Wednesday, July 8, 2009

THE WONDERFUL THINGS ABOUT EVEN TRYING -- Community Filmmaking Entry 7/8/09

THE TIME HAS ARRIVED! At the end of this month Brooklyn Young Filmmakers is shooting “THE WAITING ROOM”, a short narrative film. You can be involved in Community Filmmaking! We're auditioning now. The New York Times Fort Greene blog, The Local, recently published our casting call for actors (you don't have to have acting experience if you fit the role): Check it out, and if it’s not for you, pass it on to your neighbor.


The 1st Annual FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day

Bungee Office Chair, like new, donated by a neighbor to BYFC's stoop sale

(Costs $140 at the Container Store!)

(plus we'll put your name in the film credits!)

And we've got INK for you!
It can be yours with a donation to our film project (BYFC is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit):
(2) HP Q6511X / Canon FX3 for CFX-L400,L3500,L4500 / Office Depot for use in Dell 310-5400 / Office Depot for use in Brother TN-430, compatible with HL1240 printer / Image Max CCI-06A for use in HP 5L,6L, compatible with C3906A / Better Value for HP 1100 printer ……Make us an offer. It’s valuable stuff we can’t use.
(To make an offer email: / (718)935-0490)

All things though cannot be measured in stoop sale dollars. The Fort Greene Information X-Change Stoop Sale Day represented Brooklyn Young Filmmakers taking its community organizing ideals out to the community in a whole new way and with a new neighborhood partner, Fort Greene SNAP. Here’s some of the other wonderful things we got out of the day:


We figured a great way of advertising a neighborhood stoop sale day was online. I asked Andy Newman of The Local, for use of the software or template that he uses for the blog’s crime map. It’s Google Maps, baby! ( ) When I told Henrietta this at SNAP (where she runs the community computer lab) it was just a little over three weeks before the stoop sale day. In-between everything else she does, Henrietta learned how to create this great Google map of the different sites in the neighborhood for our stoop sale day:,

Henrietta at SNAP, “Yeah, I conquered Google Maps, and I help turn others into conquerors!"

(Note: She only wears her cape in night hours when the moon is crescent)

Our FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day got an announcement in TIMEOUT NY that sent readers to the BYFC and SNAP websites for a link to the map. Plus neighborhood blogs publicized the map. The map got over 1,000 views, and in the pursuit of used treasure, a lot of people who never heard of our non-profits looked at our websites.

I stopped by a neighbor’s house on Vanderbilt the day before the stoop sale to pick up a box of donations. She greeted me with “I love your map!” I was surprised by Kathleen’s enthusiasm about the map since as coordinator of the annual South of the Navy Yard Artists Stroll she had created an online map herself. I asked, why was our map better than the one she had created.

“Because it’s interactive with those great pop-ups! We’re definitely going to use Google maps for our SONYA Stroll map next year.”

I didn’t understand fully what she meant until I took time to play with the map. There are pop-ups by all the site balloons telling you some of the things the site is selling. It is cool! Since the stoop sale day Henrietta and I have talked about what we want to do next year – Remember this was the 1st Annual! -- Henrietta i
s already tripping on possibilities, “We can put in links to and show pictures of some of the more interesting items being offered at the stoop sales!”

As an internet primitive, I feel like Dorothy at the start of the yellow brick road – only we are at the start of our online adventures.


Our board and volunteers definitely loved the hanging out and storytelling and bartering with passersby and the neighbors. (We relaxed so much that day we forgot to take pictures!) I think we all need to be surprised by and marvel at and feel comfort with people we don’t know, if we are to keep fresh for viewing the wide world beyond us. The day was wonderful for this, but what didn’t get played out much this first time is that we also want it to be a day for information exchange about your local non-profits. (Though seven filmmakers from the neighborhood walked up the BYFC stoop sale and signed up to help in different ways.)

Most of our volunteers had never been to a stoop sale before. Several of them were students from our current “MAKE A FILM” Class, and they proved themselves to be great production assistants, as we got an early start on teamwork before our shoot later this month. Running any kind of event, you’re going to follow the same steps for making a film – planning, set-up, running the event, and breakdown.

We sent David and Anthony, a couple of black working class guys in their late 20s, around to blocks where they had never been with stacks of the stoop sale map flyers to give to some of the other sites that had registered. When they got back David said
, “Once we told people we were with Brooklyn Young Filmmakers, they were like our friends. It was something, people’s thankfulness. They were like, ‘You’re doing things to not only benefit you, but to also benefit us.’ ”

Also liking the idea very much was A.R.T. NY on S. Oxford, which registered and was on our FGInfoX Stoop Sale map. They have been liking the idea so much – that they had already been doing it for the last five years (!) on a small block size scale. I only learned this after the stoop sale day when I talked to Jerry Homan, A.R.T. New York’s building manager. ( )

A.R.T. NY houses a number of arts organizations, many of which have costumes and props they want to get rid of each year. The building’s non-profit tenants have been doing an annual stoop sale and letting their block know in advance so individual households can come out on the same day and do stoop sales. Jerry said, “ The stoop sale is definitely great community relations and we love the idea of doing it as part of a larger neighborhood-wide FGInfoX stoop sale day. One way we have increased foot traffic to our stoop sale is by advertising with the nursing home next to us and the church around the corner. Their staff and members always enjoy coming out.”


