Richie: Thankful after Sandy

Most of us see Thanksgiving break as a quick break from school. It’s seen as a time to fill-up on turkey, watch some football, bump into old friends, and go Black Friday shopping. It’s a great time to be with family, but unfortunately most of us don’t actually stop and take time to give thanks. I know I’m guilty of it. This past weekend was the first time I went back to Lindenhurst in the past few months and I quickly found I had a lot to actually be grateful for.

Lindenhurst, being a town on the south shore of Long Island was very affected by Hurricane Sandy. For weeks I had seen friends posting pictures on facebook of their homes flooded, property destroyed, home-made signs threatening looters, and even photos of the National Guard who had set-up checkpoints. My home was just a few blocks north from most of the destruction so my family had luckily only suffered a power outage for a little over a week. But I had many close friends who lost a lot of property, had basements and first floors flooded, and some who weren’t even able to live in their homes anymore.

A friend who came back from college for Thanksgiving Break actually ended up staying with me every night. All the storage he kept below his home and in the garage had to be moved into his home and there was physically nowhere he could actually sleep. He’d spend the days with his family at a relative’s house and the nights at my place. He had always been a close friend so it was great having “sleepovers” like we used to when we were younger, but obviously we wished it could’ve been under better circumstances.

I drove around some of the areas that saw the most destruction and was taken back. Most of it had been cleaned up, but debris still lay around in many places, some roofs torn off homes, and a close friend’s house I saw was completely blocked off with caution tape.

It was a very surreal but a very sobering experience. It helped me be thankful for what I had. I enjoyed thanksgiving with my family and we even began decorating for Christmas around the house a bit early. My girlfriend even came out to visit a close family friend who lives a few minutes from me and she got to meet my family for the first time. It was a great break and seeing my family was very much needed. I hope that my friends and any other victims of the storm, on Long Island or anywhere else, will soon find help in rebuilding and recovering. I know I’m waiting to get back for Christmas break and hopefully see things better worked out around my town.

Richie: Film Production During a Hurricane

Hey everyone! Some of you may know I’ve been in the process of directing a short film. I’ve come to find out that during production problems you had never anticipated will always come up. Sometimes minor or sometimes major, but they always have to be addressed and solved.

This past Sunday, my crew and I were all on location filming in Allston. A few minor problems began to pop-up like I thought they might. The owner of the house we were filming at woke-up late and we started very behind schedule, a truck at one point parked right in front of the house we were filming at and the sound became a nightmare so we had to wait it out. We were able to roll quickly with the minor things thrown at us and keep on filming. We finished right on time and began traveling to the next location. That’s when the major problem came.

One of my main actors has been coming from Queens, New York every single weekend to act in the project. While we were on the way to our second location, with five more hours of scheduled filming time, my main actor was called by a friend back in NYC. “They’re shutting down the entire MTA at 7pm tonight until Wednesday” he told me once he got off the phone. It was already 12:30pm and the trip back to Manhattan is usually sometime in between four and five hours. If my actor took a bus home when he had planned to (at 6pm that night) there would be no one in Manhattan to take him back to Queens. (That is, even if buses would have been running that late to New York.) I offered for him to stay at my place, but his grandmother who also lives in Queens was going to be completely alone during the storm, and with no transportation back, he might’ve been getting back days late which he did not feel comfortable with. I had him quickly take the T over to South Station and see if there were any more buses. The plan was to keep setting up and the next location and if there were no buses back to NYC, he would come back and act in the remainder of the scenes. If there was a bus, we would have to scrap the whole day, which was also difficult since I already had another actor on his way from Portland, Maine for the next scene.

The actor ended up calling me from South Station and he had been able to catch a bus for 1:30pm. He cut it very close but he called me later on letting me know he had made the final subway of the night. While the whole day of filming had to be cancelled, the following scene was a big party scene, so I had ample amounts of food and the actors and crew who were there were able to relax and mingle a bit. Everyone left early and was able to focus on other things they had later that night. It ended up working well, almost as an icebreaker for many and everyone was understanding that nothing could have been done about Hurricane Sandy abruptly changing our plans. We still had a U-Haul van and plenty of equipment taken out, so my producer made a quick call to a singer/songwriter who had been asking my friends and I for quite some time to film an acoustic session with her at her home. Within two hours we were able to shift our plans quickly and ended up filming a great set with this artist!

I’ve been having a crazy time rescheduling shoots with all the actors’ availability but the whole experience was extremely helpful. It was a very high stress situation, but as the director it was a huge learning experience for me and I now feel prepared to take on anything else thrown at me!