Fact: Residents of Manhattan believe they live in the greatest city in the world. (Guilty, as charged.) There's something about the grid of dirty water hotdog vendors, Broadway marquees, and yellow taxis - witnessed through the veil of a century of soot that reminds us that we are part of something historic. Something vital and constant. We feel a certain amount of ownership over the magic our city disperses to the throngs of visitors that all come to marvel at her.
"Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful" - Helen Keller
What if we couldn't see the sights? What if we were unable to grasp that intangible, electric spectacle? Would New York City hold the same enchantment for us? Do those vendor carts become obstacles along with the crowds of tourists all clustered around stage doors?
It seems so off-the-mark to consider that not having sight could put a person in less of a New York state of mind. After all, couldn't they better hear the buskers...better smell the roasted nuts (and the aforementioned tourists)...better sense the maze of cornerstones?
I'm intrigued by what secrets my city shares with its blind residents. I've watched in wonder for over a decade, trying to understand what the non-sighted experience must be like. So many questions about the day-to-day. Are blind residents targets for crime? Do they really count their entire commute? Do they agree they live in the greatest city on earth or is life in Manhattan simply a matter of easier accessibility?
And, it's this fascination that's leading me into the dark.
New York After Dark will be a character-driven, feature-length documentary that follows the comings and goings of several brave, blind New Yorkers. And I, myself, will electively go 'dark' for three days to experience New York City, her inhabitants, and my life a bit differently.
One of the blind New Yorkers we'll be featuring is Daniel Aronoff. Daniel is a food critic with a Master's degree in Social Work. His blog -- The Real Blind Taste Test -- where he shares his restaurant reviews, was the winner of the 2011 CBS Most Valuable Blogger award!
We'll also be featuring Frank Senior. An accomplished jazz vocalist, Frank has performed at the Montréal Jazz Festival and the Lighthouse Metropolitan Museum of Art concert, as well as The Village Gate, Bryant Park, The Angry Squire, Sweetwater’s and The Blue Note. He also loves to play chess!
THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL
Well, folks, we may only be at the beginning stages of a journey; but, I'm really excited about the destination.
If you've never seen any of my content, then you should know that I always try and introduce foreign concepts with humor as well as the utmost respect. I believe in levity as much as in truth and my most popular videos tend to showcase that:
If you're already familiar with my work, via the holiDAYtrips travel blog or through ProjectExplorer or elsewhere, you know that I love nothing more than the journey into unfamiliar territory. New York After Dark will be as foreign a voyage as I have ever attempted and one I cannot undertake without your help.
What we're currently seeking is a starter budget. It will cover the costs of pre-production and our first 1-2 weeks of filming, in January 2014.
The plan from there is to cut a killer trailer and then launch the second stage of fundraising, the big ask. Not only are we hoping the video footage gives people more of a clear direction about our project, but it will be crucial in applying for production grants. (Though, we will roll out all of these details in our next phase ... in specific detail.)
For now, we're keeping things small and we're really excited about the potential for family and friends (and their family and friends!) to sign on as the first producers of our project. And, if you've never 'backed' a project on Kickstarter before, please refer to the Rewards section. For every pledge given, there is a corresponding reward: from signed pre-production postcards to production stills to tickets to the film's premiere to getting an Associate Producer's credit on the film.
If you're already familiar with Kickstarter's template, know that all backers that give in the first phase of fundraising will have their funds added to the pledges they give in the next phase -- that way you will get the maximum reward for your dollars spent.
Feel free to reach out with any questions you have. I'm sure we'll also be adding a FAQ section as we get further along in the fundraising process.
Most importantly, thank you for your support. It's going to be an amazing journey and I'm so glad we're all going to get there together!
FEELING MY WAY or THE BACKSTORY
Not surprisingly, when people hear about the theme of my first feature documentary venture, they wonder what led me to the topic. To fully grasp the 'why' of it all, it helps to know about more about me and the way I've always comprehended the human experience.
Since I was child, I've had trouble processing the notion that some people go to bed hungry or that they might not have a blanket on their bed - let alone no bed at all. My mother would sometimes need to pick her driving routes based upon whether or not someone was asking for money near the highway entrance. I would beg to give them money or food as we whooshed by in our minivan. And, for hours, I would be stuck. I'd ask her over and over if we could be back and make sure they were okay. I'm sure it was exhausting for her. It certainly was for me. This constant ache to connect with strangers in the hopes that some cosmic balance could be restored when I (a cheeky 9 yr-old) handed someone my bologna sandwich.
So, as you can imagine, when I first came to New York City there were a lot of challenges to my daily commute. As an empath, hyper-sensitive to any visual suggestion of human suffering, I was often unable to steel myself to the scenes of fellow city residents without a champion. Simply making sandwiches to deliver to the hungry or allocating some of my student loan money for curbside donations didn't seem to quiet the call to action that was percolating within me. Heck, I even tried to go without food and a shower for 2 weeks to try and understand the homeless experience. I made it 10 days and rarely left my warm, studio apartment on the Upper West Side; so, the effort, while sweet, certainly didn't yield any of the answers I was seeking.
By 2005, when it was time to pen my Master's thesis, I was still weighed-down with a satchel full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the best of intentions; and, I hadn't fully grasped why it was that some of the stories in the city had such a profound hold on me. And, then, when it came time to finalize my thesis topic, I could no longer run from the narrative thread that had come to define why I am the way I am. My subject, The Communicative Capabilities of Human Suffering. And, with that theme in mind, I attempted to cobble together the meaning behind why I care so much for others.
It was during this time of intense research when I had my first encounter with a blind New Yorker - both of us commuting home in the late evening hours. Not only was my curiosity piqued as I watched him walking at an accelerated clip with his cane; but, I found my autonomic nervous system kicking-in, in the exact same way it would react to a panhandler or an elderly city resident asking for my arm to steady them. But this gentleman was clearly in control of his surroundings and in no need of assistance.
Why did I hear sad violin music playing while looking at what was clearly a capable person navigating the city in their own way? Why, days later, couldn't I stop worrying about whether or not he made it home unharmed?
And, just like that, the bologna sandwich was back! Though, this time, I began to sense that it was my own handicap of brutal hyper-sensitivity keeping me from being at peace. And, eventually, it was my overwhelming empathy for others that led me toward my path. I meditated for a long time on that blind commuter and was finally able to embrace the idea that it's my purpose stirring inside me when I see someone in need.
Connecting with people is what I was born to do. I am genuinely charmed by the unknown and captivated by the mysteries of the lives around me. And, once I realized that, it was also a bit of a cure for me. When I fully understand a person's story, I'm somehow released from carrying around my idea of what their life must be. I know, I know, it's pretty heavy stuff. But, it allows me to truly love the people around me, even the strangers in a city as big as this one.
And, so, with New York After Dark, my hope is to share some incredible stories with everyone who, like me, has ever been curious about the blind experience in this (and any) city; but, I'm also thrilled to lay down 10 years of worry about whether or not that blind man ever made it home okay.
Risks and challenges
While every film is certain to face financial and logistical challenges (and ours is no exception -- especially considering we haven't yet solidified our crew), I'm confident that our project is strong and our subjects and city are ready to share their stories.
That said, as we move from this phase of the fundraising process into the next, I see this section growing. Our potential risks and challenges will definitely be something that we can better see as we continue down this crazy, awesome path. One thing is certain, we will make every effort to utilize humor and an open mind along the way.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)