Depth of Character is something that the intimacy of independent cinema is able to capture so exquisitely. Electric Bento had the opportunity to sit down with Landing Up‘s director, Dani Tenenbaum and writer-producer-actress Stacey Maltin.
As it makes its way on to streaming platforms, Dani Tenenbaum’s Landing Up heated up the festival circuit. This fairy tale story features a strong depth of character, a knock-out cast and uses New York City as its backdrop. We had a chance to sit down with Mr. Tenenbaum and the film’s screenwriter, actress and producer, Stacey Maltin who plays Chrissie.
What is the premise of Landing Up?
Landing Up is the story of a girl with nothing to lose and everything to hide. Chrissie and her best friend Cece manipulate people for a place to stay while they dream about having an apartment of their own. When Chrissie meets David, she falls for him and must decide whether to tell him the truth about her life or cover her secrets at all costs.
What inspired this premise?
We wanted to tell the story of a homeless woman who doesn’t look like society’s idea of homelessness. She’s able to slip in and out of the upper crust of New York and her boyfriend’s cool Brooklyn lifestyle all while actually existing in the gritty underbelly which makes up New York City. She uses the city to her advantage to push her way ahead.
As filmmakers, how did you conduct research for this film?
We spent a lot of time in homeless shelters volunteering and doing research. We spoke to a lot of women who talked about the hierarchy of homelessness and how they didn’t consider themselves to be “homeless” and yet they would be sleeping at a shelter. Many of the women did not look homeless and had their nails or makeup done or owned a cell phone. We also learned a lot about the differences between city shelters and private shelters and the dangers especially women face at city public shelters.
What was your biggest challenge during production
Our biggest challenge was trying to create a film that looked like it had a lot more money behind it than we actually had. In order to put more money into production design and locations, Dani and I would drive the truck to and from set and do all the crafty buying and storing ourselves along with our producers. We learned every inch of creating a feature film from the beginning to the end. It was incredibly exciting and emotional and we can’t wait to make the next one.
What was your favorite on-set moment or anecdote?
When we shot the scenes where Stacey and E’dena were begging on the street many people didn’t realize we were filming a movie (even though we had a big crew and equipment and a camera) and would stop when they were in the middle of a scene to ask how two attractive women ended up homeless and wanted to express their dismay and anger at that. It was really surprising and fascinating.
What is it like shooting a film in NYC?
New York City was a character in our film, and we tried to film it in a new way that from one hand won’t take too much attention (we didn’t wanna film the usual suspects like the empire state building and other notorious landmarks) but still be a noticeable part of the film. We tried to show it in a gritty, not-glittery way, like something that is good to you but will also hurt you. New York is film friendly for so many reasons. First of all, most New Yorkers are so used to it that they just let you do your thing without interference. They are in a hurry and not easily impressed! There’s also so many great spots in the city that can work for any genre, from 17th-century-period piece to a futuristic dystopia.
What’s your top tip for filmmakers that want to shoot in NYC?
If you are filming a TV pilot or a feature film, make sure to use the NYC film production Tax Credit, you can get up to 30% of your money back! One more important resource you have is film communities like The Filmshop / The Sandbox. You have to have a great team around you, and you can find the right people in those communities.
What do you hope audiences take away after seeing the film?
Especially in the polarized climate, we are living in right now there seems to be this idea that people are either all good or all bad. The world has become very black and white and in Landing Up all of the characters live in a morally grey area. They might be people you love and sympathize with but they can do bad things which doesn’t make them awful, just human. When we’re confronted with circumstances that push us against a wall, we think most people are capable of doing things that they may not think they would ever do. We hope people remember that and think about that after watching the movie.
We want to express our thanks to Dani and Stacey for their time and their film. You can check out our review here.