I recently received an email from Anna Sang Park about the film project she’s finishing with her husband Eric McGinty, titled Wallabout after the industrial district between DUMBO and Williamsburg. She’s the producer and he’s the director, and the film is currently in the late stages of post-production.
I’ve been having some wonderful conversations with Anna and Eric over the last week about children (their four-year-old daughter Oona is in a few scenes of the film), art, making a living in the city, even death (Anna had seen a recent post on my blog about my grandmother’s death, and recounted their own experiences losing family and explaining these things to our children). And of course, we talked about their film. They had plenty to say, but perhaps the best summation was, “Wallabout is a film inspired by the idea of family—relationships with parents and children, the theme of the film: to survive—and especially to survive in New York City—you need love.”
In order to cover the costs of finishing Wallabout, Anna and Eric have opened a fundraising campaign in Indiegogo which will run until August 19. The goal is to raise $17,000, to cover color correction, sound mixing, making masters, and submitting to film festivals. I’ve decided, besides giving what little financial assistance our meager budget allows, the best help I could give would be to transcribe some of our conversation into interview format, and let readers know how they can pitch in.
Wallabout, while essentially a character study, also seems to be both a meditation on family and a love letter to our esteemed borough. Can you go further into what the film means to you, and your motivations in making it?
We started Veronique Films, our production company, a year after our daughter Oona was born. The company is named after Oona’s middle name. We started Veronique Films with the commitment that we were going to make personal films. Although we had made short films together and written scripts together, we had yet to pull off a feature film of our own, which was our dream.
We met as crewmembers on the set of an award-winning indie film called Sunday. We share cinematic sensibilities and knew we wanted to tell stories together from the beginning. It was apparent from the beginning that we loved films that were set in New York, especially films from the 70’s, and with the varied backgrounds of Eric growing up with a French mother, living in Paris, France for many years and Anna, born and raised in Seoul, South Korea until she was eight years of age, New York made sense. And as Brooklynites – Brooklyn was calling us in cinematic terms and in our film, Brooklyn is more than a backdrop – we like to think of the borough as a character in the film.
We were always attracted to NYC, like millions of others. NYC, as tough as it is, is also a city that embraces outsiders. Despite the fact that the Huffington Post has recently branded NYC the “income inequality capital of America,” it’s a city that makes you feel like you have opportunities and if you have the drive you can find your own ‘family’ here. And that’s what Wallabout, our film, is about. It’s about a woman who comes back to Brooklyn after being away for a long time, and although she feels like an outsider with a lot of baggage – she stubbornly refuses to leave, makes it her home again, and finds love.
Even though we live in a time when it feels like the middle class is being pushed out of the city, and educated young people are underemployed or unemployed, Alex, our protagonist, persists in making Brooklyn her home. We wanted to tell a story of one woman who is a small representative of our times.
You are right in saying that Wallabout is a meditation on family. Not only is Alex at an age where she is under pressure to become a mother, like many of her friends around her, but she’s also dealing with an ailing father and a stepmother with whom she has fallen out of favor. In addition, she is still grieving the death many years before of her gay half-brother who was a victim of a hate crime. And, finally, Alex has just come out of a ten-year relationship with a famous European filmmaker. Even though this failed partnership was not exactly family-like, it has made her re-examine the meaning of family. In making Wallabout we, as a family unit of our own, found a way to continue to dedicate ourselves to our craft and that’s also what this film is about.
You both have a four-year-old daughter, which I admit, as the father of a four-year-old daughter, puts me in your corner. Would you care to discuss how your own experiences as parents have shaped the work you do, both practically and in terms of thematic influence?
When you and an Associate Editor of the film are pushing two sets of strollers up Kent Avenue – one stroller with a three year old in it and another stroller literally filled up with hard drives in pelican cases (hard drives with your film on it!) – you know this is low budget filmmaking and parenting on display! Practically, we are practicing the art of juggling…the art of parenting and filmmaking on a daily basis.
Some days, as challenging as it seems, things work out really smoothly because we as a unit have found a rhythm. But on other days, it’s incredibly tough – because filmmaking has deadlines like everything else, takes up a huge amount of resources, time, money, and energy. But at the same time, it’s a craft that allows you to collaborate with so many people and we can see how that is already having an effect on our daughter. She sees that ‘work’ is not one set of duties – ‘work’ is many, many different things – work could be with cameras on set, work could be editing on a computer, work is listening to music, work is sitting down and paying bills, work is a lot of writing and writing and writing, reading and watching and re-watching.
But being a parent shapes you daily as a filmmaker or an artist because that’s part of your identity. And also there’ s the element that you want to make something to share with your child – perhaps our daughter won’t appreciate the whole film today (Wallabout is a drama for adults, after all), but someday, she will hopefully appreciate the work of her parents. And, in the meantime, she already enjoys watching the scenes where she appears in the film. Obviously, we are biased, but she’s a natural.
Anna’s father passed away twelve years ago, Eric’s father passed away in 1994 and last year Eric also lost his mother. You examine the life-death cycle in a different way, and naturally ask yourselves – where does art fit in? It obviously fits in everywhere, because filmmaking is part of life for us. A few years ago Anna was talking to D.A. Pennebaker, the legendary documentarian in his late 80’s and still making films! And he said he used to park his babies under the steenbecks (flatbed editing machines) before everything got digital. That sums up filmmaking and parenting – babies under edit machines. 🙂
Thematically, Wallabout’s protagonist Alex wrestles with similar issues. How does one maintain a creative career telling personal stories and survive in this world, in this city, one of the most expensive and demanding in the world? How does one start a family in these circumstances? It’s a tough proposition that is constantly being reevaluated and Wallabout won’t give you the answer or the magic bullet. What you’ll see in Wallabout is Alex’s determination and persistence despite adversity. She has a checkered past, is plagued with financial problems, experiences plenty of social hiccups, but she soldiers on.
You’re in the middle of a final post-production campaign—can you go into more of the specifics, including how anyone who’s interested can be part of it?
We shot the film last year in July/August and one final day in October. And we have finished editing the film, but in filmmaking there are many stages and we are, as you said, at the very final stages of post-production. This means we still need to mix the sound for the film, color correct all the final images, and make many masters for the film, which are the various screening formats to be used at film festivals around the world.
So far, we have funded the film ourselves, which even in low budget, do-it-yourself filmmaking is incredibly challenging. We have launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise the money we need to finish the movie. Our campaign ends on August 19th and we have already raised about 30% of our goal but we definitely need help in reaching our goal. It’s pretty lonely being an indie filmmaker – you are pretty much doing it alone. We are incredibly lucky that we have had friends and other amazing people help us at every stage of the process, but we are not finished – yet. We want to finish the movie – get the movie out there in the world and really honor this collaborative work. Folks who are interested in joining our campaign can visit our IndieGoGo page to find out more about WALLABOUT, watch all the different videos and check out the photos, make a financial contribution and help to spread the word.
If after reading this interview you, like me, want to lend a hand in seeing Wallabout through its final push, here are a few ways you can do it:
Take a look at the trailer:
Visit and Like the Wallabout Facebook page or tweet them @wallaboutmovie
Contribute to the Indiegogo Campaign, which is currently featured on the Indiegogo main page!