Somewhere over in Bushwick the L train rides; artists and Hasids, poets and dreamers, ride their bikes.
So goes a dreamy, surreal version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that may some day appear in “Bushwick the Musical the Movie,” an in-the-works film set in the neighborhood and modeled almost entirely on “The Wizard of Oz.” John Martino, a 55 year-old former IT specialist, is trying to raise a staggering $2.5 million to get the movie made.
He’s got his work cut out for him: with about 11 hours to go, he has only raised $50 of the $7,000 he had hoped to secure from an Indie Go-Go campaign.
Martino, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years, began drafting ideas for the musical over a year ago. His idea was to chronicle “the spirit of the [Bushwick] residents and the people as a group, the crossroads of youth, aspiration and creativity all simultaneously joining in one spot.” To that end, the film will feature songs about gentrification and youth culture, written by the actors themselves (Bushwick residents like actress-musician Miss Kacie Marie and photographer Rafael Fuchs) as well as other local musicians.
Martino first moved to New York over 30 years ago to pursue fashion photography, and has a varied background in music and film production. As a visual artist and music video director, he’s funded, produced and directed a music video for local Bushwick musician NYTYLY. Younger locals known him as a jovial and easygoing neighbor who rides his bike around town and converses with passerby about his pet topics: spirituality, politics and philosophy.
While “Bushwick the Musical the Movie” aims to poke playful fun at Bushwick’s newest residents, Martino says the core of his film intends to “dispel bigotry, hatred, and prejudice.”
The director claims that about 75 neighborhood volunteers have agreed to do everything from line-producing to video editing to sound production. “The biggest challenge,” he says, “is gaining trust and cooperation, and single-mindedness of purpose on a project that appears to be being made backwards.”
So far, only a teaser and a few exterior segments have been shot and finalized, but businesses like Kave, the Journal Gallery, Mary Meyer Clothing and Catland have offered up their spaces as future locations, according to Martino.
The movie has barely been promoted online (its Facebook page is sparsely updated and its website is basically inactive) but those who live off the Morgan L stop have likely seen flyers touting the project. That has led to some solid word of mouth, but it hasn’t translated into funds. With the clock running out on the Indie GoGo effort, Martino is hoping Kickstarter will approve a $2.5 million campaign.
In the meantime, he’s paying for the film out of pocket. “Every last disposable dime of my own will be and practically has been spent on ensuring the absolute complete total success of this project,” he says.
His idea of “total success” isn’t incumbent upon blockbuster ratings; it’s more about spreading good cheer to his neighbors. Martino says the film’s ultimate goal is to “infuse the increasing harmony of understanding and magnification of divine love for those who will receive it, and have them tap their feet to it, while munching popcorn, perhaps.”