Today's guest post is from Nelson George. I love hearing how artists who have worked historically in traditional media have made the transition into new forms. I asked Nelson how his new web series "Left Unsaid" came about. Last year, after a very sad break up, I moved into a roomy recently renovated apartment very close to Fort Greene Park. I had exposed brick, a downstairs living room, a staircase, a backyard with bamboo trees and lots of storage space. Instead of focusing on decorating, I thought, "I should shoot something in here." I'd directed an HBO film, Life Support, around Fort Greene/Clinton Hill in 2007 and this new place inspired me to write another script set in my hood. I've lived in the area some twentyfive years and knew, as its changed from a area known for Spike Lee movies to one synonymous with white kids in baby carriages, there tons of stories to tell.
With the break up still a fresh psychic wound I decided to write a project that would feature the many gifted but underutilized actresses I knew. I wanted to explore my feelings about women, but didn't want to impose my male view on the characters. So I recruited an eclectic group of women -- some I'd worked with in films I either directed or produced, others I knew socially, and a couple of folks weren't full time actresses, but had great personalities. I sat down with all of them and crafted roles that reflected an social issue or personal interest they were passionate about. So while only about 20 percent of Left Unsaid is improvised, much of the dialogue and subject matter emerged from these conversations. My college aged niece Leigh Amber, who worked as a PA, has a vivid imagination and contributed a couple of stories on one visit from college.
The premise is that a woman, just separated from her husband, has moved into Fort Greene. Looking to make new friends, she uses Facebook to invite a group of local women to her place for Sunday brunch. The women are as multi-cultural as the area itself. Some are long time residents, while a few are new to the area. Many are mixed race and others are recent immigrants to the United States. As they connect (and disconnect) from each other real Fort Greene hang outs like Habana Outpost restaurant, Moshood clothing store, a weekly Farmer's Market and Fort Greene Park are glimpsed or invoked. Within the dialogue are some very pointed conversations about race and class, as well as some very funny stories about life around these parts.
The tag line for the series is "What's not n your profile?" I've run into many people who are "friends" on Facebook and Twitter, and it can be be awkward. You know quite a bit about each other, so you are not total strangers, though not full one friends. It can be a strange middle ground. Its certainly possible to become real world buddies. But I've also gone home and blocked FB folks who creeped me out. So the relationship between social networking and real interpersonal contact is something I had fun exploring in Left Unsaid.
I suppose I could have shot this on DH and tried to a make it an independent feature. But this felt to me like a web series, a chance to experiment with creative a narrative that works in this emerging medium. I structured the different chapters as singing duets, where two or three voices come together for three or four minutes. So, with my friend, producer Nicole Nelch, I shot it two DV cameras on weekends June and July 2009. You can watch the chapters in order or you can jump around and enjoy it in any sequence you like. There are a couple of narrative threads that continue through Left Unsaid, but a lot of the chapters can stand on their own, making you a voyeur on a conversation that could be going on right now in Fort Greene Park.
Nelson George is a author and filmmaker based out of Brooklyn, New York. He directed the HBO film, Life Support, which starred Queen Latifah, and produced the doc Good Hair, which featured frequent collaborator Chris Rock. His latest books are City Kid, a memoir, and Thriller:The Musical Life of Michael Jackson.
A version of this post will run on The New York Times "Local" blog.