Film: Interview, Fort Tilden
Talking with the directors of Fort Tilden
Interview by Henry Stewart
Fort Tilden (June 17, Nitehawk, 9:45pm) tells the story of two women going through quarter-life crises who play hooky one day and head to the titular Queens beach—which isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. We caught up with directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers about beaches, life off the Bedford stop, and the word “Babadook.”
When was the first time you visited Fort Tilden? Is that your go-to beach in the summer?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: I visited Fort Tilden for the first time about six years ago. I was with a group of friends and the entire time we weren’t quite sure whether or not we were at the right beach. But there were plenty of bunkers wherein we could practice our amateur photography, so we were satisfied either way. If I can weasel my way into spending a weekend at the house of a friend or friend of a friend on Fire Island or in the Hamptons, that’s pretty much beach bliss. But for a day trip, Fort Tilden is absolutely ideal.
Charles Rogers: Fort Tilden is my go-to beach when it comes to making movies about beaches. Otherwise, I can’t say that I love New York’s beaches. I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Pacific, and nice beaches were always a part of my life until recently. But I’ll take what I can get, and I like that you have space at Fort Tilden. The first time I visited was on a birthday a few years ago, and half of my guests didn’t find us because everyone lost cell phone service out there.
When did you decide, “ah, it should be the plot point in a movie!”?
SVB: We were throwing around ideas for a web series that would take place in New York and one of the episode ideas was about two inept girls who are just trying to get to Fort Tilden, a common summertime struggle for young New Yorkers. We kept thinking of funny ideas that could happen and decided we wanted to focus on turning this idea into a
CR: I remember thinking at one point, when we were writing, “People who don’t know what Fort Tilden is are going to assume that this is a war movie.” But it’s not a war movie.
Which neighborhoods do you live in?
SVB: I live in Woodside, Queens. A friend of mine was looking for a roommate when I was sick of my old place, so I took a visit and it was pretty perfect for me. I think Woodside is just lovely. I recently realized that one of my favorite streets in the neighborhood, which I pass by every day, is featured in one of my favorite movies which I watch every year on Christmas: Scrooged. Apparently, 41st Drive is one of the most frequently filmed streets in New York.
CR: I live in Williamsburg now, which is at the heart of our movie. There’s a lot to love and a lot to poke fun at. They just built an Urban Outfitters off the Bedford stop with a mural commemorating those who died in the Egyptian revolution. I walked by as people were taking selfies in front of it.
How does the experience of a festival like Northside compare to one like SXSW?
SVB: I’m looking forward to the experience of Northside; this year will be my first time attending! SXSW is grand and awesome and I absolutely loved it. It takes over the city so the residents of Austin are forced to reconsider their usual route to work in order to avoid the festival-imposed traffic jams. I imagine Northside is a little less intrusive to the city and a friendly addition to the fertile culture
CR: I’m excited for our film to play for a Brooklyn audience. There are jokes and references that resonate a little more for New Yorkers, and I hope that will go a step further with the screening at Nitehawk.
What’re the most unexpected reactions you’ve gotten to the film so far?
SVB: Baby boomers express a lot of concern that their children are making the same mistakes as the characters in Fort Tilden. As if they were all angels in their day.
CR: An intense older Polish woman came up to me after our screening in Baltimore and said, “Is the corruption of these young women due to the parents or to New York City? My daughter moved to Manhattan and I need to know.” I could only think to say, “A city cannot be held accountable for a person’s actions, and I don’t know your daughter.”
What are you most excited to see in the festival that’s not your own movie?
SVB: Ne Me Quitte Pas. I saw a clip of it at the awards ceremony at the Little Rock Film Festival, and I thought, “Oh, I wish I had seen that!” Now I have a second chance. (June 18, UnionDocs, 9pm)
CR: The Babadook. I’ve heard it’s genuinely very scary, and the trailer makes me uncomfortable. And there’s something about the word “Babadook” said in an Australian accent that upsets my stomach. (June 18, Nitehawk, 9:45pm)