By Ben Donnellon
I re-nested. After about three years living in the different boroughs of New York City, I moved back in with my folks. Why, you might ask? Was it because I spent my six months living in Bushwick, Brooklyn sharing a small room with a friend from college…a room that we couldn’t walk across without bumping into each other? Was it because our landlord across the hall dealt drugs to high school kids? And that those kids would often sit on the hallway stairs, feet away from our door, waiting for the man. And sometimes after coming home late from a days work I’d see a high schooler, still wearing his backpack, passed out on the steps. Perhaps he was drug crazed, in need of his next fix, or maybe he was getting tutored by the man, I really don’t know, but he was there, right outside of our apartment, resting. Upon arrival, I’d open my door quietly so not to wake him.
I should mention that we lived in a railroad apartment with a married couple, so to use the bathroom we had to exit our room and cross the hall to other side of the apartment, unlocking and locking both doors along the way. So on occasion, I would spend nights in bed holding in my bladder, fearful of being jumped by a high school druggie as I voyaged across the apartment hallway to use my own bathroom and hoping I could hold it in until morning. Is this why I left the big city?
Or maybe I moved back home because I spent two years in Astoria essentially living on a porch that was converted into a parlor room, that I then converted into my bedroom. Oh, I still remember those cold winter nights I spent huddled underneath my blankets, teeth chattering, and wondering why I had chosen this room. At the time I was thinking, “well it’s super close to the backyard, which is pretty cool.” But that was in March.
No, no, I did not move back home for any of these reasons. I left the city and re-nested because I wanted to make my film, a dark comedy called “Know Your Logic.” It was a conscious choice rather than an inevitable product of circumstance. As you might know, cameras are so freakin’ inexpensive now a days. Get a smart phone and you’ve equipped yourself to be the next Bob Rodriguez. But as a necessary and annoying consequence, there are many more filmmakers out there. It’s a very crowded and competitive field. So I’ve come to the conclusion that work as a filmmaker you have to go big or go home. Well, I decided to go big AND go home. In other words, I had to go home to go big.
My parents live in Morristown, NJ, 30 miles outside of the city. Luckily, this proximity has allowed me to re-nest and still frequent the five boroughs. The FilmShop has been a great way to assure a weekly visit to see friends and stay active within the film community. After moving back home, the next step was getting a little money to shoot the film, which at the time was called “The Reiss Disorder.” With the gracious help of friends and family, I raised a modest amount on kickstarter to get me through the production. I already had a script (you know, that one that you’ve been working on for years), so I was ready to go. As a local, I was able to secure all my locations for free. My crew was made up of friends and colleagues from high school that were also into production (and had equipment). I got my actors from New York. So for the last couple of months we’ve shot all over town in a coffee shop, a diner, a luggage store (where I had worked for four years), a church basement, the town square, in cars, friends’ apartments, my parents’ house…you get the idea. Because of all the savings I reaped from filming in my hometown, I was able to pay just about everyone who worked on the film. We also ate well and had a reasonable shooting schedule. We’ve completed about 18 full days so far and are still within our budget, which is less than $10,000.
As I approach the completion of production, I’m also nearing the end of my time at home. I’ve enjoyed my tenure here. Home cooked meals, lots of space, and drinking my parents’ alcohol at no charge has been real nice. I’ve been at home over a year and it’s hard to remember what it was like living on my own. But in the next couple of months, I’ll be moving back and experiencing it all over again. By the way, do you need a roommate? Anyway, I’ll be back in the city and by the spring I hope to finish my film. I’ll send it off to festivals and see what happens. We’ll see. That’s all up in the air. But at the end of the day, all I know is that I tried my best to follow that old mantra, “Come here, go home, go big, then…well…come back.”