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30-38. Because the Best Young Filmmakers Wouldn’t Shoot Anywhere Else


Illustration by Gluekit  

These nine directors made some of the most memorable independent movies of the past two years—all of which were set on the streets of New York. And they did it before their 30th birthdays. Below, they explain why they could only do it here.

NY Export: Opus Jazz; Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Best thing about working here: “The locations. I love places that are in transition, that used to be something else, that had been destroyed, or that represent an old New York: McCarren pool, the High Line, a warehouse in Red Hook.”
Favorite New York moment on film: “In Manhattan, when Woody Allen is playing racquetball with Michael Murphy— you don’t see the city at all, but it has this great feel. Two quintessential New York guys awkwardly trying to play sports in this totally different world.”

2. RY RUSSO-YOUNG You Won’t Miss Me
Neighborhood: “Far West Side, downtown, not quite the West Village”

Best thing about working here: “The psychological temperature of this city—an energy, a hunger, an unrest—makes you want to work harder and harder. It’s part of what makes you feel like a crazy person here, but it’s also why you can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Favorite New York moment on film: “In Alan J. Pakula’s Klute, which is set in seedy seventies New York, there’s this scene where someone’s being followed, and in the foreground, you can see a funeral procession going by. The funeral represents this whole other world of people who are mourning this death, but that’s just one narrative in a great city of 8 million narratives.”

Catfish;NY Export: Opus Jazz
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill

Best thing about working here: “People are exposed to so many things. In some ways, it would be easier to be a filmmaker in L.A., but that’s a filmmaker whose life is only about filmmaking. That’s not the kind of filmmaker I’d want to be.”
Favorite New York moment on film: “The opening scene of Marathon Man, where the two guys are driving and they get into, like, a car argument, and one ends up being a Nazi war criminal in hiding, and the other is a concentration-camp survivor. It shows how you can run into anyone in New York. You never know who you’re standing next to in the street.”

Neighborhood: “Deep, deep Chinatown”

Best thing about working here: “Nobody waits for green lights: You don’t need money, you don’t need a studio, you don’t need any approval. You need, like, a camera. And reckless ambition.”
Favorite New York moment on film: “In Bennett Miller’s documentary The Cruise, when tour guide Speed Levitch is walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and releasing all his inner demons. He’s on this epic structure, it’s totally scenic, and he’s just ripping on everyone who’s ruined his life.”


Best thing about working here: “I tend to work really late and not go to sleep, and this city is alive and functioning when I am. You can get a hamburger at three in the morning on a Tuesday, and if there’s a technical emergency on-set, there’s always something you can do to figure it out any time of the day. ”
Favorite New York moment on film: “In The King of Comedy, when Jerry Lewis walks by that old lady and she tries to get him to talk to her son on the phone and, when he says no, she goes, ‘You should get cancer.’ People can love you or hate you in a minute, and they’ll tell you.”

Breaking Upwards
Neighborhood: West Village but “possibly moving to Fort Greene”

Best thing about working here: “The neurotic way that people relate to each other here. There’s a self-awareness, a verbosity that really influences my films. People don’t have walls around them when they talk; they just speak their minds. Like, I’ll be in Russ & Daughters buying babka, and the person next to me will be telling me how that fatty, chocolatey babka would be the end of them if they kept eating it so much.”
Favorite New York moment on film:The Taking of Pelham One Two Three really captures the turbulent nature of living here—as well the camaraderie that develops when people are trapped in the subway. I was on the subway once when there was a track fire, and everyone was freaking out, but we were all helping each other. In New York, you can feel really close to strangers just because you’re sitting next to them.”


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