Bronx Filmmakers Organize Weekly Meeting to Trade Advice and Encouragement

By Patrick Wall on October 3, 2012 3:23pm 

MELROSE — A lawyer, a high school teacher, a journalism student, an amateur winemaker and about 10 others sat in a semi-circle Tuesday evening in the open gallery of the Bronx Documentary Center.

The support group looked like any other until the lights went down and a short film flashed onto a 15-foot screen — two apartment neighbors, thrust together by a hallway altercation, traded life advice.

“I love the message. I love the visuals. I love the writing,” said Velvet Ross, an office administrator and aspiring documentarian.

The niceties delivered, the group then dug in — Was that jump cut intentional? Is that a refrigerator humming off-screen? Is this primarily a narrative or a message film?

The filmmaker, Christina Castro, an online marketer who made the movie during a continuing education course over the summer, explained that it was meant to be a narrative, mostly, which was based on a real incident in her building.

“The whole situation dissipated,” she said. “But my mind wandered and I thought, ‘What if?’”

This was the second meeting of The Bronx Filmmakers, a new weekly gathering of novice and experienced auteurs hoping to pool their talents and passion in a borough whose movie business pales when compared to Hollywood — or even Brooklyn.

“There’s a sense that there are not the kind of resources here for independent films that there are in Brooklyn or Manhattan,” said Art Jones, a filmmaker and media artist who recently led film workshops in Pakistan.

While production studios, editing facilities and art-house cinemas in The Bronx would be nice, those aren’t the group’s main concerns, Jones added.

“Mostly what we’ve been hungry for is what we’re trying to start here — a network of peers,” he said.

The Bronx Documentary Center, which opened last year in a refurbished storefront at Courtlandt Avenue and 151st Street, showcases nonfiction still photography and films.

After several regulars batted around the idea of a Bronx filmmaking club over the past few months, they finally organized a meeting last week, expecting a handful of people to show.

“But about 22 or 23 people came,” said the center’s founder, Michael Kamber, an award-winning photojournalist. “It was a much bigger success than we had hoped for.”

Besides watching and critiquing one another's work, the group may eventually workshop scripts, invite actors to do readings and collaborate on projects.

Many of the members said they had waited a long time for such a club in their home borough.

“You hear about these places, but they’re always in the city,” said Pepper Negron, a photographer and filmmaker who plans to shoot a movie this month called “Abella,” about a romance cut short by a car crash.

It would be “beautiful” if his borough became a filmmaking destination, Negron said, “to actually hear people say, ‘I’m heading to The Bronx.’”

After Castro’s film, the group watched another short, called “Waiting,” by Juan Carlos Rodriguez, a part-time student in the media technology program at Bronx Community College.

In it, a girl in a white gown and red lipstick paces around her kitchen and bathroom, waiting for the results of a pregnancy test while a timer ticks.

Finally, the bell sounds, the girl holds up the strip and…“The End.”

“I just wanted to build tension — but not break it,” Rodriguez told the group, citing David Lynch, “The Shining” and German Expressionism as influences.

Afterwards, Patricia Dje, an economist visiting from Senegal, said she very much enjoyed the film, but that it left her with a burning question.

“Why was the girl wearing lipstick?” she asked.

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