Huntington-raised Daniel Moya co-wrote the political drama "18½."

Huntington-raised Daniel Moya co-wrote the political drama "18½." Credit: Elle Schneider

Huntington-raised filmmaker Daniel Moya grew up with that town's Cinema Arts Centre. Literally: "I've been a member of Cinema Arts since I was 12," the now 27-year-old writer-director says. "I used to walk there from Finley Middle School by myself just to see whatever was playing at 3 o'clock. My family and Cinema Arts were the two most important things in my life."

Thursday at 7:30 p.m., it will come full circle for Moya when he introduces his new film there, "18½," and does a Q&A. The movie is a 1970s political drama he co-wrote with director Dan Mirvish. Shot primarily at Greenport's Silver Sands Motel and the restaurant Front Street Station, the film posits what might have happened had a White House transcriber (a fictional character played by Willa Fitzgerald) obtained the only audio of the infamous 18½-minute gap in President Richard Nixon's Watergate tape.

Playing some of the involved parties at a Chesapeake Bay motel, where various agendas collide, are such stars as Richard Kind and Vondie Curtis-Hall, with voice roles going to Bruce Campbell as Nixon, Jon Cryer as H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and Ted Raimi as retired Gen. Alexander Haig.

Moya — a Huntington High School alumnus who earned a film degree from the University of Southern California — says "18½" originated with Mirvish, who along with then-Silver Sands owner Terry Keefe had graduated from USC's film school. "So Dan calls me and says, 'I have this friend with a motel. I've always wanted to do a Watergate movie. I want it to be "Three Days of the Condor" meets "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," but funnier than either of those.' " "Condor" is the 1975 political thriller and "Virginia Woolf" is Mike Nichols' 1966 film adaptation of Edward Albee's Tony-winning play.

Moya scripted from a story he and Mirvish worked out, trying to recreate "the utter paranoia that everybody felt" in 1970s political thrillers, "that idea of looking over your shoulder, not knowing who you can trust. … And honestly, it's maybe not so different from today when politics come up."

Production, budgeted at "a little bit over" $100,000, began in March 2020, recalls the Glen Cove-born Moya. The coronavirus pandemic forced a hiatus with four days left on the 15-day shoot, which was completed under health protocols that September.

The film has played festivals here and abroad and opened theatrically May 27, with Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times calling it "slyly subversive, occasionally loony and thoroughly entertaining."

Moya, now living in Greenwich Village, currently alternates between indie filmmaking and working on TV commercials. But his heart is still in Huntington. "My Number One goal has been to bring a movie to Cinema Arts Centre," he says. "That probably sounds like hyperbole but isn't. It means a lot to me that they are having us."

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