Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by diversity. The world is a beautiful array of multiple cultures and individual views. Yet, in the terms of entertainment, the mimicking of this reality is anything but. It could be years of status quo ingrained in the mainstream filmmaker’s mind, but thankfully the next generation sees nothing but variety.
In the new original series Moving, Alec Silberblatt and Ben Katz explore what it means to be a unique person living in the world today. The series follows Eli and Anna as they move out of their comfort zone and evolve. It’s not only about personal growth, which includes moving on, but where their strength comes from to help facilitate that.
Shot on location in New York City, arguably one of the most diverse cities in our country, the energy of this mecca was inspiring. “I think as storytellers, we’re influenced by the world around us,” Katz says. “Because we live in New York, we felt compelled to tell a story about the world we see, and imagine, in New York.”
The effect the city had on the writing proved to be some of the most open and honest storytelling, but also influenced the filmmaking process as well. The filmmaking energy flows freely throughout the city, which can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to indie filmmaking.
“The challenge is the logistics. Who can I get to travel to the Bronx with me at 4am and record sound? How can we film in Brooklyn, Midtown Manhattan, and Harlem all in one day? Who of our incredibly selfless, talented friends would be willing to schlep some gear and jump in a scene,” Silberblatt says. “It can be a headache. The upside, though, is, as indie film makers with no money, filming on an iPhone, we can essentially shoot where ever we want, pretty simply and discretely.”
Silberblatt and Katz took indie filmmaking to a whole new level. They were inspired by Tangerine, a film by Sean Baker that shined at Sundance 2015 and was shot on an iPhone. Using similar equipment, Moving uses everyday technology to create an effortless and unapologetic truth to daily life.
“Our dependence on smart phones is a little scary, but it makes using new software on those systems a breeze. The guys at FilMiC Pro (who make the iPhone app compatible with our lens) were so helpful and supportive—even cheered us on as indie filmmakers,” Silberblatt says. “Using the iPhone did open up so many doors. We were working with some non-actors, so having this thing people were familiar with helped people feel comfortable.”
When it came to casting, Silberblatt had a few people already in mind when it came to casting. This, along with the intimate way of filming, the actors were able to meld into their characters seamlessly. There was a trust there, that no matter where the story took them, the characters would be taken care of emotionally. The freedom the actor’s felt within their characters lead to an interesting question about depth. If there is an openness about exploring a story, is there a concern about avoiding elements that may be hypersensitive?
“I don't think we actively avoided anything. There were elements of Juli's story, that Julissa (Contreras) wrote, that if we had had more time and more resources would have gone deeper. That's true of all the episodes,” Silberblatt says. “Julissa is an incredible writer, and she doesn’t shy away from anything. Her work is so personal and real. I was most uncomfortable about the Jewish track in the story. The story David tells in the third episode went through several drafts.”
“I also think diversity has degrees. Alec and I endeavored to tell a story outside our own experience, with bits of our experience that we felt were underrepresented,” Katz adds. ”We’re pretty tired of the “20-somethings in NY ennui” story, and wanted to branch out. Different cultures, ages, faiths represented on screen.. It’s a small step, we know, but one in the right direction.”
The use of the web has been a brilliant element for this story. The segments are short, only a few minutes long, but the glimpse into each story packs a wallop. Our society may find it easier to swallow small portions of a story, but Silberblatt used that to his advantage.
“The whole thing was written to be viewed as one. So, essentially, it's a short film cut up into segments. It's a five act play. What's wonderful about web content, about our generation of storytellers, is that you can tell stories at your own pace,” Silberblatt says.
This does not mean that there were not challenges. With so many segments having the ability to stand on their own, connecting them to form one cohesive story was a task for the filmmakers.
“You have to discover what else they have in common. The mental gymnastics of that were difficult,” Silberblatt adds. “The episodic format is everywhere and it's soaked into us, that wasn't hard. It was dissolving that into something different that was challenging.”
Moving is an important series for many reason, and each one is personal and profound for Silberblatt and Katz. They took the responsibility as filmmakers to make their way not only in the industry, but in an attempt to help facilitate a change in what we see in entertainment. The weight of this series isn’t something that they take for granted. Instead, they appreciate that they have had an influence in a new filmmaking path now available.
“Moving shows the fruits of collaboration. Opening up to other writers, other cultures, other people in general is something that more and more filmmakers are doing and it's only making better content, and that's something unique to the indie world,” Silberblatt says.
“This style of filmmaking puts the focus on what happens in front of the camera. It becomes more about how can we create complicated, compelling characters, who are well-written and well-acted and less about how can we dazzle people with our camera skills,” Katz adds. “Lastly, working with non-actors is amazing. There is something beautiful, underrepresented, real people out there with incredibly compelling perspectives. If we can involve them in our stories, then we are really getting somewhere.”
The series finds its place for our visual pleasure today, July 6th, on their production company’s website. It may only be a few minutes long, but the impact on our souls is everlasting.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Dog Out Window Productions