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SYNOPSIS

Gramercy is a short film that we’ve co-written and directed. The film will serve as a stand-alone independent short film, as well as our directing roadmap and proof-of-concept for an eventual feature adaptation.

Our story follows a young black New Jersey native named Shaq during his weekend trip home, as his ongoing battle with depression becomes a poetic exploration of personal struggle. Blending neorealism with striking flashbacks and surrealism, fragments of Shaq’s subconscious appear as nonlinear, dream-like manifestations as he tries to navigate day-to-day life.

Depression, anxiety, and suicide are realities that have been on the rise throughout America. Studies show that African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health issues than any other race but are also less likely to be treated.

In order to normalize the conversation around mental health, stories about them need to be seen and heard. Gramercy is an exploration of the intersections, and lack thereof, between experience and emotion.


ARTISTIC STATEMENT

When we examined many notable films exploring American blackness, we found it had been done mostly through a lens of class struggle. While necessary, it is not a single story. In 2014, Piscataway, New Jersey was ranked as the 27th best place to live in America by TIME Magazine. We were struck by how comfortable the appearance of this middle-class American suburb seemed. In its corner was a group of young black men who had created their own culture, identity, and brotherhood that they called Gramercy. We feel it is important to showcase the complexity and array of origins and not categorize each character into a pool as, simply, “black.”

We looked to Andrei Tarkovsky and Wong Kar-wai as inspiration for sculpting time and peeling back consciousness in an unconventional, surreal way. In their films, fragmented, even unrelated moments and memories surface during life-altering times; tied together by meaningful dream-like abstractions. This navigation of the psyche deeply influenced the way we explored our main character’s conflicts and emotions. Once we found a structure, we looked at stories that depict people's everyday lives in a compelling, empathetic fashion. Oslo, August 31, Ratcatcher, and the films of Edward Yang paint lived-in mundanity to give space for empathy and humanity. They depict inexpressible feelings while never losing grasp of their fully-realized, lived-in cinematic worlds.

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We shot on-location in Piscataway, New Jersey and cast the real-life people that our characters are based on. We felt this choice is vital for maintaining authenticity, developing complex characters, and displaying honest, deep-rooted camaraderie.

From the start, this has been about moment-to-moment truth and empathy. Because we are examining complicated, language-transcending complexities, we didn’t want to take a conventional storytelling approach. We are setting out to create an original cinematic language through non-linear structure and point of view.

By blending world cinema techniques to today’s underrepresented topics, we feel like this film can change the way we think and perceive the black and, therefore, the human experience.


THE TEAM

JAMIL MCGINNIS & PAT HEYWOOD / Writers, Directors, Producers

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Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood’s work has been featured on PBS, NOWNESS, TIDAL, NPR, NoBudge, Booooooom, Blavity, Medium, Shots, and screened as official selections of the New Orleans Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, the Brooklyn Film Festival, the Lincoln Center, and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.

Jamil is a Turkish and African American filmmaker and photographer originally from Kaiserslautern, Germany. Upon graduating Florida A&M’s business school, and a couple of Wall Street stockbroker gigs later, Jamil jumped to the advertising industry, working as a film producer at Droga5. His most recent photography work has been showcased during the opening night of the Lucie Foundation’s Month of Photography LA at ARENA 1 Gallery in Santa Monica, CA.

Pat grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts as a self-professed cinephile. He is a graduate of Emerson College, where he was nominated to the prestigious Writers Guild of America East Mentorship Program. During his fouur years at the production company SMUGGLER, he worked for a roster of world-class filmmakers, including Kathryn Bigelow, Barry Jenkins, Tom Hooper, Bennett Miller, Miles Jay, Susanne Bier, and Chris Smith.

MACEO BISHOP / Director of Photography

Maceo has maintained a reputation as one of the most sought-after camera operators in the film industry, working with directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Gus Van Sant, The Coen Brothers, Oliver Stone, Steve McQueen, the Safdie Brothers, and Cary Fukunaga. He’s worked with some of the greatest Directors of Photography in the history of the medium, including Roger Deakins, Rodrigo Prieto, Bradford Young, Darius Khondji, Ellen Kuras, Bruno Delbonnel, and Jody Lee Lipes.

