"Satellite" may have been an
official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival and recipient
of a special jury prize at the Madrid Film Festival, but Jeff
Winner, the independent movie’s writer-director, says he knows
people are really getting his film because they are approaching
him and telling him about their own "Satellite" moments.
"I guess the ’Satellite’ moments are sort of the chance encounters that change people’s lives," Winner told GO Brooklyn in a recent phone interview. "After the Tribeca Film Festival, I had about 10 different people come up to me and tell me, ’Oh, my God, I had such a "Satellite" moment! That they would make that connection was really pleasing."
Shot in Manhattan, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights, this grandchild of the French New Wave film movement is an unconventional, modern-day fairy tale about Kevin (Karl Geary) and Ro (Stephanie Szostak), two disillusioned New Yorkers who fall in love instantly, then dare each other to mine their lives for meaning.
After quitting their unsatisfying office jobs, the pair sells its worldly belongings and embarks on a quest for fulfillment by doing things long dreamt about: sleeping late, reading the classics, taking pictures, riding a motorcycle, learning to cook and speaking Spanish.
Unfortunately, the carefree life comes with a hefty price, our heroes soon learn. As Kevin starts talking about babies - just as the money is running out - and the couple is forced to steal to survive, his relationship with Ro begins to unravel, making both parties wonder how far they are willing to go to be together on their own, very specific terms.
The provocative new film was partly born of Winner’s own contemplation of the meaning of life.
"I think I am constantly going through this crisis of balancing my work life with my ambitions, in terms of lifestyle and quality of life," said Winner. "My challenge in life is sort of balancing between these two goals: having a certain kind of life of artistic living and sort of making ends meet."
So, did working on the film help Winner unearth the answers to that dilemma?
"I tend to find the things that are challenging me, and then I always end up sort of finding answers how my characters find answers," he explained. "And the movie does sort of beg the question: ’What makes your life meaningful? What matters to you, for real, when you remove all of the other stuff?’ "
In writing the screenplay for "Satellite," Winner says he started with the film’s surprise ending and worked his way backwards. In that way, he was able to distinguish for both himself and his viewers just where Kevin and Ro traverse the boundary between living life to the fullest and stomping on other people’s rights and dreams.
"That became a conceit of the film," he noted. "I wanted them to be people who did go too far in lots of different ways, sort of trying to find that line. For me, the movie, more than anything else, is about our responsibility to ourselves and our responsibility to the people around us. It becomes entertaining in some ways. It’s fun to see them cross lines, and then realize they did so and try to kind of back up and try to figure out where the line is."
The Georgia-born filmmaker, who now lives in Manhattan’s East Village, says the decision to have an unidentified little girl narrate much of the film adds perspective, as well as a feeling of innocence, to the story.
"This is not supposed to be a movie that you take at face value," Winner warned. "This is not actually happening. This is someone’s impression of a story that they heard about what happened."
Although shooting such a complicated story on a miniscule budget isn’t an easy task, Winner says he thinks the ’60s-style of "run and gun" shooting he employed actually enhanced the film’s unique aesthetics.
"I really wanted it to be beautiful," he said, adding that time and budget constraints dictated that his small cast and crew had to run around town, grabbing as many shots as possible, hence the term "run and gun."
"I really wanted it to be archetypical in some way, where the images were familiar to you. I wanted you to be instantly in a world where you were familiar with it. And it was almost intoxicating, because you were able to focus on other things because you were so familiar with where you were," said Winner. "We also played with colors a lot. We used a lot of reds, greens and golds, and a lot of it was done to keep you in the world of the film, make you feel like everything was inside this world, as well as trying to bring out the movie’s emotional story points."
Sharp-eyed Brooklynites will no doubt notice that a huge portion of the film was set and shot in the borough.
"The coffee shop is in Cobble Hill and, of course, there are scenes of the characters coming over the Brooklyn Bridge, and there is Cobble Hill Park and they live in Brooklyn. Cadman Plaza is in the beginning," Winner pointed out. "I think that what’s really nice is [the film] sort of captures the Brooklyn Heights area, where she is stalking him. You get this slightly iconographic Brooklyn, but I tried to avoid showing things you’ve seen 1,000 times in the movies."
Even though his work here is done for now, Winner says he still spends plenty of time in Kings County.
"I love Brooklyn!" he declared. "I spend every weekend I can in Brooklyn. My girlfriend and I travel to Brooklyn all the time - for food! Right now, we’re obsessed with Court Street and Smith Street. We go to Robin des Bois for brunch all the time and Hill Diner."
"Satellite" will have an exclusive
run at the Pioneer Theater (155 E. Third St. between avenues
A and B in Manhattan) from Aug. 9-15 at 9 pm. Tickets are $9
and are available at www.twoboo