Gramercy

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TYPE
: Narrative Short
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Pre-Production

LOGLINE

During a weekend trip home, a young black New Jersey native's ongoing battle with depression becomes a poetic exploration of personal struggle.

SYNOPSIS

During a weekend trip home, a young black New Jersey native is forced to confront truths about his past and search for peace amongst his ever-intensifying thoughts of suicide. Blending neorealism with surrealism, fragments of Shaq’s unconsciousness appear as nonlinear, dream-like manifestations, as he navigates the everydayness of living with depression.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

When we examined many notable films that explore blackness, we noticed it had done through the lens of class struggle. While that method is valid and necessary, it’s not the only way. In 2014, Piscataway, New Jersey was ranked as the 27th best place to live in America by TIME Magazine. When we visited the town, we were struck by how comfortable everything seemed. Exactly what we imagine when thinking about middle-class American suburbia. Sleepy, curated, pleasant. Sitting in a corner of this suburb was this group of young black men who had created their own culture, their own identity, their own brotherhood that felt so tangible and lived in. We began developing this film because we knew we could push the boundaries of stereotypes and perceptions with this world and these specific characters. Our biggest priority with this short script is to give voice to a nuanced, fully-realized life, as he deals with complicated, language-transcending complexities—depression, grief, and mental health struggles. Because we are looking at oftentimes undiscussed emotions, we knew that we couldn’t take a conventional storytelling approach. We decided to incorporate flashbacks and surrealism into the writing because they needed to hold equal weight to the normally-scripted linear plot. Focusing on the notion that somebody can live their day-to-day realities, while at the same time, look back at their past for answers and feel things that can’t be expressed. We want to create original cinematic language through this structure and point of view. We turned to world-class filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Wong Kar-wai as inspirations for how to sculpt time and peel back layers of a protagonist’s conscious in an unconventional, surreal way. In their films, fragmented, even seemingly unrelated, memories and moments come to the surface during life-altering times; tied together by meaningful surreal, dream-like abstractions. They serve as emotional through lines for their deeply personal stories. The way their films navigate their characters’ psyches truly opened up the way we wanted to explore our main character’s conflicts and emotions. Once we found our structure, we looked at stories that depict people's everyday lives in compelling, empathetic fashions. Oslo, August 31, Ratcatcher, and Manchester by the Sea had big influences on how we painted the lived-in mundanity of our story. Each of those films has space for moments of flashback and surrealism that inform the present characters and conflicts. They depict these inexpressible feelings, often leading to depression and suicide, never losing grasp of their fully-realized worlds and characters. We’re bringing classic cinema references to today’s underrepresented and overlooked topics. Ultimately, this film can change the way we think and perceive the black experience.

KEY CREW

Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood - Writers/Directors

Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood are a writing/directing team living in Brooklyn. Pat grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts as a self-professed cinephile. He graduated from Emerson College, where he partook in the prestigious Writers Guild of America East Mentorship Program. After graduating, he began working at the production company SMUGGLER. During his four years at the company, he worked on projects for the likes of Barry Jenkins, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Bennett Miller, Todd Field, Susanne Bier, and Chris Smith. He continues to work with Emmy and Cannes-winning director Miles Jay developing feature films. Jamil is a Turkish and African American filmmaker/photographer originally from Kaiserslautern, Germany. Upon graduating business school from Florida A&M University and a couple of Wall Street stockbroker gigs under his belt, Jamil jumped into the advertising and film industry. He started out at Saatchi & Saatchi, then moved to Droga5, where he spent the next two years working as a producer, teaming with Biscuit Filmworks, Arts & Sciences, and Somesuch. He currently works with companies like Pulse Films, ICONOCLAST, and Big Beach Films as a designer. Jamil and Pat’s work has been featured on PBS, NOWNESS, TIDAL, NPR, NoBudge, Booooooom, Blavity, Medium, Button Poetry, Poets & Writers, Shots, SHOOT, Designcollector, Poetry Foundation, and screened as Official Selections of the New Orleans Film Festival, Rhode Island International Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival, Middlebury New Filmmaker Festival, African Film Festival at the Lincoln Center, and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Maceo Bishop - Director of Photography

