridge cultural and social barriers. She will study Visual Anthropology at Temple University starting in fall 2018.


Improvising the Divine premieres in Pittsburgh on July 7, 2018

Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran premieres at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on July 7, 2018!

Watch the premiere of the 1-hour indie, zero-budget documentary by Spinning Goat Productions about the musical journey of Pittsburgh musician, Tom Moran. Tom’s 4+ decades of music-making, his art, and influences will be presented for your viewing – and listening – pleasure. Learn about the guitar, banjo, oud, and sitar music that Tom makes as he travels from rock to punk to bluegrass to Middle Eastern and Classical Indian music – and every fusion in between.
Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Documentary Salon program is graciously hosting this FREE screening!
6:30 pm: Doors open/food/social (some snacks, BYOB)
7:00-9:00 pm: Film screening, followed by short Q & A, then a music performance by Tom (ending with a special video projection)

Facebook invite:
Check out the flyer Tom made for the event!


“tunnel” experimental observational video submitted to Art All Night

My experimental observational short “tunnel” was submitted to Art All Night’s Video Lounge.  This is the 5th year I’ve submitted to Art All Night, and it may be last as I’ll be in Philly next year attending Temple University to complete my Visual Anthropology BA. 🙂

Art All Night is April 28-29, 2018:

Improvising the Divine: the music of Tom Moran documentary is finished!

After a lot of time, energy, editing, and re-editing…and re-editing again, Improvising the Divine: the music of Tom Moran documentary feature is complete! It is just under 1 hour long, and is filled with awesome music, musicians, and visuals.

I’m editing a new trailer that better reflects the finished film. We are hoping to host a screening and music performance (including live improv to projected video) in late spring.  More details to come!

If you know of a venue interested in hosting a screening and solo music performance, please email or get in touch with Chris or Tom.

Check out new still pics from the documentary:


New music video for Doors in the Labyrinth released Friday the 13th

Considering the subject matter, it seemed fitting to release this new music video for Doors in the Labyrinth’s new song “Death in Paris,” written in response to Trump pulling out the Paris Agreement a few months ago, on Friday the 13th.


Zero budget, DIY music video shot in Pittsburgh locations: the Strip District and South Side

featuring footage of
the Great Pacific garbage patch,
the BP oil spill (2010),
California wildfires,
Three Mile Island (PA),
Neville Island (Pittsburgh) (1972);
NASA model of a melting ice shelf,
drought in Niger,
tsunamis in Indonesia (2004) and Fukushima (2011),
and footage filmed inside a flooded nuclear reactor in Fukushima (2011)

Watch it now:

New! Trailer – Improvising the Divine: the music of Tom Moran #indie #music #documentary

Hi, everyone, and Happy Fall!
Just sending a short note to let you know the official trailer for the new documentary short Improvising the Divine: the music of Tom Moran is now available.
So far this short documentary has been submitted to Three Rivers Film Festival shorts, Sundance Shorts, SXSW Film Festival, and LA Undergound.  Full Frame and American Documentary Film Festival entries are up next. Then we WAIT. 🙂
Pittsburgh screenings are in the process of being discussed  – as always, I appreciate any referrals for locations to provide screenings. I may also launch an online fundraiser to help with festival entry fees and public screening costs, and, possibly, a film and music fest!
Thank you,
Chris Mason
Director, Spinning Goat Productions
Watch the trailer now:

UPDATE: Improvising the Divine documentary #indie #film #music

From Chris, Director of Spinning Goat Productions:

I’m thrilled to announce that the 35-minute short documentary “Improvising the Divine: the music of Tom Moran” is now complete! (Note: a 20 minute version was previously submitted to the Three Rivers Film Festival Shorts Program).
And I just made the final deadline to enter it into the Sundance Film Festival Shorts Program.  Next up: submit to the SXSW Film Program, and go from there…

More updates coming and I’m still cutting a cool trailer, but here are some production stills from the film below.

Documentary overview:

Improvising the Divine is a short documentary profile of guitar, banjo, oud, and sitar player, Tom Moran, and his lifelong musical journey through rock, punk, bluegrass, world music, and every fusion in between. Through musical performances, storytelling, archives, and creative imagery, the documentary shows the power of music to awaken the creative spirit and transcend cultural barriers.
Interviews with Tom Moran, Stephanie Vargo, and featuring J. Trafford.
Original music by Tom Moran, Stephanie Vargo, The Deliberate Strangers, The Five, J. Trafford, Cousin Emmy & The Stanley Brothers, Elizabeth Cotten, Hazel Dickens, and Hamza el Din.
Additional video courtesy of Larry Rippel.
Improvising the Divine will take you on a musical journey, both worldly and otherworldly.
A homage to Tom Moran’s long and interesting career, to creative, independent musicians, and to the special place music holds in our lives.
 #musicsaves #supportlocalmusic #indiemusic
Produced by Spinning Goat Productions
Director: Chris Mason