We see them everywhere: on our streets, in our parks and sometimes in our bars and restaurants. Film shoots are a guaranteed daily encounter on the streets of Greenpoint. And while the scale and size of these productions vary from multi-million to zero, one thing is for sure: Greenpoint gets a lot of moviemaking love!
Picture Planet, a collective of local filmmakers and artists, is currently in the final stages on their debut feature: a street-balling ’80s style-comedy called Chicken which was shot almost entirely in Greenpoint. I sat down with the boys behind Chicken to talk shop over some cheap beers and free pizza at Lulu’s. The main players are Dan Bowhers, the director of Chicken, Vandall Truong, lead actor, and Mike Kolawski, the film’s producer.
Chicken is a micro budget comedy about Po Phuk, a Thai food delivery guy who aspires to become a bad-ass street baller. “So it’s really about him trying to achieve his dream,” explained Van, who plays Po in the film, “Even though everyone in his life is telling him no.”
“We had a script but it was terrible,” Dan said, “So the first thing we did when we started shooting was to throw it away. To me the funniest parts of the movies were the ones that the actors were figuring out on the spot.”
Over the course of two long months in the fall and winter of ’11/’12, Picture Planet managed to shoot – and edit – the entire film. “It happened mainly over weekends since the majority of us have day jobs,” Dan said.
“We shot almost exclusively in Greenpoint and some parts of Williamsburg and the city,” Mike added, “It was a lot of outdoor shooting – always without permits. Mostly in basketball courts and parks like American Playground up the street.”
Van remembered one incident in which they were shooting a scene on a street where his character is getting beaten up which drew attention from some of the local men in blue from our 94th precinct. “They were just cruising by as I’m getting the s–t kicked out of me, and they roll down the window and say to the other actors, ‘Need any help?'”
“Greenpoint cops won’t shut down a low-budget movie set, but they will offer to help you give a beating,” Dan added.
Among the other locations was a scene at the late pizza joint Valdiano’s (now Cookie Road), the doggie (and kittie!) daycare center UnLeashed, and the Asian restaurant Shanghai Lee on Franklin Street.
“We didn’t ask permission to shoot at Shanghai Lee, so we’d place an order and just have Van pick it up while the cameras were rolling outside,” Dan said. “I had to change the sign on the outside to something else like ‘La Shraing.'”
For his day job, Dan is a visual effects artist who is a master at compositing out (or erasing and replacing) undesirable elements in the frame that were shot while on location. “If you can’t get a permit to shut a street down, you damn well better know how to take those people out of the street later.” he said.
Up next is the big challenge for so many first time filmmakers: distribution.
“I was thinking maybe I would burn like five to six hundred copies of the movie and pressing up cases and leaving them around at different bars and delis,” Dan said, “And then if you buy certain products you get a copy. Also, I’ve talked to that guy over at Film Noir video on Nassau, and he said he’d carry it when it comes out.”
Check out the film’s trailer and other shorts that Picture Planet has produced. With their sight currently set on a finished film within the next few months, keep your eye out for Chicken coming soon to a deli or bar near you!