February 9, 2016
One of my earliest memories was fooling around with my mother's manual typewriter, which she used to type both her own papers and grad students' dissertations (in the days before word processors.) Before I could read, I would bang out what would look like proper stories - letters and spaces, a few lines followed by empty returns - and then 'read' them to my mother and brother.
That moment of confusing the visual/graphic aspect of writing with its content is probably why I'm a filmmaker. We start with a script, but then have to find a way to transcode the words into images and sounds, going beyond the page into space and time. The place between the words and the images is where the emotions live.
I've lived in the in-between spaces a bit. I was raised by a single mother in the Bronx in the 70s, and we had some lean years. My brother is mentally multi-handicapped, and I was diagnosed with ADHD (they called it hyperactivity back then) and spent the first few grades in special education schools. Those experiences gave me a different perspective on society. I saw how difficult it could be to be an outsider, and how arbitrary the distinctions were between in-groups and out-groups. But I also saw the warmth and generosity that outsiders showed to each other.
I'm also drawn to the edges of genres. Found In Time my last film, was a 'lo-fi' sci-fi film told from largely from a psychic's point of view. He's an outsider as well, who lives his life out of order - slipping uncontrollably between past, present, futures, dreams, and other alternate time-scapes. The film also jumped between these different timelines, in a non-linear way. It blurred time but also genre boundaries.
Three Trembling Cities, my current project, takes a look at another group of "outsiders" - New York City's immigrants. They are a huge part of what makes this city so special and energetic. But they are nearly invisible in the media - there are very few NYC shows and films where immigrants are the heroes, as opposed to the villains or exotic background). Theyâre also being constantly pushed out of neighborhoods by gentrification.
Three Trembling Cities shows the inner lives of New York's immigrants, by combining documentary and fiction. The fictional portion of the series will follow six immigrants as they juggle jobs, relationships, dreams, and family expectations. Their stories will be intercut with interviews with real immigrants who've faced similar issues. This crossing of doc and fiction will let us tell a deeper, richer story about immigrants than either form would by itself.
The fictional characters are loosely based on people I've known or heard of, and their stories were refined after a long period of research and reflection. The joy of writing about people who come from places that I've never been to is that I get to learn so much. But it's also my responsibility to get it right. I'm excited about working with actors from the different countries and background, so that we can create authentic, full-fleshed out characters.
Three Trembling Cities is the next part of an ongoing examination of 'in-between' people and territories. Found In Time focused almost exclusively on one person and one subject (time). Three Trembling Cities is more like a tapestry, weaving several very different stories together. My next project, The Spectral City, a supernatural/war/horror series in development, is even larger. It's about a group of civilians fleeing a present-day civil war (set in an unnamed country), who end up heading to the one place no one dares go - the Haunted City at the heart of the war zone.
At present, I'm focusing on Three Trembling Cities and our crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark. Our goal: to build a community and engage in a real dialog with them about the nature of immigration, the specificity of each person's journey, and how interconnected we all are to each other.