Joan, my next door neighbor gave us the great Bungee Office Chair we’ve got for sale above. And when her eye caught on the brand new unopened ice tea maker we had for sale (donated by another neighbor who got it as a present and hates ice tea) Joan gave us a sweetened cash donation (she's got her name in our film credits!). Joan and her son sat with us for a while, and after she had gone in, not ten minutes later she comes out and offers all of us (4 board members and three other volunteers at the time) ice cold bottles of refreshment. (And yeah, it was the first Saturday in many Saturdays with a warm sun and no rain -- did I say we were blessed?)

I was talking to Joan about our excitement over the online map SNAP had created. Joan started talking about her own online experiences with promoting her work. She proudly told me that an organization she started has been review on and of the 150 reviews that have been written about the organization, 145 have given the organization the 5 star rating (that the highest!). Four gave it 4 stars. When I looked at the one reviewer who gave it the lowest rating, I saw he starts by saying he had never visited the organization -- but was suspicious of it because it had received such outstanding reviews! What is the organization? It’s the all women run . After Joan told me this I could see my neighbor was a habitual comfort spreader.


Even though making money is not the every thing of our FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day, we take it as a challenge – how do we make more money? Remembering the people who bought the more high-end items (anything $10 and up), it is clear they were on a mission.

One woman had been going from stoop sale to stoop sale looking for a floor lamp -- just the right floor lamp – and the only lamp we had was it! A pair of men’s roller derby skates fit perfectly on the feet of a guy who had been longing to participate in a roller disco in Williamsburg ( ). I didn’t think there was a big market for the slightly rusty mini stilts I myself had gotten at a stoop sale, taken to our office and then to two stoop sales (finally accepting I was not going to learn how to walk above the world). But that is part of what makes stoop sales great -- the odd find that someone might really want. And this year the first person to handle the stilts stepped right up on them and stilted over to our cashier.

The woman who pulled up in a loaded small car, headed directly to the old wooden paint splattered easel I had donated (never used it, but loved the Van Gogh look of it). She was moving the last of her things from our neighborhood to Bay Ridge where she had more room for her painting. She asked, “How much?” . I said, uh, $10. She looked at it critically, “ I can’t fit it in my car.” I said we can unscrew it and break it down into a couple of pieces. She said, “Ok, and here’s $20 because it’s worth it and I want to support BYFC.” As we unscrewed the slightly rusty screws from the base so we could fit it in her small car, she said, “It’s definitely got history. I know I’ll get right to work on it!” After she put the pieces in her car she came back over to me. She said, “This is really embarrassing, but can I ask for $5 back from the $20 I gave you. I’m starving and I don’t have any more money. I need to eat something before driving to Bay Ridge.” I said sure and gave her $5 back and Mildred, a BYFC board member, gifted the hungry artist one of her famous magic brownies.

Someone donated to Brooklyn Young Filmmakers some exceptional vases and decorative bowls that we didn’t sale. We needed some serious seekers who were looking for what we had. Next year our FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day Map will link to pictures of these beautiful finds. And next year maybe we’ll be able to tell the two guys who were driving round in an old Mustang from stoop sale to sale where they can find record albums.


C’Allah, a BYFC board member who lives in Whitman Houses, passed out stoop sale map flyers in public housing. He said a lot of people asked, "What's a stoop sale?" and then they most said, "Why isn’t there a stoop sale in public housing? Why do we have to go all the way over there?!"

They were totally right to feel slighted, but there was nothing we could do about it this year. Individuals can’t sale on government property. We approached the Fort Greene Park Conservancy and asked if public housing residents could do a stoop sale on beautiful recently rebuilt plaza at the corner of Myrtle and Washington. We were told that other than the Greene Market on the Dekalb end of the park, there was no selling allowed and no room for discussion.

We had tried the Willoughby Senior Center which is on the campus of public housing, but is run by a program under the Dept of Aging, not the New York City Housing Authority, and has freedom to do things NYCHA facilities can't. The Willoughby Center had hosted Brooklyn Young Filmmakers film screenings as part of the SONYA Stroll in May. But they have a very small paid staff that is already over extended and they had done the two day SONYA Stroll as volunteers. It was too soon to ask them to volunteer another weekend day.

Next year we want things to be different. I recently met with Paul Palazzo, Chair of the Fort Greene Association, and he said, "People in the community were talking about the FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day and liking the concept. But it needed more advance calendar time for households to sign up to do a stoop sale and more publicity to get people going to the stoop sales. The FGA can help get the word out earlier next year about the 2nd Annual FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day."

One of the wonderful things about trying is you make friends and you learn.

Above is the Google map for the 1st Annual FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day. Imagine more red pins (for non-profits) and more blue balloons ( for indivdual households) and green balloons (for other events), until almost every block in Fort Greene has one. Now you're talking the 2nd Annual FGInfoX Stoop Sale Day!

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