An award-winning Brooklyn filmmaker is turning Bay Ridge into “The Twilight Zone” in his latest short film. Brooklynite Jason Cusato, a huge fan of the timeless mystery/horror show that made its debut in 1959, was watching a marathon of the classic show when he came across a favorite episode of his entitled, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”
“The episode is about a small town, Main Street, U.S.A.,” said Cusato. “There’s a flash of light in the town. People are questioning whether it was meteor. One of kids steps up and tells the story he saw in a comic that this is how aliens start to attack. There’s just a lot of paranoia and things run amuck.”
The director decided to take that fear and make it relevant in the context of today’s social issues. With that inspiration, Cusato filmed and co-wrote “A Box Came to Brooklyn,” a short dark comedy which represents a similar sense of fear. “I don’t want to say that my film is a remake of it, but I built the idea around the episode.”
In “A Box Came to Brooklyn,” themes such as paranoia, prejudice and property values are at the forefront. “I took the episode and made it my own,” he said. “It’s about the gentrification going on in Brooklyn, how some are being pushed out of their own neighborhood and how so much change is going on. We asked what would happen if something like this occurred in Brooklyn. We used the theme of gentrification in ever-changing Brooklyn. We took the borough’s stereotypes, put them together and saw what happened.”
To echo the look of the classic TV show, Cusato filmed the entire short in black and white and kept it 26-minutes long so it resembles an episode. Also to make the short feel more authentic, Cusato and crew filmed at Madeline Court in Bay Ridge, which played an integral role in the short.
“The block is aesthetically beautiful. It really fits what we wanted because it looks like it could be in the sixties or the present day. Nothing sets it as modern or old. It meshes the lines between both,” he said. “Shooting in Bay Ridge added to the short. It’s more of a character. It’s going through gentrification but not like places like Greenpoint.”
Despite it being a short, the production was not an easy one. “Even though it’s a 26-minute short, so much goes into it. There are executive producers, fundraising, finding the location and getting permits,” he said. “The short was shot a couple of years ago. We did a couple of reshoots. Then we spent about two years editing.” After advice from fellow filmmakers, the short was complete, much to the delight of cast and crew.
“It feels great,” said Cusato. “I’m excited not only to screen it to cast and crew, but to everyone else who’s been interested in the film since the beginning.”
“A Box Came to Brooklyn,” also produced by John Capotorto, Marco Cristino, Doris Amen,
Moses Gross and Tony Fragetti, will make its world premiere during the Manhattan Film Festival at the Players Theater, 115 McDougal Street, on Saturday, June 13 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.aboxcametobrooklyn.com.