Cynthia Wade is the director of “Mondays at Racine,” a documentary that profiles a beauty salon on Long Island that once a month opens its doors to women receiving chemotherapy treatments. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Though Wade divides her time between New York and Massachusetts, she has a rich history with Brooklyn, and much of her crew lives and works here. We spoke to her about why so many producers and cinematographers live in the borough, and about what it’s like to win an Oscar. (This is her second time being nominated!)
What neighborhood do you work in?
“Mondays at Racine” was started while I lived and ran a production company in Park Slope. I originally moved to Park Slope in 1990, when my dad and stepmother were living there. I am no stranger to Brooklyn—my grandmother, the first child of Young & Rubicam’s cofounder John Orr Young, was born in Brooklyn Hospital in 1918; my husband’s grandfather Harold Syrett was born on President Street and in the late 1960s became President of Brooklyn College; my father was remarried and lived in Park Slope in the 80s and 90s. I currently have two brother-in-laws and a slew of nieces and nephews in the borough.
During production, for a change of pace, my husband, two daughters and I moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts—the Berkshires—and I began running my production company out of Western Massachusetts, a sort of “Brooklyn with more mud.” My “Mondays at Racine” Oscar-nominated producer Robin Honan lives in Fort Greene; editor and co-cinematographer David Teague lives in Windsor Terrace, and coproducer Vanessa Bergonzoli lives in Williamsburg.
So much of the crew lives and works in Brooklyn. What is it about Brooklyn do you think that attracts so many such people?
Brooklyn is one of the most vibrant, creative, risk-taking, colorful places in the world. It was where my grandmother was born and raised, and where I raised my two children for the first 10 years of parenthood. It is where I made a film that won an Oscar (“Freeheld,” 2007 Best Documentary—Short Subject). It is, quite simply, where I found my path.
You’ve directed an Oscar-winning short before; what does it feel like to win?
Winning an Oscar is a surreal, exciting, terrifying, raw and extremely public experience. My knees were shaking in front of 40 million people and I was glad I was wearing a long gown to cover up my knees. It’s a blur, and somewhat of an out-of-body experience, particularly as a documentary filmmaker, when my regular life and work is much less glamorous.