The only relationship anyone seems to have with their neighbors anymore is at most a familiar head nod or wave hello while passing each other on the block. Or maybe it’s a passive aggressive note about how someone didn’t put out the recycling correctly. Especially here in New York City, where we are all living on top of each other, the notion of what it means to be a “neighbor” is, for most, nonexistent.
It’s fascinating to think about how many interesting, creative, and accomplished people who must live in each giant apartment building in New York. Yet, it’s not as if those people are all coming home and collaborating together. They’re not even asking each other for a cup of sugar.
Working on film sets, Ryan O’Hara Theisen and I realized that we would often start our 6 a.m. morning not knowing a soul, and by the time the set wrapped 10 hours later, we were sharing inside jokes. We realized these powerful bonds which were created between strangers on collaborative projects could carry over to individual blocks in New York neighborhoods.
On My Block Films launched in 2012 with a mission to build stronger neighborhoods through filmmaking. Each block is challenged with making a short film, using only their block’s neighbors as cast and crew. We believe that just knowing your neighbors is a huge step in building better communities, and we wanted to give people the excuse to finally reach out and start those relationships. In the end, we’re all giving back to our city a collection of stories from blocks throughout the boroughs as a sort of creative archive.
Andrew Thomas has lived on Snyder Avenue between 31st and 32nd Street in Brooklyn his entire life. He picked up a postcard about the On My Block Film Challenge at a bar last Summer. The postcard sat on his desk for about a month.
Later that summer, Andrew attended a festival with a lot of BMX bikers, and one of the photos he took of the bikers that day became his background on his computer desktop. It wasn’t until he saw the postcard on his desk and the photo of the bikers that he remembered a neighbor who is always out doing tricks on his bike on their street. This inspired him to introduce himself and make a short film.
Andrew said that Quentin Jean, who became the subject of his documentary, Bikes & Beats, had lived on the block off and on for about ten years, and he’d seen him riding around, but had never actually talked to him. As they got to know each other, they also realized they shared a passion for music. The film, Bikes & Beats, became a profile of Quentin Jean that explores the creative similarities between street bike riding and music production.
Since making this short, not only have they become close friends, but Andrew and Quentin have already started working on other film and music projects together. Their fellow neighbors have shown a lot of interest and pride in the film and have already asked when they can be a part of the next one.
There are many more stories just like this from neighbors around the world. That's why we want to hear from you. If you’d like to make a film with your neighbors, sign up at www.onmyblockfilms.com. The 2013 challenge starts on July 1, 2013 and all films must be completed and submitted by October 31, 2013. Finalists will be screened at our awards ceremony in November.
Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff.