A couple of years ago, I returned home from a weekend in North Carolina and found a notice posted on my apartment door. Much to my surprise, it appeared that my neighborhood was being prepped for use as a location in an upcoming film from the producer of MONSTER'S BALL and THE WOODSMAN, starring Mo'Nique and Lenny Kravitz, among others. At the time, it was entitled PUSH, though it has since been changed to the clunky title PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE, presumably because they didn't want to get it confused with a sci-fi movie called PUSH that came out earlier this year (of course, nobody saw that movie, so it probably wouldn't have been an issue -- but I digress). Anyway, my building and immediate vicinity were to be directly involved, and we were warned about streets being blocked off, weather effects that would be going on, etc.
Now, at the time, I knew nothing about the movie or the book upon which it was based, so my first thought was, "WOW! A film crew in this part of Inwood! With a moderately reputable filmmaker and famous people! Clearly, this area really IS as up-and-coming a location as various publications and real estate forecasters have proclaimed!" But then I looked the movie up on IMDB and found the following blurb:
"In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction."
Based on this information, it became clear that the decision to film in my neighborhood had nothing to do with the fact that the area has been slowly but surely building up over the years.... but rather that this was probably the most ghetto-looking location they could find for their budget. Bloody hell.
In any event, I had the next day off, and when I awoke and looked out the window, sure enough, there was a full film crew with cameras and cranes and whatnot in the courtyard, and a fake snowstorm was taking place. It was pretty nifty. Later, I looked out the living room window and was surprised to find several pigeons huddled together on the windowsill. Amused, I figured maybe the film crew had scared them from their usual roosts. But then the director (or bird trainer?) lifted his arms, and the birds took off in a sudden burst. I was startled and actually reeled backward a few steps -- so, depending upon how skilled the editors of this film were, there's a good chance that you might be able to see me flailing around in the background of that scene. (God, I hope I was wearing pants that day... though since I was on a vacation day, probably not.)
Eventually, the crew departed this location -- but later, when I went on a bodega run, I found that they had moved right into my building's lobby! They added fake graffiti to the walls and everything. I weaved my way through the cameras and lights and made it outside -- but when I returned, they were filming right at the foot of the stairs I usually take to the second floor, and I was instructed to use the back stairs instead. Normally such an inconvenience would have royally pissed me off... but this time I let it slide for the sake of cinema.
And... well, that's about it. No jam sessions with Lenny Kravitz, nor did I witness any catfights between Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique, nor were there any Oprah sightings. So, I guess this whole story is kind of anticlimactic in that sense. Sorry about that. I have not actually seen the movie yet, so I can't even offer my review, but I hope to be able to do so very soon. And all of you dear readers should go see it, too... yes, because of the Oscar buzz and because it is supposed to be very good and emotionally devastating... but also because you can totally make a drinking game out of all the Ben Deutsch connections! Take a shot if you see my lobby! Take two shots if you see my living room window from the outside! And if you really do see little ol' me, pantslessly retreating from the window when the doves take off... man, I don't even know... take three shots, shotgun a beer and make a wish!