In 2017, Maceo began focusing on his career as a Director of Photography, where his credits include Black America Again (Dir. Bradford Young), a number of high-profile music videos, and lead second unit photography for films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Dir. Stephen Daldry), Thank You For Your Service (Dir. Richard Linklater), and Molly’s Game (Dir. Aaron Sorkin).

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MYRIAM SCHROETER / Producer

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Myriam is an award-winning producer whose “worked with” includes Revlon, IFC Films, LG, Nordstrom, IMG, Estee Lauder and Sundance Institute. She produced the acclaimed film The Light of the Moon, which went on to win the Narrative Feature Audience Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. Additionally, she’s produced a number of independent narrative shorts, as well as scripted music-related content for Warner Bros and Def Jam. Prior to producing, she worked as a content editor and marketer for Amazon. She currently works for Beachside Films as an Executive Producer, pitching and managing features and television pilots for platforms such as Netflix and Hulu. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and based in Brooklyn, NY.

CLAIRE MCGIRR / Producer

Claire McGirr is a creative producer with extensive experience in production, post-production and development. She is based between Los Angeles and New York. Claire conceptualized and executive produced "Dear Mr. President", the multi-award-winning eighth season of Motionpoems. As part of the project, she sourced and curated 12 international directors, whose films have been screened variously at 1.4 Awards, Aesthetica Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Galway Film Fleadh, the Hammer Museum LA, Hollywood Shorts, Raindance, Sydney Design Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, the V&A in London, and have featured on 1.4, Afro Punk, Boooooom, Booth, Director's Notes, Free the Bid, Girls in Film, Little Black Book, Moving Poems, Nowness, Shoot Online, Shots and Vimeo's Staff Pick.

Claire's background is in commercial production. She served as Associate Producer for 5 years at renowned production company SMUGGLER Inc., where she worked with some of the industry’s top directors.

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GABIJA BLAKE / Producer

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Gabija Blake is a native New Yorker, but she doesn’t have the accent to back it up. After graduating with an English degree from the University of Chicago, Gabija moved back home and started dreaming of ways to turn her written stories into films. She’s found a home at Droga5 and is currently producing TV campaigns for clients such as the New York Times, New Museum and the YMCA. Her previous projects include the Webby-winning “Tree VR,” which premiered at Sundance New Frontier and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as a production stint with NYC-based comedy group Local Empire. Their short film, “The Refrigerator,” premiered at the Brooklyn Film Festival, and their feature-length “Trivia Night” won Best Feature at the Omaha Film Festival.

CHEYENNE FORD / Production Designer

Raised in New Orleans, Cheyenne has an appreciation for improvisation and a fascination with the ways cultures mix and meet to form new celebrations. As an Art Director, she’s worked on projects including JAY-Z’s “Smile” (Prod. Designer Akin McKenzie; Grand Prix winner at Cannes Lions Festival), To Dust (a feature film that premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival). She worked as the Prop Master on After the Wedding (a feature film that was a Day One World Premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival), as well as the Assistant Set Decorator on The Wolf Hour (feature film; Sundance 2019 NEXT World Premiere).

She is part of the United Scenic Artists Local 829, covering art directors and production designers in New York, Studio Mechanics Local 478, covering all set decoration and property positions with jurisdiction in Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, and Mobile, and Studio Mechanics Local 52 as a permitted guest in the New York jurisdiction for all set decoration and property positions.

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PRODUCTION COMPANY

Reframe is a production company founded on the belief that stories can change the world. Following that ethos, they believe that authentic storytelling in film can spark global conversations, transform perspectives, and change lives. Reframe's founders and producers Michael Peay and Chelsea Franklin have produced projects in 24 countries for BBC Films, Vice, the Red Cross, Gates Foundation, and more, including the award-winning short film "Wa'ad," and the feature narrative "Mughal Mowgli," currently in post production. 


PHOTOGRAPHY

INSPIRATION


 

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