Kickstart This! Sam Fleischner’s Sure-to-Be Riveting Subway-Set Drama “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors”

Inspired by the true story of a young autistic boy who spent 11 days navigating the New York subway system, the sophomore feature from the director of "Wah Do...

In order to take audiences somewhere new, Sam Fleischner’s mind kept returning to his home of Rockaway Beach, New York for his second feature.

“I’m really excited to just document it because I know it’s going to change really soon and I like the idea of capturing it in its state right now,” says Fleischner, noting that his first short “Caveflower” was a love story built around three locations he wanted to commit to film. “What brings me to want to make movies is the investigation of space.”

Of course, there are other reasons for Fleischner — and audiences — to be excited about “Standing Clear of the Closing Doors,” a project currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a July 27th deadline. Like his feature debut “Wah Do Dem,” which partially was shot within the confines of a cruise ship, Fleischner will film much of “Closing Doors” on subways, telling the story of an autistic 13-year-old boy who leaves home and gets lost on the MTA, leading his harried mother to pull together their fractured family on a search for him.

Yet unlike Fleischner’s previous film which he wrote, edited, shot and directed to much acclaim after directing music videos for the likes of MGMT among others, he won’t be shouldering so many of the other responsibilities of the production, leaving that to a talented group of collaborators including Rose Lichter-Marck, who helped pen the script, and and a producing team led by the creative team behind the live-action-role-player doc “Darkon” and “King Kelly,” “Dead Man’s Burden” producer Veronica Nickel, and “Frozen River” associate producer Craig Shilowich.

“One of the challenges is figuring out how you can tell a bigger and better story with more collaborators,” Fleischner said, before adding, “Building a community experience around this, I think that’ll feel really good where we’ll find our rhythm as a team.”

In some ways, “Standing Clear of the Closing Doors” was always intended to be about that in the first place, being loosely based on the true story of Francisco Hernandez Jr., a 13-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome who ducked out in the subway system for 11 days after fearing punishment from an incident at his school in Brooklyn in 2009. Having once considered making another feature about a real-life Nepalese woman who got lost in the streets of Queens, Fleischner read with great interest a New York Times piece about Hernandez’s disappearance and his ultimate rescue, which involved his extended family, the cops and the Mexican Consulate in the New York Times and contacted the family soon after. Upon receiving their blessing to make a film, Fleishner used the Hernandez family’s ordeal as a starting point for a tale encompassing the bond between family, the metaphorical and quite literal parallel between the man-made subway and the ocean it resides alongside on the Eastern coastline and a young boy’s coming of age, the last being of particular interest for the filmmaker.

“Thirteen is [that age] when you’re crossing the line into becoming a man,” said Fleischner. “There’s so many stories and so many rituals that involve that. I keep going back to [the practice of] walkabout in Australia where [Aboriginal elders] send their 13-year-olds off to survive on their own and I see this as that sort of story.”

After a long search for his lead, a real autistic boy whose own story Fleischner says is equally inspiring, and an unfamiliar process of putting pen to paper for a fully-fleshed out script, having heavily improvised his first feature, the director is now preparing for an October shoot should the film’s Kickstarter campaign be successful. Still, at this point in the process, he was reminded of the words of French filmmaking legend Robert Bresson, who once said, “My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”

“I’m most excited about bringing it to life in production, which is next,” said Fleischner, no doubt aware that to do so he’ll need the help of the Kickstarter community and yet appropriately confident in his efforts to bring an original vision to the screen.

To back this project and to see the filmmaker’s personal pitch video, check out the Kickstarter page here. And follow the film’s progress on Facebook, Twitter and Fleischner’s official site.

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