Two filmmakers have set out to give New Yorkers an unfiltered look into the L train shutdown that’ll take a line serving hundreds of thousands of riders out of service for 15 months.
“The L train was definitely the catalyst for this movie, but as we started filming, other signs of what’s going to happen became the focus,” Ian Mayer says. The 39-year-old producer from Chelsea teamed up with director Emmett Adler, 29, to track the events leading up to the projected April 2019 closure for superstorm Sandy-related repairs.
Mayer and Adler have been shooting footage since November 2016. So far, they’ve sat down with transit execs (NYC Transit President Andy Byford), business owners (Kate Buenaflor of Williamsburg’s Kilo Bravo and Soft Spot), government officials and locals to record their projected woes.
“It’s just tons of concerns from all different angles,” Adler, who resides just outside of SoHo, says.
The duo has filmed dozens of private interviews and plans to follow up with them all post-shutdown to come full-circle in the film. They’re aiming to hit the festival circuit — or solidify a deal with a major network — to meet a fall 2019 release.
But before all that happens, they have a lot of filming to do: They’re still in the early stages of production and expect to continue shooting until next spring.
Bits and pieces of the film’s footage will be released via the untitled L train doc’s social media pages. Until then, here’s what you can expect to see in the film.
A seat at the decision-making table
Board meetings, City Hall briefings, Transit Committee gatherings … no matter the occasion, the camera has kept filming to show why and how the shutdown decisions were made. “This will be a look at what democracy looks like,” Adler says.
“For me, it’s a deeper understanding of how our cities work, and to raise awareness and hopefully improve upon the current way that we operate,” Mayer adds.
An underground look at construction
They haven’t yet secured the necessary permits to shoot within the tunnels during construction but including that footage in the movie remains the goal.
“We’re going to need cooperation with the MTA,” Adler explains. “There have been no signs to say that won’t be possible. We’ve been in touch with the MTA press office and they’ve been open to the idea of us potentially getting in there, so we’ll see.”
‘Human stories’ from locals
To avoid a talking-head style documentary, the filmmakers will tell “human stories” by following the daily lives of those who may be directly impacted — a commuter, an employee, a business owner. “That’ll be at the heart of it. We want to focus on the humanity and not get too lost in the specifics,” Mayer says.
The impact on Brooklyn business
Aside from the clear commuter concerns, the impact the shutdown may have on local businesses, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and more will be a major topic.
“To some degree, people are worried about their livelihoods and day-to-day life being affected,” Adler says. “If you’re a business, say close to the Bedford L stop in Williamsburg, and you’re paying sky-high rent because of high foot traffic and suddenly that stops, what are you paying for?”
Adler and Mayer have spoken to Brooklyn Brewery President Steve Hindy, Scott Davis, the owner of Teddy’s Bar and Grill and Kate Buenaflor, of the Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants group that called the shutdown a “nightmare scenario.” The filmmakers say they’ve been told people fear they’ll lose their businesses or have to move locations to remain profitable.
The Manhattan effect
In their research, Adler and Mayer have naturally discovered concerns stretching beyond Brooklyn. They plan to include information on how service might significantly increase along the J, M, Z and G lines and look into how increased foot traffic in Manhattan and Queens may boost business.