Movie madness: Filmakers raise $18K to get flick in can. Meanwhile, their subject gets charged with rape

The Brooklyn Paper
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Two young female filmmakers who became infatuated with an overweight, often shirtless Williamsburg eccentric while filming a movie about his life, have convinced the masses to donate thousands of dollars to help them finish their masterpiece — while its temperamental subject sits in cell on Rikers Island convicted of menacing his neighbors.

Ashley Benzwie and Arielle Tayar have taken in more than $18,000 thanks to a video on the crowd-funding website “Indiegogo” previewing their documentary “U R Not Alone.” The flick follows Joseph Loiacono, a quirky Graham Avenue shopkeeper, whose antics they filmed for two years — until his shocking arrest for rape.

Now, while Loiacono sits in the can, the filmmakers are trying to get their movie, well, in the can.

The motion picture was intended to explore Loiacono’s life, but after Loiacono was accused of sexually assaulting a sleeping house guest and threatening to kill his neighbors with a baseball bat, it turned into an examination of the filmmakers’ confused relationship with a person they grew to like so much, they couldn’t believe he got arrested.

“We want so badly to think that he’s good,” said Benzwie. “At the same time, you have to wonder how he got himself here.”

In 2011, Loiacono took over his family’s Graham Avenue house and tried to turn the home’s storefront into a meeting space for the community. Instead, he quickly drew the ire of many in the neighborhood for his obnoxious behavior, such as dancing around shirtless while blaring opera and classic rock, and cluttering the storefront with detritus.

The two filmmakers thought he was the strangest guy they knew and decided he would make a perfect subject for a documentary. Although Loiacono was shy at first, the women eventually gained his trust. The longer they hung out with him, the more boisterous and obnoxious he became. Still, they found him endearing. The women saw something deeper and more intelligent than just the neighborhood nut and spent hundreds of hours with their subject discussing philosophy and his unorthodox views on dating, religion and government rule.

“He wasn’t just a crazy guy. He wanted to be cultured,” said Benzwie, though she admitted he could be crude, loud and inappropriate.

Instead of keeping a journalistic objectivity toward their subject, the two unexpectedly found themselves embroiled in the drama of Loiacono’s life. They thought that the story was about much more than a neighborhood eccentric.

“We started to watch him deteriorate,” said Tayar, who described Loiacono as a magnet for neighborhood drunks and drug addicts. “He was drinking a lot more and the people surrounding him were a lot sketchier.”

Suddenly, last October, Loiacono disappeared.

The filmmakers found out that he was sitting in Riker’s Island, accused of raping a girlfriend and threatening to kill his neighbors. The rape charges were dropped, but last month he pleaded guilty to menacing, harassment, and contempt of court. His attorney, Michael Marley, said Loiacono will probably be in jail for another six months.

Despite it all, the filmmakers remained fond of their subject and are now the only people, other than his lawyer, who visit him in jail.

“The last time we were there, he freaked us out a little. He was saying that we’re all he has,” said Tayar.

The two women said they raised most of the money for the film by badgering friends and family. They were, however, surprised at how many people were offended and refused to donate.

“We’ve had a lot of weird responses,” said Tayar. “Some friends of mine from high school said they don’t want to contribute because the subject matter is associated with rape.”

Still, there are many people who donated because they are intrigued by the movie.

“Two young women becoming friends with a rapist is something you kind of can’t look away from,” said Tayar. “It’s like a car accident.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
I was offended and that's why I donated. I want to see how anyone can try to justify this guy. When you first meet him, he seems like bad news. And it turns out your first impression is exactly right!

