As part of the promotional effort ramping up to the release of my graphic novel Strongman this past March, I created a series of five short films starring a live-action version of Tigre, the main character. All five were shot in Brooklyn, New York, near the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, and in two nearby neighborhoods – DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and Vinegar Hill.
Dumbo was an old warehouse district in the olden days, so it’s filled with huge brick buildings with no windows. The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges loom over you (super cool, like something out of Johnny Mnemonic.) Many of the streets are paved with large grey stones that look sort of like granite bricks, and since the neighborhood is currently occupied by a large number of art collectives, galleries and studios, there’s all sorts of neat art scattered around the streets, as well as other random items. For example, on one of the days we shot, a huge pile of ice bricks/sheets was piled outside one of the buildings, just chilling. They looked like raw material for ice sculptures. We wanted to shoot a soliloquy while the actor playing Tigre was standing on the pile of ice, but ultimately decided against it because (a) I had no insurance and the ice looked a little deadly and (b) it was getting late, and we didn’t have lights for shooting outdoors. Would have been neat, though.
Vinegar Hill is one neighborhood over, and it’s really just a few blocks. Not much of a neighborhood, really. It has a unique character, though, because many of the homes are the same ramshackle wooden buildings thrown up in the 1900s. (At least, I think they’re that old – I didn’t Google.) It feels like an old fishing village, or perhaps a New England town.
Combine that with the super-industrial vibe of the BQE and the Navy Yard, and you have a million amazing locations within a ten-block radius. We found a mansion behind a gate, a grim as hell construction site beneath a 6-lane expressway overpass, and of course, JJ’s Navy Yard Lounge (I’ll save JJ’s for a post all its own, though.)
The whole shoot was a great experience. I’d never done anything like it before, and while I had help from friends who were more experienced (including producer Andy Deemer and cinematographer Arsenio Assin), I was the guy who had to figure out the shots that would tell the story I wanted to tell, keep them straight, deal with the actors, get people fed and paid, etc. And once the footage was in the can (or on tape, really), I had to figure out how to edit, color correct, do digital effects and score everything. The scoring was simple enough, since I’ve been doing scoring for years, but there was a pretty steep learning curve on the rest.
Anyway, I think they turned out pretty well. There are a lot of stories to tell about the shoots, but for now I’ll just put up a link to one of the videos, and add the rest to future posts.