December 1, 2012 marked the first day of shooting for my second feature film, Bridge and Tunnel. From here until the film is released I’ll likely make a dozen or so posts about the philosophy, influences, and procedure of making the film, so for now I’ll just focus on the details of how I got from The Newest Pledge to here.
Bridge and Tunnel is the story of the year 2012 in the lives of six twenty-somethings living on Long Island. The script stays true to my comedic roots but is more socially-influenced than anything I’ve written to date. The concept of the film is something that I had been theorizing since The Newest Pledge wrapped in the fall of 2010, and focuses on the effects of the recession on the generation born during the Reagan years, as well as the disintegration of middle class. Funny stuff, I know.
In January 2011 I left California for New York with this project logged somewhere in my mind. I had always wanted my second feature to take place where I grew up in Long Island, but I hadn’t experienced life in my twenties there. I knew that in order to get the movie inside of me onto paper I would need it to be real. Needless to say I spent the next 18 months harvesting life-moments that I feel later allowed for me to create an organic and powerful account of what living in these times, at this age, in this place, is really like.
Why Long Island? A lot of these reasons are outlined in the film, and I’ll elaborate on those in later posts, but the short answer is that no other place in America better signifies the death of the middle class than the largest concentration of middle class Americans in the country! Long Island is America’s most obvious suburb. Thirty minutes in the shadows of the “greatest city in the world.” We lost friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues on September 11th and later had to grow up under it’s umbrella. We were there at Wall St. when it was under “occupation,” and we woke up in late October 2012 to see our neighborhoods changed forever. Our housing prices are ridiculous, our taxes are even more ridiculous, and we live in the state deemed the “least free” in the “most free” country in the world. Those are just a few of the reason’s why this film had to take place on Long Island.
I spent my time on the island studying film theory and aesthetics more than I’d ever studied it before. Don’t get me wrong, in the years leading up to The Newest Pledge I watched literally thousands of films (which was entirely normal given I spent five years of my life in film school), but the films I watched in the eighteen months leading up to pre-production of Bridge and Tunnel were different. The way I watched movies had changed. No longer was I a fan in the stands cheering on my favorite actors, with my disbelief completely suspended. I now viewed myself as a player on the field, studying every movement, every sequence, every frame. My goal shifted from making movies to making great movies, better than the ones I had been watching before.
This lead to me trying to figure out how I could evolve the genre I loved; comedy. Throughout the history of American film, no genre has changed at a slower pace than comedy (in my opinion). There is something about comedy viewers that makes them uneasy with the idea of any tonal shift or unhappy ending. I suppose you could argue that the Coen Brothers successfully evolved the comedy genre with The Big Lebowski (it was more of a pure comedy than anything they had done leading up to it), and I would even add that Judd Apatow attempted to create something new wave with Funny People, but these films are spread few and far between formulaic contemporaries such as The Hangover II and Ted.
Speaking of Ted, it wasn’t long after the release of that film that I had an important conversation with an old professor of mine, Rob Dew. Professor Dew was my Film Aesthetics professor at Chapman University and one summer’s afternoon we spent about two hours on the phone discussing the state of the comedy genre, the great filmmakers of the modern movement, and why comedies like Ted (and The Newest Pledge) fall apart in the third act. It was during this conversation that I pitched what I had of Bridge and Tunnel at the time to Professor Dew, who not only seemed to grasp the idea, but also encouraged me towards ways to expand it and make it bigger. At the time I was struggling with how to create the perfect third act for a new wave comedy and I came out of that conversation with a better understanding of what I needed to do.
It was from there that everything unfolded. I spent the rest of my summer writing the script that would go into production in December, and spent the autumn producing. The project evolved to where I wanted it to be. It was a new wave comedy, even if it reads as a drama.
But that’s the beauty of the art form. Earlier in the year, Professor Dew spoke some words to me that set into motion some of the events that lead to our eventual phone discussion. The exact quote was; “The best films, like the best art, appeal to all levels of your being; your mind, heart, loins, and instincts. Shakespeare did this by having both intrigue and sword fights, lust and love.” I interpreted that as a call to defy genre-expectations. I’ve also hand written it in every production journal I’ve kept for Bridge and Tunnel.
We shot eleven days from the first to the sixteenth. Now production is on hiatus until the seasons change, but I’m busy organizing post-production, while simultaneously in post-production on the Spring shoot. Sleep is for the weak.
Jason Michael Brescia
December 22, 2012 7:05 P.M EST