I’m originally from Long Island and came to Brooklyn when I was going to college years ago and ended up staying. I would say my formative years were spent here living with an incredible set of diverse people. Because of what I experienced and learned over the years, Brooklyn helped shape my world view. So many different types of people live so close together and the environment is much more neighborhood-oriented than some parts of the city. It’s really what the old New York used to be all about.
What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Prospect Heights and you can catch me at the Olde Brooklyn Bagel shoppe on Vanderbilt on Saturday mornings. The everything bagel with bacon, egg and cheese is heavenly.
You say there are 20 neighborhoods in the film, shot over 20 months–did you do it a neighborhood at a time?
The making of “Forever Brooklyn” was somewhat sporadic but always focused. From the very beginning, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve but it was challenging from a time standpoint given other projects going on at the same time, namely my documentary Birthplace.
I had made a short in late 2011 on Milan that did well online (Milan Dreaming), getting 100,000 views in 10 days and all this positive feedback. I wanted to do something similar with Brooklyn but more expansive and on a grander scale. Places and their ethos have always fascinated me, and the spirit of Brooklyn was something that I kept coming back to as a subject.
Every weekend or during the week after hours, I would pick a neighborhood and head there with my camera. I used a DSLR as well as my iPhone and would comb the entire neighborhood over the course of several hours gathering material. After a year and a half, I had covered most of Brooklyn. I must have gone through three pairs of shoes from all of the walking! Because most of Forever Brooklyn was made with me being a one man band, I think I was able to capture an intimacy that just wouldn’t be possible with a full film crew.
The idea was to paint a portrait of Brooklyn that really got to the essence of what I think this place is all about: solidarity and perseverance to achieve greatness. There are so many successful and creative people that are either from Brooklyn or have spent time here, and I think the environment conditions you to continually push yourself. I wanted to show something beyond the traditional images of Brooklyn to something more human and visceral.
Were you worried you’d lose your camera on the Cyclone?
I wish I was that brave! The first-person POV footage of The Cyclone comes from Theme Park Review, a comprehensive website on theme parks. I had emailed the site’s founder Robb Alvey and he was kind enough to let me use his footage.
Is there any clip in particular that you just loved, but that didn’t make it in the film?
There was so much footage to work with, something like 10 hours worth. There are many good moments that didn’t make it in the final–my guiding principal was that if it didn’t advance the story or seem bespoke to Brooklyn, it came out. I was quite ruthless with cutting stuff I really liked. Probably my favorite material that I didn’t end up using was from a street fair on Atlantic Avenue with these MCs battling and beatboxing in the rain.