SH: Why did you devote so much of your own time to this project? How invested were you personally in the outcome of the Atlantic Yards development?
MG: As filmmakers we [Hawley and I] follow stories because that’s what we do. As a neighborhood resident, I personally thought the project was a bad idea, but we tried not to be involved in the fight so that we could make a film that wasn’t a partisan attack. That would have turned off the very people we wanted to reach with it.
SH: How did your own opinions impact the way in which you made this film?
MG: We tried really hard to make the film as even handed as possible. At the same time, our main character was the leader of the fight against it. As such, if the viewer gets to the end of the film and isn’t against the project then we have failed as storytellers, because then they aren’t with the main character.
SH: Has following this process changed your opinion of our legal system?
MG: We already were pretty suspect of politics and such, but this was a painful wake-up call to how deeply corrupt the system is. The fact that the railyards could be handed over to the favored developer for a vastly lower sum was pretty mind boggling. It was a lesson in the harsh realities of power.
SH: This publication strives to support artists who are creating “the world that ought to be.” Even in some small way, how would you hope this film changes the world? How has making it changed you?
MG: Making the film changed us a great deal as members of our community. We came to understand the ins and outs of local politics, and we came to understand the divisive power of power in regards to race and class. The film has done a lot to galvanize communities all over the country who are facing similiar issues, and did a great deal to wake us up to the play book that is used to divide communities whenever those in power want to push something through.
SH: Finally, with so much injustice and so many neglected stories out there, how might you encourage either burgeoning activists or emerging filmmakers who might be starting out on a similar endeavor?
MG: Find a good story, stick to it, tell it and don’t give up when you can’t find support. Questioning power is never a good way to get people in positions of power to help you out, so don’t expect help– just make work.
For screenings and more information, visit battleforbrooklyn.com.