One of the hits of the first short-film series at the 5th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival taking place throughout the town of North Hempstead, Long Island, was an enchanting, lyrical film, “Subway Love,” and the film maker, Max Stossel, was there at the Bryant Library in Roslyn for a Q&A.
Shot in the New York City subway (4th Street station) (beautiful cinematography by Sean Ferry) and done entirely in poetry, Subway Love” literally dances into your heart.
“I’m a poet. I love stories,” Stossel says. “I feel in my generation, attention span dwindling, it’s hard to get a message out,” Stossel says.
He says he wrote the poem (on the subway, in fact). “It hit me while I waiting for a train at 4th Street, but when I wrote it down, I thought of a better way to share it.”
The 26-year old New Yorker, who left a job at a social media start-up, says he is passionate about finding ways to send messages around Internet.
He hit upon the idea of turning his poem into a film, and cold-called Matthew Freidel, a director, in Los Angeles. After Max read the poem to him on the phone, Mat was on board.
Then he contacted Rachel Berman, who he had seen in a show in NY, “Then She Fell” an interactive theater piece.
“I had no budget so we went to a bar and I stood on a chair to perform the poem for her, and she agreed to do it.”
Rachel recommended a choreographer, Cecilia Rowlson-Hall and he needed to recite the poem over the phone. He called for one month, but didn’t connect. “Eventually I got her in the back of a car and recited the poem.” And she came on board.
Just a couple of days before shooting, he says, he met Ryan Weiss, a dancer in “Wicked.”
He had his lead couple, but he needed an anonymous “crowd” on the platform, so he sent out a message to 30 friends.
“But the 30 friends knew each other – it was hard to make them look sad” or alienated.
He called the city and was told he would need to rent an entire train – so they just went into the subway in the middle of the night.
They rehearsed for a couple of hours, and then shot in the subway from midnight to 4 am over two nights
He credits Mat, the director, for the delightful work. “Without Mat, I wouldn’t have been able to turn the poem into the beautiful thing it was.”
He distributed “Subway Love” on Youtube and vimeo – it’s been seen by 1 million so far.
Did he make money? “No. In this world, it’s hard,” then, almost without missing a beat, he adds, “A part of me wants to keep art separate from money.”
His background may be in social media, but he sounds more like a poet-philosopher. “I’m trying to start movement in the digital world to distinguish what is ‘time well spent’.
This was Max’s first film – he’s worked on a couple since.
He’s working on an animation of a poem about circles, an idea he got from the way traffic light changes. “I met a guy who was a student of sacred geometry.”
He is contemplating how to tackle a difficult subject – school shootings – which he believes has a connection to a need to attract attention “in really terrible ways.” But the very act of showcasing it would put that spotlight that might perversely trigger another to become a shooter.
Then he says, “You know, in English, we use the word ‘love’. My ex-girlfriend was Bengali and you know, they don’t have a word ‘love’ – the closest is “I love the essence of your being.’ In Arabic, the word is more like death ‘I dissolve in you.'”
Clearly a romantic. Stossel says he wants to make a movie about love in diverse cultures – Brazil, Morocco or Egypt, India, Japan, Philippines, Greece.
Certainly, “Subway Love” puts him on that track, contemplating what sparks love, the serendipity of finding love and the question of whether we would recognize it, see it, embrace it or do we miss more opportunities for love than we realize.
In a way, “Subway Love” is also a love poem to the subway and the city – but Stossel says he’s afraid to send it to NYC Mayor DiBlasio. “I didn’t get a permit.”’
As for whether he has found love, he says, “I’m still looking.”
See Subway Love www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W67IOcF3Lo
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