Imagine Williamsburg with no hipsters! No strollers! No crowds!
That dream scenario is the topic of “An Empty State,” a short film about an amnesiac who wakes up in a Williamsburg apartment to discover that he is the only person in the city. Shooting the empty streets needed for the film, which will screen at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival on Nov. 19, was a challenge, said its director.
“It’s so true that it’s the city that doesn’t sleep. Even when we woke up at four or five in the morning to shoot, on most days, there were too many people,” said Seth Canterbury, who also wrote and stars in the film.
Canterbury and his crew shot in the early morning, but still found late-night partiers and early-risers stumbling into the footage. It was only on Sunday mornings that they found the streets completely bare — and even that was not a perfect solution, said Canterbury.
“We had to position our cameras in such a way to cut off bridges in the background so cars driving on them wouldn’t get into the shots,” he said.
Canterbury says that he wanted to make his film about mindful solitude in a city that is the opposite of quiet.
“New York has a go-go-go feel. Of all cities to wake up in empty, something felt right about that. We sort of shut off the energy of the city,” said Canterbury.The film’s main character, Cooper, soon finds his mind as empty as the city. Devoid of the usual chatter of thoughts running through his head, he can absorb the beauty of the empty city without distraction. Viewers hear what is left of his inner monologue as he explores the barren streets of Williamsburg and breaks a few rules, including climbing the suspension cables on the Williamsburg Bridge for a serene look at the city.
Eventually the physical isolation and a too-quiet mind starts to take an emotional toll on the lone cosmopolite, and the character struggles in his solitude. Canterbury hopes Cooper’s odyssey will make the audience think of their own ways to find peace.
“My big thing is I hope people sit back and look at their own thinking, and say ‘Hey maybe it doesn’t have to be this constant 24-7 chatter in my head. Maybe I have the power to shut that down even if I’m in a big city.’ ”
“An Empty State” at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival at the Wythe Hotel [80 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 460-8000, www.brown