Finding home in a Central New York film

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By Jamie Swinnerton

Tompkins Weekly

 

When you believe in serendipity, and you’re open to seeing the beauty in the seemingly mundane, you can create entire worlds out of one abandoned train station. At least, you can if you’re Daniel Masciari.

The inspiration for the film Masciari is currently working on, “Stationed at Home”, came to the young filmmaker while he was driving through Binghamton one night back in 2016. There was something about the train station that seemed full of character. Indeed, this was when the main character of his film began to form: it’s 1998 and a Binghamton cab driver and part-time hoarder is keeping his eyes turned skyward looking for the first passover of the International Space Station, set to be right above Central New York at midnight. From there, all the other characters started to form and a plot was constructed.

Masciari kept coming back to one place while casting the film in his mind. While still a student at Ithaca College he had taken a class at the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca, founded by Eliza VanCort. This is where he met many – most, in fact – of the actors who would end up being cast in “Stationed at Home.”

“The film just unfolded over six months,” Masciari said. “This film is about characters from all different backgrounds and they’re all trying to find the meaning of home, hence the film ‘Stationed at Home’.”

After getting a draft together he brought it to his friend and cinematographer Jackson Eagan who immediately joined on. Since then they’ve cleaned up the script, scouted out locations to shoot in Binghamton, and created a short proof of concept.

Now, Masciari has found several producers, including Clayton Dubin, a Cornell University graduate who met Masciari in the same classes that he met many of these actors, at the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca. At the time, Dubin was working in sales in New York City. The timing was perfect, and the project was special, so he enthusiastically agreed to join on as a producer. Each person involved in the project, Dubin said, brought a very specific talent. His talent has been to help create an outreach campaign and help fulfill budget needs.

“Daniel’s eye for finding the right people in the right circumstance is unparalleled,” Dubin said.

 

Now, the film is in the financing and pre-production stage with plans to start filming in February. So far, Masciari has been reaching out to his own network to find supporters and funders for the film. The next step will be a soft launch, coming within the next few weeks, with a wider network of connections building on what has already been established. Finally, a hard launch likely in August, which will give the wider public a chance to be involved in funding the film, and will likely include a crowdsourcing option.

This isn’t a film that Masciari said he has been planning for years. It wasn’t a conscious goal to come back to Central New York to cast and produce a film. He sees Central New York as the one doing him a favor by being filled with the resources and talent that he was looking for.

“No other actors could play the roles in this film,” Masciari said. “They’re just so specific. They’re based on actors, and the kinds of characters that I know they can play.”

Going from the outside in, knowing the specific actor for the character, allowed him to go deeper into each character, Masciari said. He knew what they were capable of and what kind of performance they could bring to the piece.

“When I’m making a film, I’m trying to make the film that comes into my head,” he said. “And it’s not about where people are from. It’s about who’s the best person for the role. Honestly, I never questioned who is best for the role. It’s always pretty obvious to me.”

His former teacher, Eliza VanCort, agrees. She herself has helped cast dozens of projects in the past, for film and for the stage.

“There’s a temptation when you have access to New York and LA actors, to go for a name, to cast a really wide net so you can see hundreds of people and who’s going to be the best-known actor you can find,” VanCort said. “Daniel doesn’t think that way. His approach is he has a pool of actors that he knows are incredibly talented and it takes the most talented people that he can find, regardless of whether or not they’ve done 50 films or one film, because he has a vision in his mind of how he’s going to direct them, and he knows they have the talent to back it up.”

In VanCort’s opinion, this approach produces a superior product. By putting aside motives that don’t have to do with the art, allowing your choices to be solely about the art, the product will be better and more specific.

Most of Masciari’s work is inspired by the magical realist genre, which tries to find the magic that already exists in reality. For him, this magic is found in the “micro-moments,” a look between characters, a small or hidden action that normally goes unnoticed. Films are the perfect genre to showcase this view of the world by asking the viewer to look at these moments specifically.

It was the power of Masciari’s script and proof of concept, VanCort said, that pulled in two non-Central New York actors that she knew. VanCort, who will be making an appearance in the film, has seen hundreds of scripts, and watched dozens of her student’s proof-of-concept short films. This one was special. In her opinion, all of the characters are fully-realized humans, they aren’t the stereotypes and one-dimensional projections that she has read numerous times before.

“The film does turn a lot of stereotypes on its head,” she said. “Daniel certainly did not write through that intention, it’s just that these are the characters that jumped into his mind.”

The area that the story is set in plays its own part in the film, and thankfully the project was given the blessing, and a lot of help, from the Mayor of Binghamton’s office. Taking some of the history of the area into account, one of the characters (played by Dubin) is the heir to a shoe factory, similar to the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company that once thrived in Broome County. Telling the story of the area is just as much apart of the project as telling the story of the characters.

“This is a film set in Central New York about everyday people and what it really magnifies is that everyone has a story,” VanCort explained. “The person behind the counter who is the clerk has a story, and the President of the United States has a story, but if you examine those stories, if you examine everyone, everyone has an interesting and captivating story and I think that is actually symbolic. Binghamton, New York has a story. There’s something incredibly humanizing about a film that makes us all realize that we’re all experiencing the human condition and we all have a story.”

 

Find more informaiton at the project website, stationedathome.com!

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly srtated that the film in set in 1999, it is actually set in 1998, the year the ISS first launched. We apologize for the error.

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