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Breaking Out of the Institution Is More Important Than Fitting in in CREEDMORIA Film

 

Bubbling over with a much-needed dose of optimism is Creedmoria, director Alicia Slimmer's feature debut based loosely on her experiences growing up in 1980s-era Queens, New York, in the shadow of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.

See Creedmoria at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street) on Friday, February 24 as part of the Winter Film Awards 6th Annual Indie Film Festival.

Since taking home the Audience Favorite Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival last June, this quirky coming-of-age story has continued to strike a hope-filled chord with viewers, largely thanks to its teen-aged heroine, Candy, energetically played by Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games). A spunky, Pippi Longstockings-type with a heart of gold, Candy longs to break free from an institution not so dissimilar from the mental hospital looming across the street - her seriously dysfunctional family.

Though the family ties - including a tyrannical mother (a terrific Rachel deBenedet), recently deceased father, drug-addicted older brother, and sexuality-grappling younger brother - may have involved some creative license for Slimmer, Candy's desire to ditch suburbia and its analogous normalcy certainly rings true to her own life.

"No offense to Queens, but I just couldn't wait to hightail it out of there as a kid. It just felt so small town to me," Slimmer explained. "You can see the Manhattan skyline from parts of the LIE or various parts of Queens, and it was kind of like the Emerald City. Manhattan always felt within my reach and it always felt completely far away, like as completely far away as for someone who grew up in California or the Midwest. 'How to get there?' was always something that I kind of wrestled with."

Now, though, Slimmer admits to seeing Queens and Creedmoor - the state's largest facility of its kind - through a slightly different lens.

"Now when I drive home to my mom's, who still lives in Queens, Creedmoor is the biggest building that sticks out. It's the tallest building around," she said. "I was laughing to myself the other day, thinking, 'Oh my gosh, that's the Emerald City. You know? It's kind of the focal point. You can't miss it."

Today, Slimmer and her family reside in Brooklyn - "I made it!" she said with a laugh - but her similarities to Creedmoria's darling lead don't end there. Slimmer also admitted to modeling Candy's rose-tinted view of the world on her own outlook. And without that sanguinity and willingness to persevere, there's a decent chance the movie - which took 10 years to complete - would never have been made.

"We had this great reading in 2009 at The Players (club) with the hope of securing hundreds of thousands dollars that night," Slimmer recalled. "The feedback was incredible, and people were telling me that I was shooting too low to make it for a million, that I should be shooting for two to five million - but then there was no money to be had."

Following the immediate aftermath of the housing bubble burst and recession, funds for first-time movie-makers like Slimmer were scarce. For a while, she began to consider the project a lost cause and felt "deflated," until an exchange with her husband made her view her circumstances in a new light.

"He said, 'You know the only thing standing between you making this movie and not making this movie is money, right? ... So figure out how you can make it without any money,'" Slimmer said. "Initially I was like, 'How dare you! You think it's so easy.' But it never went away, and eventually I was like, okay. Let me try to figure out how I can make it with no money."

A whole lot of wheedling, corner-cutting and favor-begging later - including a seriously lucky stroke borrowing the vintage roadsters used in the film for free from obliging gents at a Long Island car show - and Creedmoria was finally born for a fraction of its initial projected cost. And from its heartwarming heroine, to its (superb) '80s soundtrack, to its underlying manifesto of youth and rebellion, it's got all the ingredients redolent of a feel-good John Hughes flick. Yet Slimmer cautions that it shouldn't be primarily considered a period piece.

"I'm hoping the movie is more timeless, rather than specific to the '80s," she said. "I feel like the hopefulness part has got to be timeless, because I don't really want to live in any period that there was not that sense, especially now... You still have to have hope."

By Liv McConnell. Liv McConnell is a writer, editor, and activist currently residing in Brooklyn with her cat, Stevie Nicks. She's fond of taking baths, buying new plants, and writing about the intersection of culture and women's issues.

ABOUT WINTER FILM AWARDS INDIE FILM FESTIVAL

Winter Film Awards Is New York City. Like the city itself, we showcase the eclectic diversity and excitement of the independent arts world. Winter Film Awards is proudly one of the Top 10 Best Reviewed Festivals on FilmFreeway.

The rapidly growing Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival, now in its sixth year, is a dynamic and exciting event in the heart of the City. Winter Film Awards showcases films from emerging filmmakers from around the world in all genres with a special emphasis on highlighting the work of women and minority filmmakers. The Festival runs February 23-March 4 2017 in New York City.

Among the 88 Official Selections to be screened at Cinema Village in the heart of Greenwich Village (22 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003), is a diverse mixture of 11 Animated films, 8 Documentaries, 11 Feature narratives, 10 Horror films, 12 Music Videos, 24 Narrative shorts and 7 Web series, including 12 student films and 33 first-time filmmakers. Filmmakers come from 30 countries; 42% of the films were created by women, 45% were created by people of color. Visit www.WinterFilmAwards.com for schedules, tickets and details.

ABOUT WINTER FILM AWARDS

Winter Film Awards is an all-volunteer, minority- and women-owned registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2011 in New York City by a group of filmmakers and enthusiasts. The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Visit the website, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

 


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