Ben has been single for a long time. For his part, he is a loner but as well a romantic: he enjoys the solitude of his simple being but appreciates intelligent and witty company just the same. By yielding to both extremes, Ben remains caught between reason and arousal.
Isabel has been married for a year. The passion that had once carried her 5-year relationship has lost its pulse. Passive, protective, and without poise, it now threatens to claim hers. Waiting in abeyance, Isabel is lost between loyalty and loneliness.
Uptown is where they come together.
And so begins the story of how Ben and Isabel find love in each other’s arms…
…and so begins the story of how we made a film about my falling in love with a married woman.
In May of 2008, a series of experiences and inspirations led me to outline the details of a very personal story with the desire of translating it into the language of film. It took me most of the night to reprocess, condense, append, and shape into a workable form. Previously hidden pieces appeared and aligned themselves with those seemingly misplaced: a starved director, an inspiring story, an ambitious producer, a revolutionary digital age. Years of observational and first-hand experience tugged at this filmmaker to graduate from short film director to feature film director; the highest obstacles: money and motivation. One conversation would change that. Not because a certain individual was promising funds, but because he was captivated by the story I wanted to tell. In Princeton Holt, I found my motivation. With him, I finally felt, I could make my first feature. The need for money would eventually evaporate into a myth.
The strength of the story of Uptown as it relates to independent film is its simplicity. At its center the film is about falling in love. Trained by observing the independent movement known as Mumblecore, Uptown abandons subplot and keeps its pace minimally measured; attention is focused squarely on character and conflict. By simplifying the story- narratively and aesthetically- we would be able to tell it without much money at all.
But this particular story was meant to be told with simplicity. I know because it was experienced with simplicity. One conversation after another brought this individual closer and closer to me. There were no fireworks, no rainbows; there were no romantic declarations of love, no speeches in the rain; there was just conversation, and yearning for more conversation. In the end what I would come to feel for this person would not only replace the despair I had been hiding from losing my first love many years back, it would inspire me to believe in the idea of love even beyond our relationship. For this reason I knew I had something to share.
*On a technical note, for the purpose of this title I will be referring to this woman by her cinematic counterpart’s name, Isabel. I will likewise be referring to her husband as Morgan. I cannot remember her dog’s name so he too will be replaced by his screen name, Doah.*
Now, a year later, having made the film, (mostly to my satisfaction,) I find myself back in the position of wanting to share a new experience. In this case, it’s largely a continuation of the Uptown experience. Designed as a complimentary diet for Uptown admirers and students of independent film in general, The Making Of takes an in-depth look at all aspects related to the process of making the film. Starting with the true story it’s based on, I’ll take you through what actually happened, what I omitted, what I added, what I re-sequenced, and, most importantly, why. Structure, narrative, dialogue will all be addressed in this first chapter, as will writing within limitations vs. writing for entertainment value.
Other chapters will look at the producers’ involvement, casting decisions, location scouting, prepping and rehearsing, aesthetic and aural design, on-location shooting logistics, unexpected challenges, collaboration between director and cast/crewmembers, and editing. Often broad topics, I’ll be able to scale them down specifically as they relate to Uptown. Part docu-narrative, part no-budget film guide, part multi-character study, part film criticism, this Making Of will encapsulate every creative element, decision, and socio-professional dynamic that went into making the film.
Though the feat is daunting from the ground, in completing this manuscript, the reward that I have to look forward to as a filmmaker is a monumental one: the documentation of what I did right on this production and of what I will need to improve upon for the next. Should anyone find as much pleasure in the journey of this conquest, I welcome you for a drink in my tent.