I don't believe for a second that Joe was "shy at first." A man who has no sense of boundaries and no sense that other people exist cannot have shyness. Perhaps distrust, disgust, or anger.
May 2, 2013, 6:44 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Now he's getting it in the can!
May 2, 2013, 9:06 am
Andrew from Williamsburg says:
I agree with Mike. I donated to see how these two try to make him look like anything different than what he is in fact is. Although, part of me feels bad for him that they are making a money off of either his mental illness or his sociopathy; he is sick either way. I am glad that he is out of the neighborhood - The mornings are quieter and the people walking past his place are safer.
May 2, 2013, 9:19 am
Arielle Tayar from Williamsburg says:
Just to clarify some of the misconceptions in this article – Joe was never “charged” with rape. He was initially accused of rape in the third degree by a woman who is presently, illegally squatting at his Graham Ave property. That accusation was then dropped to “forcible touching”, and then dropped completely. The time he is serving in jail right now has nothing to do with rape at all.

Furthermore, in accordance with Mike’s comment above – Joe was indeed never shy – and anyone who’s engaged with him would agree that that is not an accurate word to describe him. We were not surprised when he was arrested – we were fully aware of his criminal record – but were surprised to learn his former love had accused him of such a heinous crime.

In response to our fundraising process – we were certainly persistent, and were not surprised to see a variety of responses, being that we were exposing a very controversial man dealing with a very controversial topic. Our story is not about rape, nor is it about a rapist It is a story that follows mine and my co-director’s experience in getting to know a man, who was accused of a terrible thing. It is a story about perception, about good and bad, about disillusionment. It asks tough questions, and at times, it’s not so easy to watch.

While our story may stir and provoke, it is one we are determined to tell as honestly and accurately as possible.
May 2, 2013, 9:29 am
Heather from Greenpoint says:
To whom should I mail an invoice for Ms. Furfarro's uncredited "lead" for this most assuredly blog-poached "story"?

As posted 48 hours ago:
May 2, 2013, 10:02 am
Joanne from Greenpoint says:
Heather, DNAinfo also covered this two days ago. It's a story floating around because of the Kickstarter campaign. Stop acting like you know everything that happens in Greenpoint and everybody has to check with you first.
May 2, 2013, 3:03 pm
Tim from Williamsburg says:
Yea Heather keep your snide remarks to your blog don't troll for readers here. People are sick of you.
May 2, 2013, 4:05 pm
mc from 11211 says:
Fact of the matter is that both DNAinfo and the Brooklyn Paper are constantly poaching Heather's ledes without any attribution. You don't have to like a person or their writing to comprehend that it is wrong to do so. A little professional courtesy would go a long way in new Brooklyn media.
May 2, 2013, 4:35 pm
ty from pps says:
Is this guy a hipster? He lives in Williamsburg and is starring in an independent film... he looks like he's must be from Ohio or Nebraska... yes. He must be. Right, diehipster?
May 2, 2013, 4:50 pm
jay from nyc says:
ummm, WHY???!!!???
May 2, 2013, 5:35 pm
Homey from Crooklyn says:
These broads are as nutty as he is.
May 3, 2013, 9:04 am
Ashby & Me from Williamsburg says:
Do you have a story about Joe? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Please email us at
May 8, 2013, 10:46 am
Report The Facts from Ditmas Park says:
Just to be clear,

Both DNAinfo and Brooklyn Paper are not actually reporting the facts, just merely rumor to ferry a larger narrative based on Hipster/Girls school of internet reporting. I love how you have the gravitas to use the term "reporter" to identify yourself instead of what you really are a internet blogger with a art degree from NYU, you didn't even go to journalism school.

"In my ten years as a newspaper reporter, I have covered a variety of topics including arts and entertainment, local, county and state government, crime and business and general features."

It's funny you don't mention anything about a perchance for reporting the truth.

I also love this in the comments terms:

" You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; "

Yet this article is thinly veiled slander.

The "Chain Saw" —— is actually because he heard the woman next door beating the —— out of her kid and called CPS on them. So they made up a story and of course clowns like you eat it up.

The rape charges are bogus and the result of him trying to kick out a drug addict who is currently committing SSI fraud and illegally squatting in his home, perhaps DNAinfo or Brooklyn Paper should try some investigative journalism instead of phoning in yellow journalism, or parroting another disposable hipster blog obvious bias reporting.
May 9, 2013, 10:25 am

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