One of the highly anticipated films of the Manhattan Film Festival, "White Irish Drinkers," directed by John Gray, shows a young man faced with difficult decisions about his future. Gray, a Bay Ridge local, found it easy to embrace the culture of Brooklyn for the film. PIX11'S Alyssa Zauderer sat down with Gray to discuss the film.
Alyssa Zauderer: "Your film, 'White Irish Drinkers' is set in Brooklyn in 1975, is there any specific reason for that time period?"
John Gray: "Mostly because that's where I grew up.I was 18 in 1976 and it was sort of my era. I thought briefly about updating it and making it contemporary. My co-producer who also happens to be my wife, Melissa Jo Peltier,said that would really be a mistake because it was such a different world with no computers or cell phones. We felt like there was no way to really convey the same culture today. We just felt like this was a little slice of life from the way things were."
Alyssa: "Would you say that some of the scenes are drawn from your own life experiences?"
John: "Definitely, certainly the characters and some of the violence I saw...if it didn't happen to me it happened to someone I knew. Mostly if there is any autobiographical aspect to it is the sense that when I was that age I knew I wanted to make movies and I wanted to write. It made me kind of like an alien. Brian with his paintings he feels kind of like a misfit. The question of what do you do? Do you leave the neighborhood to pursue this crazy dream or do you do the safe thing and get a Civil Service job. So in that respect I kind of related to him."
Alyssa: "What would you say was the most important aspect about tracing back to the Brooklyn culture?"
John: "I felt that growing up as a kid I saw so many movies and TV shows that depicted the working class as mouth-breathers, stupid people. I found that the people I grew up with in my neighborhood were really smart. They might not have had college degrees or extensive vocabularies, but they were very smart and funny. They really knew how the world worked and I loved that. I always wanted to make a movie where I could depict those characters as I knew them."
Alyssa: "Do you think people from Brooklyn mostly will find this entertaining?"
John: "You can always tell a New York audience and tonight there were a lot of Brooklynites. We've been in four different countries and about 12-13 cities here in film festivals and 25 cities in theatrical release. We've sat in on many screenings and people always seem to respond to the film.When you're with a New York audience and they get all the references. When those disco guys walk into the bar, everybody gets that from the 70's. It's always great to have a New York audience because they respond when they seem to remember things."
Alyssa: "This was also the last theatrical showing of the film."
John: "This is it, this is our last film festival and our last theatrical screening of the film. That's why we were happy that the Manhattan Film Festival had us open their festival. Now we're on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix and Video on Demand."
Alyssa: "How do you think a wider audience will respond? New Yorkers and people from the surrounding areas get it because Brooklyn is right here, but what about people on a national level."
John: "I think there are always some people who can't connect on any level because they've had no experience in their life, we get that. I think so many people we've shown the film to have written us, e-mailed us and stopped us on the street. Even people from whole different backgrounds, so many people recognize something 'that was my father' or 'I knew that guy.' We really seemed to touch a lot of people no matter what their backgrounds are they still relate to one central theme or another."