BWW Interview: New Film 'Landing Up' Focuses on Hardships of Homeless Women
"Landing Up" (Bold Compass Films) is a story about a girl with nothing to lose and everything to hide, directed by Dani Tenenbaum and produced/written by Stacey Maltin. As announced by Variety, the film is to be released on DVD, as well as on-demand through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play on May 15, 2018. Chrissie (Stacey Maltin) is young, wild, and living on the streets. She and her best friend Cece (E'dena Hines) use their youth and good looks to their advantage, playing a con game with strangers to put a roof over their heads, while all the time fantasizing about having enough money to score their dream apartment. When Chrissie meets David (Ben Rappaport), a funny, genuine guy who works his way into her heart, she falls for him and must decide whether to confess the real circumstances of her life or continue her carefully crafted lie at all costs-even the cost of someone's life. Don't miss the trailer:
Check out BroadwayWorld's exclusive interview with lead actress and writer Stacey Maltin, leading man Ben Rappaport, and director Dani Tenenbaum below!
Congratulations on getting a DVD and on demand release! Principle photography wrapped in 2015; what's THE JOURNEY been like from that point to now?
Stacey Maltin: Thank you! We wrapped filming and put together an assembly cut, but we always knew we actually were going to need to shoot a little bit more after we put the first cut together. So, we actually shot for another six days after we first wrapped -- we actually shot a new ending. So what you see as the end of the film is something that we shot about six months after we wrapped.
Ben Rappaport: It's actually funny, because I was doing Fiddler On The Roof on Broadway at the time, so I had this big beard. (Laughs). It's one of those things in filmmaking where you just work with the circumstances you're given. I thought it was nice; it kind of gave a little passage of time.
Stacey Maltin: We had a lot of limitations to work with, because we realized we wanted to add a little something to the end. Ben was like, "Well, I have this beard!" And I was like, "Well, okay!". We had already lost E'Dena at that time, so we didn't have her as an actress to work with. Through some limitations, Dani and I put our heads together and came up with this ending that we are pretty happy with.
Dani Tenenbaum: I think the limitations forced some sort of creativity that we were very, very excited about, and we really like the new ending. So, it worked out!
Landing Up has a beautiful way of weaving the conventional hardships of homeless women with COMPLICATIONS that the public might not even think about. What led you to writing this story?
SM: Well, the first thing is I sort of knew this guy who was just not a great guy; he just sort of talked about how no one should ever have an apartment because you can just sleep with women and not pay rent. Not a very good guy, right? So I didn't want to tell that story, but I did think, "Well, what if there was a girl and she really was homeless and didn't have a place to be, but she was somebody that people wanted to take care of and saw her as the type of person they would want to bring into their homes and she could stay until her welcome ran out?" So that was the initial idea. We started doing research and spending time at homeless shelters and talking to women. We started to understand what life was really like -- especially at the youth shelters for women. That was also a big part of writing the script.
Dani, you worked with Stacey on the award winning short comedy film "Museum", but that this is your first feature together. As a duo, what has the transition been like between a short film and a feature, artistically?
DT: Well, first of all, we're married, and we've been working together for quite some time now. It was really great that we kind of got to get our communication straight for the matter of productions. We learned a lot from all the small productions until we got to the point of like, "Okay, we are ready to tackle a bigger challenge in the form of a feature!" So it was just natural that we'd do that and so we are still doing that and we are still married! (Laughs).
Ben, you're not only the leading man of Landing Up, but you are also an executive producer on this film. As a television and broadway actor, what kind of challenges did that introduce?
BR: Well, that came when they approached me to do the film -- and it was a really lovely gesture. I was involved in looking at stuff post-production and having conversations about tweaks after the fact. I love filmmaking; I make most of my living in television and this is a great bridge for me to get into the world of producing and directing. I'm an avid learner and student of the film world -- I'm a big nerd about all of it. (Laughs). I spent the last several months in LA shooting my television show "For The People" and that was shot on the Paramount lot. That place is dripping with film history. So anytime I get to work in any way other than as actor, I'm very appreciative of it; so this was just a really great experience for me.
This film was created prior to the current stance of politics today. In light of women standing up against sexual assault and coming forward through the #metoo movement, how does Landing Up shine a light on the hardships of homeless women?
SM: I think homeless women are some of the most vulnerable members of our population because they don't have the resources or the platform. As part of our research in the shelters, what a lot of women talked about was how dangerous the shelters can be. In the film, we create a character who worked at co-ed shelter, and show that shelters can be very violent and scary places for women to be in. I'm not even sure that today, with the whole conversation going on, that much would necessarily be different in that population because when you're just struggling to survive, I don't know how easy it would be to stand up and say "Me, Too" because who are you saying it to? I hope the people that are in charge of running the city are paying closer attention to what's going on in those places.
If the audience took away one thing from this film, what would you want it to be?
SM: For me, I think that with our current political climate, everything is really polar. PEOPLE ARE TALKING a lot in terms of right and wrong, black and white, and you can either think one thing or another. Every single character in Landing Up exists in this morally grey space; they aren't all good or all bad. We may love them, but they do things that we don't really like. I'd like people to take away that life is complicated and people are complicated. People may do something bad but that doesn't mean that they're all bad.
BR: I would say that, in connection to what Stacey is saying, that I hope that people walk away from this film being a more sensitive person by learning about the struggles of the homeless through the lense of Chrissie. You're not really able to see everything with the naked eye; there's a lot more to everybody's story as you walk through the city, or wherever you live. Everybody has a story, everybody's story is very unique and specific. As complicated as you think your life is, somebody else's is equally as complicated, if not more.
DT: Adding on top of that, we really hope that we are able to drive people to action and to do something about it. We volunteered in shelters as research and we hope that other people will do the same. That's why we partnered with the Midnight Mission in LA. We're working now on more collaborations with the homeless organizations to try to have some sort of a call to action.
The narrative feature stars Maltin ("Working On It," "Lipstick Jungle"), Ben Rappaport (ABC's "For the People," USA's "Mr. Robot", Broadway's "Fiddler on the Roof"), E'dena Hines ("5 Flights Up," "Moll Flanders"), Dov Tiefenbach ("Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, "Homeland"), Theodora (Woolley) Miranne ("The Blacklist: Redemption," "Blue Bloods") and Jay DeYonker ("Royally," "Puerto Ricans in Paris").
This film has a tragic real LIFE STORY as well. Just one month after principal photography wrapped, Maltin's co-star E'dena Hines was tragically murdered by her boyfriend, which was devastating to the cast and crew. The story made national headlines, in part due to E'dena being the granddaughter of acting icon Morgan Freeman. "Landing Up" is E'dena's last on-screen performance. Maltin adds, "E'dena was an incredible and loving human being who illuminated any room she entered. She had so much talent and this energy that was so raw and magnetic. She really gave herself over to playing Cece and it's reflected in her performance. We miss her every day and wish she could have seen what she created with us."
Because of this tragic violence in real life, which happens all too often against women in the world, and because the film tackles homelessness, the filmmakers felt it was paramount to give their audience a call to action. They have partnered with the non-profit organizations Midnight Mission, which offers paths to self-sufficiency to men, women and children who have lost direction, and LA Family Housing, which helps people transition out of homelessness and poverty, to help raise awareness for these issues.