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1993 with a degree in Film Studies, Maceo moved to New York City. One of his first jobs was as assistant to award-winning director Earle Sebastian with whom he worked for two years on a documentary about Marvin Gaye. Shifting gears, Maceo spent the next eight years as an Assistant Cameraman. In 2003, Maceo began camera operating and by the beginning of 2004 had purchased a Steadicam. Over the course of the next fourteen years, he maintained a reputation as one of the most sought-after camera operators in the film industry. Maceo shot a diverse array of projects around the world for directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Gus Van Sant, The Coen Brothers, Oliver Stone, Sam Mendes, Steve McQueen, the Safdie Brothers, and Cary Fukunaga, to name a few. He’s worked under some of the greatest Directors of Photography in the history of the medium, including Roger Deakins, Rodrigo Prieto, Bradford Young, Darius Khondji, Ellen Kuras, Bruno Delbonnel, and Jody Lee Lipes. In 2017, Maceo began shifting focusing to his career as a Director of Photography. His credits include Black America Again (Dir. Bradford Young), a number of high-profile music videos, and lead second unit photography for films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Dir. Stephen Daldry), Thank You For Your Service (Dir. Richard Linklater), and Molly’s Game (Dir. Aaron Sorkin).

Myriam Schroeter - Executive Producer

Myriam is an award-winning producer whose “worked with” includes Revlon, IFC Films, LG, Nordstrom, IMG, Estee Lauder and Sundance Institute. She produced the acclaimed film The Light of the Moon (97% on Rotten Tomatoes), which went on to win the Narrative Feature Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. Additionally, she’s produced a number of independent narrative shorts, as well as scripted music-related content for Warner Bros and Def Jam. Prior to producing, she worked as a content editor and marketer for Amazon. She currently works for Beachside Films as an Executive Producer, pitching and managing features and television pilots for platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and based in Brooklyn.

Claire McGirr - Producer

Claire McGirr is a Producer from Co. Wicklow, Ireland. She spent several years in New York where she worked for SMUGGLER as an Associate Producer for five years. In 2017, Claire was the Executive Producer for the 8th season of Motionpoems, where she conceived the short film series ‘Dear Mr. President’. A collection of 12 short films that focus on nine current political themes; LGBT+QIA, immigration, and racism, and commissioned 12 directors from around the globe. These films premiered in New York City in early February and are being released throughout the year. Already garnering much press from Nowness, Little Black Book, Afro-Punk!, and Girls In Film!, the films will screen later this summer in Los Angeles. In 2016, she produced two independent films successfully financed $15,000 through crowdfunding. ‘Things I Carry Into The World’ was featured on Tidal, Nowness, Shots, SHOOT Online, and PBS. ‘Word: Collected Poetry’, was officially selected by the New York African Film Festival and will premiere in May 2018, as well as being featured by BOOOOOOOM, Moving Poems and the Poetry Foundation. McGirr is currently a freelance Producer in Los Angeles.

Gabija Blake - Producer

Gabija Blake is a native New Yorker, but she doesn’t have the accent to back it up. After graduating with an English degree from the University of Chicago, Gabija moved back home and started dreaming of ways to turn her written stories into films. She’s found a home at Droga5 and is currently producing TV campaigns for clients such as the New York Times, New Museum and the YMCA. Her previous projects include the Webby-winning “Tree VR,” which premiered at Sundance New Frontier and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as a production stint with NYC-based comedy group Local Empire. Their short film, “The Refrigerator,” premiered at the Brooklyn Film Festival, and their feature-length “Trivia Night” won Best Feature at the Omaha Film Festival.

Cheyenne Ford - Production Designer

Raised in New Orleans, Cheyenne has an appreciation for improvisation and a fascination with the ways cultures mix and meet to form new celebrations. As an Art Director, she’s worked on projects including JAY-Z’s “Smile” (Prod. Designer Akin McKenzie; Grand Prix winner at Cannes Lions Festival), To Dust (a feature film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival). She worked as the Prop Master on After the Wedding (feature film; Day One World Premiere at 2019 Sundance), as well as the Assistant Set Decorator on The Wolf Hour (feature film; Sundance 2019 NEXT World Premiere). She is part of the United Scenic Artists Local 829, covering art directors and production designers in New York, Studio Mechanics Local 478, covering all set decoration and property positions with jurisdiction in Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, and Mobile, and Studio Mechanics Local 52 as a permitted guest in the New York jurisdiction for all set decoration and property positions.

 

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