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Hurricane Sandy Short Film Brings Memories and a Mermaid to Red Hook

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 12, 2013 8:19am
Pepper & the Salt Sea
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Don Downie

RED HOOK — When Pepper, a young photographer, lost her life’s work after Hurricane Sandy flooded her Red Hook home, the story continued, just as it has for dozens who are still recovering almost a year after the storm.

But when a mermaid visited Pepper, her seemingly familiar story turned magical.

Red Hook filmmaker Don Downie is creating a short movie, titled “Pepper & the Salt Sea,” the story of a mermaid and a photographer whose love for the ocean, along with her photographs and equipment, were washed away in the storm.

“She loses her future,” said Downie, a director and cinematographer who has been making films for nine years.

One year after the storm, Pepper is walking home when she finds a woman who is  “soaking wet and seemingly helpless,” Downie said.

 The official film poster for "Pepper & the Salt Sea."
The official film poster for "Pepper & the Salt Sea."
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Don Downie

The woman, Pepper later discovers, is a mermaid named Selene who begins a conversation about the ocean, which, until the storm, had been the photographer’s muse.

Selene becomes an ally and symbol of the water, said Stacie Capone, Downie’s wife, who will be playing the role of Pepper.

As longtime Red Hook residents, Downie and Capone hope the film will provide solace to a neighborhood where many people, like Pepper, lost their homes, businesses and love for the sea during Sandy.

Downie also hopes to honor those who rebuilt the waterfront neighborhood, many of whom are moving towards complete recovery, he said.

“They have rebuilt something that is even more special,” he said.

Last week, the couple launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $19,500 for the film’s production. Ten percent of the funds raised will be donated to Red Hook Volunteers.

Interviews with Red Hook Volunteers, Home/Made’s Monica Byrne and Leisah Swenson, and others, will assist Downie in the film’s creation.

Their stories will be available to the public after “Pepper & the Salt Sea” is completed at the end of the year. 

Whether it’s flooding during a storm or walking to the subway in February, Downie admits there are challenges to living in the waterfront neighborhood.

To Downie, Pepper’s story is a love letter to Red Hook, “his magical place in New York City.”

“Red Hook is a neighborhood where anything could happen,” he said. “I’ve never fallen out of love with [it.]”