5: "Manhattan" | Home #1

Thousands of films, books, poems, plays and songs have been made about New York City or, at very least, utilize it as the backdrop.  It's one of the truly great muses in contemporary art over the last 100+ years.  So many iconic movies and shows have been created that feature New York.  I mean...just look at a few:

This film is my (very) humble addition to the list.

I grew up in The Bronx and spent lots of time in Manhattan.  The older I got, the more I wanted to be there.  I'd jump on a train and be there by myself sometimes.  It's hard to encapsulate the vibe I get just by being there.  I'm definitely not the first and I certainly won't be the last to feel that way.  So it's only fitting that I return the favor and make a film about Manhattan.

I didn't want to make something we've seen before and it needed to be something unique to my native experiences.  So I wanted to show Manhattan when it's not really in it's full glory.  No makeup on.  No parades.  No Times Square on New Year's Eve.  No Rockettes.  Just the city and me.  I can remember many times walking down a rainy street at night.  The sounds.  The smell.  The grit.  The emptiness.  Something we rarely see in movies.  It's some of my best memories of one of my favorite places.

If you live in New York or have spent any significant amount of time here, you'll know that even at it's worst it's full of wonderful surprises.  I can't tell you how many impromptu fireworks shows I've witnessed.  And it definitely ain't the 4th of July.  Or crossing a bridge, usually by car, and seeing the sparks from a train floating into the East River while it's crossing a neighboring bridge.  Or suddenly 7 cop cars or fire trucks are darting down the block creating a light show.  To me, this is Manhattan.

I've loved it the most at night.  Only the lights define it.


Each film in this "Home" series will feature a shape that makes up the foundation of it's aesthetic.  For "Manhattan", it's squares. All three films were shot at once using a glass end table, aluminum foil, and some hardware store items.  Some pics of the setup below:

I wanted to make my own scratches and grit.  To get this gritty texture, I scrubbed acetate sheets with sandpaper, smeared black paint all over it, then wiped the paint off just leaving it in the crevices:

I placed the acetate textures I made on the table top.  Then I shot the light in various positions against different parts of the texture.  Other times, the lights were pointed at the crumbled aluminum foil and I moved the foil around to get different light patterns.  In some cases I did stop motion animation with the clamp light itself, as in the scene with the police sirens:

When it came time to animate, I basically cut these photos into squares and made all kinds of lights out of them.  Window lights, bridge lights, car lights, police sirens, etc.  Here's an example of making a bridge from one of these squares:

Here are my storyboards for "Manhattan".  By looking at these, you wouldn't think I went to art school for 6 years to learn how to draw.  I don't believe in doing pretty storyboards.  For me, a storyboard's primary purpose is to layout the flow and energy of the story.  Spending time making well drawn panels is, to me, a giant waste.  Especially if you're the only one who needs to look at them:

Another running theme through these three films is this overlay of film scratches.  I didn't want to just slap some scratchy film over top.  That would've been pretty fuckin' lame.  But I thought it would be cool to use the film scratches as the rain animation.  Surprisingly, it worked really well.

Here's the film texture I used:

And here is some finished art with the film scratches skewed to look like rain:

Thanks for reading :)